In a sudden resurgence, the McGill Alumni Association’s annual book fair will return in Oct. 2019. The 2018 fair was originally planned to be the final iteration due to future renovations planned for the book fair’s space in Redpath Hall. However, organizers of the event have since made new arrangements. Anne Johnston Williams, co-book fair coordinator, is optimistic about the event’s future.
“The day after the sale finished, we began to get feedback from people in various positions at McGill,” Williams said. “After a number of meetings and consultations, we received confirmation in November that the work on Redpath Hall would be finished in September. Although we may not always have access to the lower level where we work, there seems to be a spirit of cooperation between the departments involved.”
This is not the book fair’s first near-death experience. In 2011, organizers unanimously voted to cancel the event for 2012 after low volunteer turnout. However, it soon regained momentum after two graduate students stepped in as coordinators. The fair was cancelled again in 2013 due to renovations to the Redpath terrace. After the repeated cancellations, low interest plagued the event’s new launch in 2014—both students and book retailers failed to show up.
All proceeds from the fair go toward the McGill Book Fair Bursary. Last year, the book fair raised over $50,000 for three different funds for students in financial need: The McGill Book Fair Bursary for all undergraduate students, the McGill Book Fair Bursary in Music for students in the Schulich School of Music, and the Jane B. Hood Bursary in English Literature, named after the fair’s longest-serving coordinator. Gabrielle Korn, managing director for Alumni Relations, estimates that the book fair has raised over $1.8 million over the past four decades.
“The Book Fair was initially started by the McGill Women’s Alumnae Association and the Women’s Associates of McGill (Wives of Professors) over 45 years ago,” Korn said. “From the beginning, proceeds from sales were divided between the two groups and returned to the University. The Alumnae Association supported scholarships and bursaries, and the Associates funded a lecture series [….] When the Women’s Associates disbanded, the Alumnae Association carried on solo and all proceeds from the fair went toward supporting their scholarships and bursaries.”
The McGill community can donate books, vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, and sheet music. Books are sold at an average price of three dollars, and unused material is donated to Renaissance, a Quebec non-profit dedicated to providing training to people experiencing difficulty entering the workforce.
“It’s great news that they’re reopening [in 2019],” Owen Lewis, U2 Arts, said. “There were a lot of people there when I went. I was able to find stuff that you wouldn’t be able to get from a normal book store, and at a bargain. It was nice to give to a good cause as well.”
The book fair’s continued success depends on donations from the McGill community; starting on April 9, McGill community members can donate material in good condition every Tuesday and Thursday to Redpath Hall. Williams also said that there is an ever-present need for drop-off supervisors.
“One of the areas where we need assistance is in finding new depots, places where people who can’t otherwise get to McGill can drop off their donations,” Williams said. “The depot people then bring the books to us at their convenience. Students can always drop by on Tuesdays and Thursdays to say hello, check out the free boxes, and ask if any help is needed. Once October comes, we need all the word-of-mouth advertising possible.”
The 2019 book fair will take place Oct. 22-24. Students interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact one of the coordinators.