Behind the scenes of Giant Book Sale prep



After several years of being involved with the Giant Book Sale in one way or another, I sometimes feel I could write a book about it.

Every year it’s a fascinating process from start to finish. First there’s the collecting of donations, mainly through bins at Salt Spring’s three financial institutions. Then the books are given some TLC at our sorting depot. They are cleaned inside and out, any discount stickers are removed by various means, and personal notes and bookmarks gently extracted. Then they are placed in one of about 40 categories and expertly packed in labelled boxes — about 1,000 of them this year. It takes a solid group of dedicated volunteers to do a lot of heavy lifting and not-so-glamourous work for the cause.

Doors open for the Giant Book Sale at the Farmers’ Institute hall at 10 a.m. this Friday, Nov. 17 and stay that way until 4 p.m. The sale continues on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For the third year running, the Jewels for Literacy Sale of affordable, mostly used jewellery will take place at the same time in one beautifully adorned part of the hall. A small but mighty group of volunteers does all of the work for the JFL sale.

All book and jewellery proceeds benefit the Salt Spring Literacy Society, which offers a variety of free learning programs for adults and children.

No fundraiser would be complete without a certain amount of tension. For the book sale, what should and should not be kept as salable goods is the only contentious part of preparations. How individuals value books is a highly subjective business, and it shows in what volunteers put into and take out of the reject pile.

On two occasions I was asked if we should keep or reject a slim, dated volume on the topic of LSD. Both times the consensus was that someone out there will want to buy that little piece of ephemera for a buck. Assuming it didn’t get turfed after I left the building, I’m suggesting that whoever buys it should be given a free book of their choosing.

One of the best parts of the Giant Book Sale is the serendipity that seems to surround it. On more than one occasion I have needed a certain obscure book and it has appeared magically before me at some point on the collecting, sorting and sale spectrum. It happened just last week. Thinking my spouse had no further use for a novel called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, I donated it to the sale early this year. A couple of months later, he wanted to lend it to someone. Uh oh! With sorting and packing of books well underway at that point, there was no way to track it down.

However, contained in one of four boxes of last-minute donations I happened to receive was a pristine copy of that book.

For more information about the book and jewellery sales and the preview event for Salt Spring Literacy Society members, see the book sale section of the SSLS website.

The Salt Spring Island Rotary Club has for the second year stepped up to sponsor the sale with a $2,500 donation. That amount pretty much covers the sale’s expenses, and club members will be participating in the event as well.

Thank you to Rotary, our many other sponsors and supporters, and the cheerful, indefatigable volunteers.

The writer is the Gulf Islands Driftwood editor and chair of the Salt Spring Literacy Society.

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