How a series of stories gave birth to the Times Colonist Book Drive

Times Colonist Book Sale takes place May 11 and 12 at the Victoria Curling Club, 1952 Quadra St.

Book Drive logo - undatedSusan Danard remembers vividly the first Times Colonist book drive that started it all 22 years ago.

The former TC reporter, now working in public relations in Vancouver, was the education reporter at the time and wrote a series of articles about cutbacks at school libraries. The next thing she knew, the newspaper was involved in a book drive.

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“It was spontaneous,” said Danard, who dropped by at Saturday’s book drop-off to say hello to old friends.

“It was fun to be the spark of it. What I remember is we started getting a lot of letters and calls from readers who wanted to do something. “It seemed to have touched a chord.”

Times Colonist managers hatched the idea of collecting donated books, and the whole thing just kept growing, Danard said. No one expected the book drive to become what it has, but people were quick to offer support from the beginning.

“Victoria’s got a strong sense of community and the newspaper does, too.”

The donated books are sold at the Times Colonist Book Sale, with the proceeds — more than $5 million since 1998 — going to literacy-related programs on Vancouver Island.

On the Monday after the sale, schools and non-profit groups can take as many unsold books as they like, for free.

This year’s book drive continues April 28 in the Victoria Curling Club parking lot, at 1952 Quadra St. from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Enter from Pembroke Street and follow the direction of volunteers.

Avoid Caledonia Avenue to allow police access to their headquarters.

As always, the public is asked to donate only books in good condition. Encyclopedias, textbooks, and magazines are not accepted.

Among those donating Saturday was Tanya Inglis, who came all the way from Galiano Island to give away her books.

“We are moving locations and we didn’t have space for all of the books in our library,” Inglis said. “So we needed to give them a good home.”

She said she is a fan of the event.

“This is amazing, because otherwise I don’t know where the books would go. We were very happy to find that this lined up with our move.”

Wendy Townsend said she likes the purpose of the book drive.

“We want to support literacy, it’s a great cause,” she said.” Everybody loves reading so why not share the wealth?”

Townsend said she didn’t have anything in particular she was giving to the book drive.

“It’s an assortment of material form various locations,” she said. “I don’t know of there’s any secret treasures in there — I guess there could be.”

Making things run smoothly is a big group of volunteers, some of them book-drive veterans such as Jack Guthrie.

He said he and his colleagues all share a common bond.

“It’s all books,” Guthrie said. “Everybody here is a book lover and we’re all volunteering primarily to help with literacy — which is the endgame — but also to get our own books.”

He’s involved in the sorting as well as the collecting, so his volunteer effort is a three-week commitment.

“Monday starts the sorting,” Guthrie said. “Every book has to be handled and gotten to the tables. I work in pulp fiction, that’s always been my perch.”

Volunteer groups helping on Saturday included the Victoria Literacy Connection and the Royal Bank.

The Times Colonist Book Sale will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, at the Victoria Curling Club.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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