This year’s March Lifeline bookfair was arguably the most successful ever, with high attendances, high sales and a good spread of visitors and buyers through the whole weekend. Volunteers also reported that it was remarkably well organised in the setup and preparation. It comes as a shock, and an unexpected one, to all volunteers that the bookfair and warehouse manager’s position was made redundant immediately after the bookfair.
The Lifeline bookfair is almost entirely run by volunteers. There are around 120 working year round in the warehouse in Mitchell, and contingents of others who come in to help specifically at bookfairs. Lifeline runs two large bookfairs at EPIC each year, one smaller one at Erindale, runs an online book sales service and occasionally sells bulk loads of books, or gives them to other Lifeline branches, when supplies are in excess. All books are donated by the Canberra community.
The combined bookfair and warehouse operations pulled in close to one million dollars in the last twelve months. There are (or were) only two members of paid staff for this massive operation, a warehouse and bookfair manager and a van driver. The warehouse manager’s position is now to be tacked on to the already full schedule of a marketing manager who handles all Lifeline publicity, functions and other commercial enterprises.
The reason given for the structural change is that Lifeline needs to trim its expenditure to balance its budget. It seems a very strange commercial decision to trim expenditure on the part of its business which pulls in the greatest percentage of its revenue, and which runs on minimal paid staff and volunteer goodwill. This goodwill is currently being severely tested. Volunteers are not happy.
The Lifeline bookfair is something of a Canberra institution, with its tradition of queueing around the block before breakfast for the early start and bringing the family along for bags of bargains at the weekend. It is a shame that it should be threatened by poor management decisions.