By Lilian Martin
Brisbane’s Lifeline Bookfest was sorely missed in June 2020 and again in January this year owing to COVID-19. Happily, the rickety tables stacked with pre-loved books will return to the cavernous halls of the Brisbane Convention Centre this Saturday, the 26th of June. The gargantuan book sale can be incredibly overwhelming for first-time customers. But fear not! Here are some tips that will help you do the Lifeline Bookfest– like a pro.
There’s no guarantee what you will and won’t find at the Bookfest. The events’ name is a bit of a misnomer, actually– not only can you find preloved books at the Bookfest but magazines, records, puzzles, board games and much more. It all comes down to luck about what’s been donated to Lifelines various Queensland outlets and how eagle-eyed your searching skills are.
Fortunately, the books are grouped into two sections this year– $2.50 and High-Quality (the $1 section has been cut, sadly). Items in the $2.50 section are, well, $2.50. Meanwhile, items in the High-Quality section are often around the very affordable $7 to $10, though this can vary depending on the items’ quality or rarity. Items are not sorted alphabetically by author, making it difficult to look for specific titles. They are, however, grouped by genre/type–Science Fiction, Classics and Literature, History, Cooking, Textbooks (yes, that does say textbooks, fellow uni students) and many more. While it’s unlikely you’ll find the exact, brand-new textbook your course requires, you may find older or similar editions of your textbook, at a minuscule fraction of the cost.
I know many people do the Bookfest with a list of what they want to find. I personally find this unhelpful. Instead, being a chronic bibliophile, I have a list of what I already have. This assists me when I pick up a book and stare blankly at its cover trying to remember– do I already have a copy of you? It also (sometimes) stops me from buying yet another book on the same subject. For example, consulting my list I see I already have 39 books about the Beatles, which some people (my mother) think is a lot.
Whatever amount you expect to spend on books or any manner of the goodies to be found at the Bookfest, budget for triple. Seriously. Don’t let these deceptively low prices deceive you. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought just one more item, and an hour later, arms burgeoning, I traipse to my mother asking if she can lend me just another $30 because I’ve just found several Beatles books that I simply must have…
Unlike previous Bookfests, you’ll be unable to pay for your treasures with cash. In line with COVID-19 precautions, all transactions must be card-only.
The Bookfest is held at South Banks’ Brisbane Convention Centre, where there’s a myriad of public transport options. For instance, South Brisbane Train Station is a quick, five-minute walk via Melbourne Street. Despite its proximity to many public transport options, I urge soon-to-be Bookfest pros to keep in mind that you’ll (probably) be travelling home with dozens of books, which may be cumbersome on public transport.
The Convention Centre also has underground parking, but this is expensive and fills up early.
As a compromise, I often do the Bookfest with a group (such as my family) and we all carpool together. This saves on parking and carting what feels like a truckload of books on public transport.
So many books, so few arms!
There is no perfect way to lug your books at the Bookfest– every pro has their own system. Some solutions I’ve seen include wheeled suitcases, backpacks, shopping (aka “granny”) trolleys, or more outlandishly, two-tiered washing trolleys. I’ve also seen many people use a tote bag. This is a rookie error. As tempting as it may be– they look so aesthetic!– the straps will kill your shoulders.
I like using a “granny” trolley while browsing, then getting my items packed and taped into shopping bags, before stowing these in a larger backpack. As a part-time volunteer, I know how much easier it feels to pack items into bags rather than wrap them. That, or making my parents carry my books (though this only works if you are under the age of eight, unfortunately).
The Bookfest is incredibly popular– in previous years crowds seemed to swarm into the Convention Centre as the doors swung open. The weekends– especially the opening weekend– are always busiest. As a volunteer, I know from our rosters that there SIX extra checkouts in the High-Quality section just for the 26th and 27th of June alone.
This year, however, Bookfest goers must check in using the Check In Qld app. The halls will also have a one-in, one-out system once they reach capacity. This should ease crowds.
When I’ve volunteered at the Bookfests checkouts previously, there’s a notable ebb and flow of customers during the day. For the first few hours, everyone is just browsing but as lunchtime approaches an onslaught begins, as all customers congregate to the checkouts– the queues can extend for many tens of metres.
Lifeline has experienced an almost 40% increase in calls, linked inextricably to the spectre of COVID-19. The Bookfest is Lifelines’ biggest fundraiser for its crisis support and suicide prevention hotline. In 2021, after a year-long absence, the Bookfest is more important than ever.
While the Bookfest is intended to raise money and awareness for this sobering issue, Lifeline also wants everyone to have fun and share their passion for books.
Now that you know how to do the Lifeline Bookfest like a pro, I cannot wait to see you there! Perhaps you’ll even be interested in volunteering for future Bookfests. This year, you’ll probably find me, ignoring my own advice outlined in this article, buying yet more books about the Beatles…
For further information about the upcoming Lifeline Bookfest, check out Lifeline’s page for the event here– https://www.unitingcareqld.com.au/get-involved/events-and-courses/events/lifeline-bookfest-brisbane
About the Author
Lilian Martin (she/her/hers) is a first-year creative writing student at QUT. When she isn’t studying or drinking mochas in a keep-cup on-campus, Lilian enjoys making jewellery, ranting about classic rock and jumping on her trampoline. This is the first of (hopefully) many articles by her.