Glenside Lions Bookmart History

Lions and Volunteers

History of the Glenside Lions Bookmart

You probably know it. Perhaps you’re a customer. The Bookmart occupies the old scout hall at the north end of Kennaway Street, with Tusmore Park to its east, Hanson Reserve to its north and the Austral-Asian Community Church across the road.

It is run by the Lions Club of Glenside, whose thirty members work alongside an army of volunteers to make it the biggest second-hand bookshop in the state. It is also the Club’s chief source of revenue, allowing a wide variety of local, national and international causes to be supported. Last year that support amounted to $213,091.

How The Bookmart Started

The Club was formed in late 1979 and its charter from Lions Clubs Inter­national was presented on 29 March 1980 at a formal dinner attended by the Premier, David Tonkin, and the Mayor of Burnside, Coralie Soward.

There were 29 charter members and the first President was Phil Ashwin. In those days Lionesses had their own clubs, so all the Glenside Lions were male. One of them (Noel O’Brien, pictured) is still a member and one other (Bruce Spangler) still does shifts on the Bookmart sales desk.

A decision to raise money from second-hand book sales was made almost immediately. The idea came from Bill Pattullo, who had run such a fund-raiser as a Lion in Stirling, and the first sales platform was a pair of purpose-built trailers bought from that Club (photo). The name was always Book Mart but the trailers were called book carts.

Donations of books were solicited through letterbox drops and the book carts were positioned in the car park of the Demasius department store (aerial photo below, looking westward at the Greenhill/Portrush intersection) that was soon sub­sumed into Burnside Village. Storage of books and carts was arranged at Kenrae Trading in Greenhill Road.

The venture was an immediate success and raised $7,798 in its first year. To put that in context, a brand new Holden Commodore was priced at $7,903.

In the Club’s fourth year, to show it had no fear of competition, the Club gave Burnside Council $3,500 towards its own mobile library. In the fifth yearbook sales exceeded $10,000. Sub­sequently a much larger com­mit­ment was made to the Council’s mobile library service, under­lining the Club members’ belief that making books widely available is as much a community service as a fund-raising effort.

Moving On

By 1989 the Book Mart had outgrown the book carts. They were sold to the Lions Club of Para­lowie and the Book Mart was relocated to a dilapidated shed at Burnside Council’s depot in Conyngham Street. The Council offered to build a new shed for the Book Mart, on condition that the Club demolish an old brick building on the site. This was done by members wielding sledgehammers every Sunday morning for six weeks. Timber shelving was built by charter member Bob Duffield, and other equipment was bought second-hand at auction. The photo shows President Phil Ashwin and Charter Dir­ector (later Secretary) Terry Savvas loading those shelves.

Sales kept growing, reaching $24,698 in 1993. Then in June 1994 the Book Mart was relocated again, this time to the old Glen Osmond Institute in Glebe Road (photo) – opposite the MFS fire station and near Burnside Lions’ Bargain Centre. This time the Club had to invest several thousand dollars in steel shelving. This was the Book Mart’s home for four­teen years, during which book sales doubled.

But the building’s foundations were unsound. The Council concluded that they were beyond repair and the building would have to be demol­ished. So the Book Mart had to move again.

On the western edge of Tusmore Park lay the derelict Gilbert Wood Scout Hall, long since abandoned by the Linden Park Boy Scouts. Its owner, Burnside Council, was happy to let the Glenside Lions take it over and undertake repairs and refurbishment. The steel shelving was moved from Glebe Road and professionally installed. This is still the Book Mart’s home and the shelving is still in service. Around this time the name became joined up: not ‘Book Mart’ but ‘Bookmart’.

The Premises

The Gilbert Wood Scout Hall is interesting in itself. The total cost of construction was £1,300, of which £400 was provided by Gilbert Wood’s widow on condition that it would be used as a scout hall and her late husband’s name would attach to it. The rest of the money was paid by the scouts them­selves, through fund-raising and borrow­ing.

As the headquarters of a scout group, it was unusually grand and costly. The laying of the found­ation stone in July 1938 attracted press attention (cutting from The Mail, headlined Big Hall for Linden Park Scouts). It was opened only seven months later by Lord Hampton, the Chief Comis­sioner of Scouts in England and deputy to Lord Baden-Powell him­self.

A bust of the World Chief Scout, made and donated by John Jilson of Bowden, still takes pride of place on the front of the building (photo). Glenside Lions recently had it repaired and repainted. This is said to be one of only two sculptures of B-P in South Australia.

The Bookmart Now

The Bookmart is still a bookshop, but more than that as well. Alongside the books are CDs, DVDs, jigsaw puzzles and the famous Lions mints, Christmas cakes and puddings – available all year round. As an additional service, Burnside residents can collect their compostable bags from the Bookmart in exchange for a name and address to check against Council records.

Because of increased footfall – due in part to a doubling of the size of the children’s books section (photo) and the opening of Burnside Council’s very popular wading pool behind the building – the Book­mart is being used as a site for other com­munity services too. Examples include free hearing tests (photo below), children’s vision screen­ing, and collection of donated food for the Foodbank Christmas hamper appeal.

As ever, the Bookmart is heavily reliant on the disciplined efforts of Club members and book-loving volunteers (photo), managed by Evan Jenkins and Ann Mattschoss.

Gilbert Wood and his wife would surely be proud of the uses to which this building, still bearing Gordon’s name, is being put for the benefit of their community.


The Bookmart’s primary purpose is to raise money. Over the course of its 43 years the Bookmart has achieved gross sales of $2.49 million, with expenses equivalent to 11.6% of this. All profits have been donated to carefully selected causes – local, national and global – directly or through Lions foundations.

There were obvious dips in the Bookmart’s revelue due to the Global Financial Crisis (2007-09) and the Covid-19 pan­demic (2020-21), but each of these was followed by a rapid recov­ery, and the trend is still strongly upward.

Donations are decided at the Club’s monthly busi­ness meet­ings. The single largest donation since June 2022 was $45,000 to Lions Hearing Dogs (the national centre at Verdun) to cover the full cost of training a medical alert dog. The following have each received at least $10,000 during that period: Lions Clubs Inter­national Found­ation (disaster appeals for Ukraine, Pakistan and Turkey), Food­bank South Australia, Flinders Foundation Eye Bank, Lions Clubs in the River­land (for flood relief), Hutt Street Centre, Médecins Sans Frontières (for flood relief in Pakistan), Cancer Care Centre and the Eastern Districts Little Athletics Association.