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Covid-19: Gleebooks – ‘Books can sustain us when the world goes dark’

GLEBE: Reading recommendations for people in isolation, free postal delivery, bicycling books and the occasional roll of toilet paper to locals, and streaming author talks are some of the innovative ways Gleebooks is battling the Coronavirus. They also say, please buy books – and especially those by Australian authors at this difficult time.

How is Covid-19 affecting your service and numbers?
As you’d expect we’ve seen a significant drop-off in foot traffic. We’ve cancelled our upcoming events to ensure the safety of all involved and, as the official booksellers for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, the cancellation of the Festival represents a significant loss of business for us. Things are still a little stretched with some staff self-isolating, but we’re filling orders and enjoying chatting with any customers who stop by.

Can you tell us about any innovative ways you’ve found to maintain customer relationships, and/or continue to provide your service or sell your goods to people who need them?
We’ve offered free local delivery (Inner West and the City), and free delivery nationwide. We’re delivering books by Oz Post, car, bicycle or foot if you live close enough! Fortunately, we also have a backlog of recorded author talks for anyone to listen to if they’re self-isolating, and are looking into streaming future author talks from our social media accounts. We trying to be creative and we have a few other surprises planned for you all!

What measures have you taken to safeguard people’s health?
Our customer base is largely in the 50-70+ range, which means we are hyper conscious of keeping our shop as safe and clean as possible. The shop is cleaned thoroughly each day, each customer service station is equipped with hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes, and we’ve posted advice about best hand-washing practice in our bathrooms. We’ve also stressed the importance of social distancing for our staff and had made provisions for stay home if they need to. As I mentioned before, we also shut down the events program ahead of the 100-person event ban to minimise the chance of the virus spreading.

What support have you received from governments or local business hubs to help you as you weather the Covid-19 pandemic?
The current stimulus offered by the government has been a good start, but we are hoping to hear clearer messaging from the government on how they will support small businesses and everyone in our community affected by Covid-19.

If you work with disadvantaged people, what extra impact are Covid-19 restrictions or closures having on them? What extra help is needed to meet their needs at this time?
We have a few members of staff who are immuno-compromised, so Covid-19 is forcing them to take leave that they wouldn’t otherwise have taken. Similarly, we have a few older customers who have been affected by the panic-buying of necessities. Today we had to deliver some toilet paper from our shop to a regular who was on her last two rolls!

What is helping you to stay positive?
We’re lucky because books are what we turn to when we’re feeling down, so pretty convenient when you work in a bookshop. I’ve been reading an early copy of Julia Baird’s Phosphoresence, which is all about things that can sustain us when the world goes dark. I’d also recommend people take a look through The Novel Cure, which provides an A-Z of books that can cure ailments like “anxiety” and “boredom”.

How can our local communities best stick together?
The best thing we can do as a community is to flatten the curve. We can all protect one another by changing our habits and maintaining proper hygiene.

If you could say one thing to South Sydney Herald readers what would it be?
Buy local authors from your local bookstore. Australian literature has never been so diverse, please support them during a difficult time!

UPDATE: Gleebooks announced on April 4 that its Blackheath and Dulwich Hill branches are now closed due to the Covid-19 crisis. Its main shop on Glebe Point Road will be closed to the public, but will remain trading. It will be staffed seven days a week by a crew maintaining phone, email, and website-based enquiries and orders.

Gleebooks is at 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. See

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