Voices from the Covid frontline in Australia: Store owner and customer | Australia News

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Leesa lambert

The owner of Little Bookroom, Fitzroy North, Melbourne

The Little Bookroom has overcome many obstacles in the past. It’s the oldest children’s bookstore in the world, opened in 1960, and it gave us confidence that we were going to pass that Covid curve ball.

When the pandemic started, we were truly determined to do our best for the writers and illustrators behind us, to help serve the communities that have supported us. We wanted to keep our community connected.

How do we do this with the lock restrictions? Help people stay home constructively. We have been offering free home delivery since March of last year and it has become something kids look forward to, they call my dad “the santa of the book” and know the sound of the mobile book engine.

We have always seen ourselves at the forefront of the literary arts community and at the intersection of the reading community. We think it’s pretty essential. We know what the educational and behavioral benefits of reading are for young people, but there has been mountains of research in recent years that reading can help us relax and reduce anxiety. It was also very motivating for us.

Last week we received an email thanking you for delivering a book so quickly. The mother said her daughter was now in the living room playing the “book delivery game”. That was all. They are safe at home, there is mutual community support, and the experience has sparked creativity. We sent activity books to say thank you, and young Celeste (the girl) made us a book that she delivered to us.

It makes me cry, it continues and it’s so nice to think that we were able to offer a little joy. Children have come during Book Week to show us their costumes, young readers have written reviews that we can post on our website, we have tried to spread this good humor as far and wide as possible.

We have all had at least one vaccination that gives us confidence and we are very fortunate to have a respectful clientele. But the suspense of not knowing what is going on day to day was stressful – being responsible for a safe workplace for my colleagues and the community was also a challenge.

But walking down the streets and bumping into families and hearing kids say how much they enjoyed an event we hosted, or talk about a book they’re reading, makes me smile. I miss hearing children’s voices in the store – the screams and the joy, and story time. This is why I sang too much on Instagram – I’m behind. I miss the chance to hang out with my boyfriends in real life, but I’ve been able to meet them at online book clubs and meet their pets.

I think [during the pandemic], people have learned to support local businesses. While chatting with other local traders, we saw a huge increase when we reopened in November and December. I hope to see this repeat itself.

We are very fortunate that our revenue increased during the lockdown period, but it is a very expensive business model, which processes orders online, packages them and delivers them. So you can only make the equation work through partnerships with publishers and additional volume. My parents say the purpose of supporting the business was to provide opportunities for avid book lovers. Our biggest expense is salary and what better thing to spend money on.

Elvira Ralston

The Customer Little Bookroom, Fitzroy North, Melbourne

Elvira Ralston with Seija and Rufus. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins / The Guardian

I’m at home with two preschoolers so things get pretty crazy at the best of times, but the lockdown added to that. When it started in March of last year, my oldest was three years old and my youngest was 18 months old. It was intense. My husband was able to walk into the office which was great, he could keep his job, but I had worked in the theater. The pandemic meant I was suddenly home alone five days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. with two children.

Because I’m a book lover, we would get in touch with The Little Bookroom every week and ask them to deliver something based on our latest interest. Children sad to miss their ballet lessons? The bookstore has the perfect book of ballet stories. Children suddenly obsessed with nautical history? Call the bookstore and get a book detailing the construction of a man of war, suitable for five-year-olds, delivered by hand at lunchtime.

They were very helpful with the most ridiculous phone calls where I was like, “Do you have something about dancing pirates that would suit a three year old?” Of course, I miss the navigation. I still feel this amazing emotional connection to the bookstore, but the kids don’t understand that much, they just know these amazing books are dropped off with us. But they were very impressed when they met the real Leesa. We were passing between closings and Leesa saw us and took us around the backstage of the store, the kids were amazed to see her in real life.

Sometimes when I get a message from a friend telling me they are having a rough day, I jump to The Little Bookroom website or phone and have a bundle of magical brown paper tied with string. at their door that afternoon. It could be a sticker book for $ 10, but they’ll be happy to wrap freebies and hand-deliver them for free. It has been a way to keep in touch with friends, to reserve love bombs to say that we are thinking of you. It held us together.

Kids have incredible resilience and a fantastic ability to ignore things they don’t want to know, but I think a lot of parents really struggled and had to be brave for the sake of the kids. At the same time, we spent so much time together that we never would have had. My oldest is going to school next year, and we’ll never have that time again. Our family has been very lucky.

I don’t want to sound awful and gloomy, and I hate the phrase the ‘new normal’, but I think we’re not going back to where it was before. When it all started, we said to ourselves “one day we will tell our children about this crazy thing that happened and they will not remember it”, but the more it goes, the more we realize that things have happened. exchange. I hope people will see their communities in a different way.

I would love for businesses like The Little Bookroom to thrive after this. If people thought “I want to give money to someone who lives near me, who cares about my community and works with all their heart, instead of not letting their employees go to the bathroom.” The pandemic has really highlighted how much we rely on these little gold nuggets scattered throughout our communities.


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