Books 4 Outback co-founder
SOME 72 year-old retirees might spend their days on the golf course, or on the couch watching the Bold and the Beautiful.
But not Ross Lane. He is too busy getting books into outback communities.
The retired pharmacist is one of the co-founders of Books 4 Outback, a self-funded organisation that delivers pre-loved books to regional schools across the state.
Mr Lane – a former volunteer for Lifeline – established Books 4 Outback with fellow volunteer, Bill Iceton, who he said was instrumental in transporting the books to the outback.
The two men also teamed with Acrobat Removals owner, Norm Doughty, who gave them a place to store their books.
“He’s furbished [a storage shed at Mayfield East] with bookshelves, tables and chairs, and he’s even paid the third party insurance,” Mr Lane said.
The three men, along with up to 10 other volunteers have delivered 10,000 books to more than 50 different schools, with Mr Lane doing the ring-around to see which schools need the books.
Apart from local schools in Stroud and Speers Point, Books 4 Outback has delivered crates of books to regional towns in Moree and Cobar, but they enjoyed delivering books to preschools most.
“Preschools are the best places to go because we actually get to see the kids,” Mr Lane said.
“We put a box down and they’re like bees around a honeypot,” he added, saying that they speak with teachers and librarians more than kids at primary and high schools.
What city-slickers might find strange – but Mr Lane says is normal in the bush – is the refusal of libraries to lend books to kids, out of fear they won’t come back.
“They haven’t got much respect for books and that’s why some of the schools are really keen to give kids books and say ‘This is your book, take it home and put it on the shelf’,” he said.
“This just makes books more accessible.”
Mr Lane describes himself as an “old bugger”, and says he still holds firm to a belief that books can help kids visit new places.
“Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, it opens kids’ eyes to the world outside where they live,” he said.
He often suggests kids take an atlas home, because it could help them identify their small town in relation to the wider world, while lamenting that online maps fade out small towns the more you zoom out.
“The books have done a lot of research for you. If you’re doing a project, I think it’s important that books are available,” he said.
Anyone wanting to donate books to Books 4 Outback can call Ross on 0413 138 746.