Food for the mind now at Canice’s Kitchen

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Canice’s Kitchen regular Jack and community manager Carrie Deane enjoy the new street library. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Parish boasts city’s largest installation of free books

One of Sydney’s best drop-in spaces is not only offering food for body and soul but for minds as well, launching its own library with no borrowing card or return deadline necessary.

Guests at Canice’s Kitchen, nestled underneath St Canice’s Church in Elizabeth Bay, can now browse more than 2000 titles when they come by for a complimentary hot breakfast or lunch any day of the week.

Officially opened by local MP Alex Greenwich recently, it is the largest permanent installation of books available to the city’s street community. Jack, a regular, said the “fantastic” street library has fostered healthy conversations around the indoor and al fresco dining tables.

Prompting conversations, deepening friendships

“I love libraries, but what it does here is it gives people something bright and colourful to look at and instead of them talking about themselves and their problems they can go along here and find something interesting to read or a book that sparks a memory,” he said. “It’s refreshing.” Jack said his favourite kinds of books were biographies and histories.

‘Explore new ideas and discover community’ reads the slogan at the new library space for Sydney’s street community at St Canice’s Parish, Elizabeth Bay. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Community manager Carrie Dean said a guest recently congratulated the volunteer librarians for creating a “table of knowledge” for him and his friends. “He had pulled out a book by the Russian novelist Dostoevsky and they were discussing that,” she said. “We created this because we were looking for a way to keep people entertained and socially connected.

“We had a small library here in this amazing dining space but it wasn’t enough so we reached out to people to donate books. I see Jack here every day with a different one and that’s what’s so nice, that every day people can come and learn something new, but it really is all about creating community.

“This space used to be used for a school, so it’s nice to have information and learning back here again too.”

The floor to wall shelves spanning the length of the dining room wall are replenished frequently with books not required to be returned thanks to the local community donating more than 3000 books covering a variety of genres.

Biographies and art history most sought-after

Biographies are proving most popular along with National Geographic magazines and art history books are as well. The library joins a raft of offerings at the fully donor-supported soup kitchen and drop-in space.

As well as the eat in and takeaway meal services for around 140 people a day who experience disadvantage and isolation, Canice’s Kitchen offers emergency crisis support, showers and toilets with free toiletries supplies, life coaching, legal help and health care including COVID and flu vaccinations.

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