19 October 2023

Bag a bargain - or 10 - at Big Book Fair and help fund Lifeline's lifesaving services

| Jen White
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Books set out on tables for the Book Fair

Volunteers setting up for this weekend’s massive Lifeline Book Fair. Photos: Jen White.

Booklovers of all ages and interests have only one place to be this weekend – Lifeline’s Big Book Fair at the Illawarra Sports Stadium at Berkeley.

With about 90,000 books on offer in more than 80 categories, booklovers will not only leave with bags full of bargains, they will also be helping to support Lifeline South Coast’s vital services.

All proceeds directly contribute to crisis support, suicide prevention, and mental health education programs.

Lifeline South Coast CEO Renee Green said by attending this event, community members could make a tangible difference in lives.

“Suicide intervention and crisis support saves lives. All the funds raised at the Book Fair will stay in the South Coast and ensure we can be there when people are facing their darkest moments,” Renee said.

Lifeline is Australia’s leading suicide prevention service, operating the 13 11 14 crisis support phone line 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Renee paid tribute to the “incredible team” of volunteers who helped make the event possible.

“Their support ensures that Lifeline South Coast can help to prevent suicide in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, and South Coast,” she said.

Volunteers and staff started setting up the mammoth fair earlier in the week. A VIP event kicks off the long weekend “bookfest” on Thursday 19 October from 5 to 9 pm.

Hundreds of thousands of books are donated to Lifeline every year, although not all of them make it to the book fair or even to the bookshelves at Lifeline’s retail shops.

Lifeline’s book sorting volunteers go through all donations and sort books by category and/or author and price, and pack books for the Book Fair and retail shops, and undertake internet research for the value of rare, special and collectible items.

One volunteer who has become a bit of an expert on those special books is Barry, a former mechanical engineer who has been with Lifeline for 10 years.

As volunteers sort through the donated books, they flag any interesting finds with Barry, who carries out further research. He’s still surprised at some of the books that end up on his desk.

Like the three volumes (volumes 2-4 dated 1790, 1794 and 1798) on display of Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, valued at $300 each. They’re a Scotland-based scientific journal published since the 18th century.

“They’re very ordinary bound, not deluxe or anything like that – if it had been in better condition we could have sold these for at least $1000. Volume 1 is currently on the internet for about $10,000,” he said.

“The bloke drove up to the loading dock and opened the boot and these were just floating around.”

Barry said often when people were sorting out the house after mum and dad died, they just packed up books and donated them to Lifeline.

He said there were a number of things that made a book “special”. They could be first editions, or signed by the author, or even one of a limited print run.

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People are often after books to add to their collections – bibles and dictionaries included. Two massive tomes on the “something special” tables are a family bible from the late 1800s to early 1900s, and a Webster’s dictionary from 1934, as thick as two house bricks.

“We had two copies of a book, it was about $150, and it was just photographs, black and white photographs of people in crowds and most of them are out of focus, yet I’ve had people who were positively wetting themselves with excitement at just being able to hold the book,” Barry said.

“They’d say, ‘I can’t afford to buy it, but can I please just hold it?’”

As well as the extensive non-fiction section set up on one basketball court, the other court holds thousands and thousands of fiction books, in alphabetical order to make it easier to find a favourite author. Kids are well catered for too, with books for all ages.

Lifeline’s Big Book Fair: Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October, 9 am to 5 pm; Sunday 22 October 9 am to 4 pm, Illawarra Sports Stadium, Berkeley. For information on South Coast Lifeline visit the website here.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.

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