$20,000 raised through eight years of Friends’ book sales

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, June 7 2016

Over the last eight years, a group of tireless volunteers, known as the Friends of the Library, has raised over $20,000 through various activities to improve the space and services offered at our library. The annual book sale at the Rollo Centre, which is the biggest fundraiser for the year, will be held this Father’s Day weekend, June 18 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and June 19 from 11:00 – 3:00 p.m. 

“We invite people to donate books. Gabriola is very generous about donating, and we get a couple thousand books, enough to fill two rooms at the Rollo Centre,” says Chair of the Friends of the Library, Wendy Strachan. Alison Douglas, who helps with communication for the group and has also been a member since the group’s inception, joins us at the Hive for an early morning coffee.

Wendy Strachan and Alison Douglas with the Gabriola Friends of the Library. Jane Reddington photo

In February and March the Friends send out a request for books and posts a sign at the library. “People save books for us and buy books and bring them back the next year. It’s a year-long lending library except they pay,” says Douglas.

Strachan adds that their pricing is cheaper than Nanaimo bookstores and they are careful about the quality. One room at the Rollo Centre is full of books that have been priced and categorized while another room is like a treasure hunt, says Douglas. “Those books are slightly more used and we suggest people donate what they’d like to.”

Strachan remembers in earlier years that all the books were sorted on tables in her carport. “That was too tiring, trying to categorize ahead of the sale,” says Strachan. Now the group unpacks and places the books on site. 

“Every year, we’ve honed our organizational skills,” says Douglas. “We have a great group of volunteers that help with sorting and transport.” Every sale averages about 300 donated boxes with 20 books in each box. Imagine lifting all those boxes and transporting them! Douglas adds that 15 to 25 volunteers come back every year to help get the books to the Rollo Centre. Strachan says her husband Richard has been an invaluable support to the group too.

“We have lineups in the morning every day of the sale and we found we needed to run it for two days,” says Strachan. During the sale the group is constantly unpacking books, and sometimes people come back two or three times to see what might be found once every book has been put out. Douglas says it feels like half the island comes to the annual book sale.

At the end of Sunday, selected books in excellent condition that haven’t been bought are saved for the next year’s sale, and the rest are donated to the Rotary Book Sale in Nanaimo (Rotary is a volunteer organization service club).

The Friends donate all the proceeds to the library. The group was formed in 2007, initially as an advocacy group for the library which set out to lobby to improve the amount of space in the library and the services offered. 

Armed with statistics in 2008 about the rate of circulation - 93,730 - and the small population of the island - 4,003 - compared with several other regions with higher populations and lower circulation stats, Strachan realized the numbers justified going through the appropriate channels to make a presentation to the board at Vancouver Island Regional Library. Douglas joined her at that presentation and says Strachan was impressive. 

“The end result was that we got to make a case for more funding and for the extension and expansion of the library. We made an impact and moved our library further up the list of branches that needed more support,” says Strachan.

Once the case had been made, the group officially became the Friends of the Library. There is now a full-time librarian as well as other full-time staff and a few part-time staff as well. Books get delivered daily, instead of twice a week. And then of course there was the renovation that brought us a bright, new beautiful library with space for presentations.

Funds raised through the book sale have gone toward a new lectern, a play rug for the children, new Lego, a sound system, folding chairs, a Kobo reader, the Story Time easel, literacy kits for children as well as special events and presenters like Arthur Black and Sally Armstrong among three dozen others presenters. The group also sponsors book launches, readings and presentations. Now they are looking at buying dividers for the speaking space and a different sound system.

“We think of ourselves of friends of the library but also friends of the community. Our goal is to promote the value of literacy, and to encourage writers and readers of all ages. Each year the sale raises approximately $3,000 that goes directly to the library,” says Strachan. 

Now retired, Strachan was the Director of the Centre for Writing-Intensive Learning at SFU. She worked with faculty across disciplines on using and teaching writing and before that worked with teachers at all levels. Internationally, she was associated with the National Writing Project at Berkeley as a consultant and also worked in the Northwest Territories with indigenous groups. She says when she started teaching Grade 6 in Montreal at age 18, she always emphasized writing and, of course, reading. 

Amy Dawley is the Customer Services Librarian and the manager on the ground at our library, which is overseen by a manager in Nanaimo. She works closely with the Friends of the Library. “I feel really fortunate to have landed in a library that has a Friends group because it’s strengthening what I’m able to do. I can give a Story Time, but with the Friends, I can give a Story Time with a beautiful felt board, on a lovely carpet with all the things they’ve purchased. When the library reopened, they brought us our big screen television, so we’re able to offer movie nights.”

Dawley says that this Friends group is typical of other much bigger libraries. “The amount they’re raising is quite remarkable for a library our size.”

If you have a box of books to donate to the sale you can drop it at the library. For larger quantities, contact Strachan directly at wendy.strachan1@gmail.com. The group also welcomes new members and meets on the third Wednesday of each month from 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. at the library.