Dave Obee: Book sale depends on the whole community for success

Here’s a nice postscript to the 2018 Times Colonist Book Sale.

Last week, we wrote about how one of the sale’s longtime volunteers, Al Haines, takes out-of-copyright books and turns them into free e-books as part of an initiative called Project Gutenberg. This year, he was delighted to come across a selection of Doc Savage books from the 1930s.

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That mention brought a response from the woman who donated the books, Linda Jones. It turns out they were collected by her husband, Gordon, when he was a boy, but he hasn’t been able to read them since a bike accident left him a quadriplegic in 2010. And yes, they were delighted to learn of Al’s plans.

“I guess it is kind of ironic that the Doc Savage books may be made into e-books, as those are the only format my husband is able to read now, as he can read them using his iPad with a mouthstick,” she wrote. “Perhaps he will one day be able to read his Doc Savage books again.”

That’s the sort of story that makes us feel good about the sale, which the Times Colonist has staged every year since 1998.

The 7,000 book buyers who attended this year spent $176,000, with an additional $10,000 coming in one donation from the Golf for Kids tournament. Proceeds of the sale are distributed by the Times Colonist Literacy Society to school libraries and literacy projects throughout our readership area.

You bought about 100,000 books on our two sale days, choosing from the fine selection donated a couple of weeks earlier.

The great majority of the books went to local residents, but the sale also attracted 35 book dealers from Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, Kamloops, Washington state and Idaho. Given that the top price for a book was $3, the interest from dealers was no surprise.

The books were sorted and organized by about 340 volunteers, led by the remarkable father and son team of Bob and Mark Taylor.

As they worked, the volunteers went through about 200 litres of water, 40 pounds of coffee, 100 pizzas, 2,100 doughnut holes and 100 bags of potato chips.

When the sale was over, the police arrived to take some books into custody, sort of. We had invited them to take a selection of books for prisoners in police cells.

On Monday, representatives of non-profit organizations and schools descended on our venue — the Victoria Curling Club on Quadra Street — to take as many of the remaining books as they wanted, for free. Service clubs such as Kiwanis and Rotary, Scouts Canada, the Victoria Immigrant Society and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, as well as churches and thrift stores, picked out books for their own sales or to make available to members.

The sale is truly a community event. It works because many organizations have recognized its value. This year, CFB Esquimalt lent us 100 tables, the Archie Browning Centre 180, and the City of Victoria 80 more.

We’ll do it all again next year. Start gathering your unwanted books, because we will be calling for them in about 49 weeks.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who helped make the sale a success — donors like Linda and Gordon Jones, volunteers like Al Haines and the Taylors, and readers like you. It could not happen without you.

Dave Obee is editor and publisher of the Times Colonist.

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