‘You can always find treasures’: CFUW prepares for annual Spring Book Sale

Jason Kerr/Daily Herald Volunteer Gail Derbowka double-checks a book title before stocking a table in preparation for the start of the annual CFUW Spring Book Sale in South Hill Mall. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Residents looking for a new adventure or a classic favourite will have a chance to find it when the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) opens their doors on Friday for the first day of their annual Spring Book Sale.

This year’s sale returns to the familiar confines of South Hill Mall. CFUW member and volunteer organizer Gail Syverson said they’re always happy to see residents dig into a pile of books.

“There’s no book store in Prince Albert, so it’s a good source for really good quality books—and books of all genres,” Syverson said. “Any little niche thing that you want to find a book about, if you look hard enough, maybe we have it.”

Syverson is one of roughly 35 CFUW members and volunteers contributing their time to this year’s sale. She said many of the volunteers want to ensure good books don’t go to waste, but they also want to support a good cause.

Proceeds from this year’s sale will go towards CFUW scholarships handed out to female high school students. Last year, they gave out six scholarships valued at $700 each.

“Despite the fact that post-secondary stats show that there are actually more women than men in post-secondary education, there’s still a great need for that help,” CFUW Prince Albert chapter president Barb Gustafson said. “I think beyond the money, it’s also the confidence building that comes with getting a scholarship, that somebody outside yourself and your family has said, ‘you can do this.’ I think that’s really helpful.

“I mean, $700 is not a huge amount. That maybe pays the cost of one full course, but it still is very important, I think, to encourage young people to go on to post-secondary education.”

Prince Albert non-profit SHARE stored all CFUW books over the winter and delivered them Monday night so volunteers could begin setting up on Tuesday.

Both Gustafson and Syverson said the event remains popular largely because the book buying public has few options in Prince Albert.

“I think there’s still a good audience for print books, and I think especially in Prince Albert it’s appreciated because unfortunately we don’t have a book store for people to turn to,” Gustafson said. “Even with Amazon and all those other options, people still like to come and browse through the books and see what they can find.”

“It’s an opportunity for people to donate their books too, because what else would they do with things,” Syverson added. “Yard sales? It’s pretty hard. Value Village does take books, but we like to think that our cause encourages people to bring books to this sale.”

Online book sales rose in 2020 when more than 50 per cent of books sold were sold online, according to a Publishing in Canada report. However, online sales began to decline as a percentage of all book sales in 2021 and 2022, while eBook and audio book sales also slowed.

Syverson said club members and volunteers do keep an eye on the issue, but so far it hasn’t affected the Spring Book Sale’s popularity.

“We do wonder, with the prevalence of eBooks and so on, and so far it hasn’t really harmed our number of books,” she said. “People still come to buy and to donate. Whether or not the next generations will still be buying, we don’t know.”

In fact, the hardest decision volunteers face isn’t getting people to come out, it’s trying to cultivate their selection.

“You always find treasures along the way … and it’s hard to choose what to keep and what to actually put in the discards,” Gustafson said with a laugh. “You never know who’s going to come along and want something, other than computer books. I’m pretty confident we can get rid of anything else.”

The CFUW Spring Book Sale runs from Friday, April 19 to Saturday, April 20, and Monday April 22 to Saturday, April 27 at the South Hill Mall. Hours are 10 a.m. to five p.m. Attendees are asked to make a donation for any books they take.

The CFUW Book Sale receives assistance from South Hill Mall, the Optimist Club, SHARE, and other community volunteers.