Friends of the Library: More than a book sale

A favourite fall event for book lovers and the entire Trinity community, the Trinity College Book Sale returns this October, with cautious optimism from the Friends of the Library. With masking encouraged and COVID precautions in place the sale will look different, but its goals remain the same—supporting the library and the student experience, and finding a way to give back.

An alumni volunteer and fundraising powerhouse, the Trinity College Friends of the Library has invested countless hours into supporting the College for nearly 50 years. The John W. Graham Library is integral to the education of students at Trinity, whether they are seeking out a quiet space to study, or help with crucial research or challenging coursework. It is a haven for students living on and off campus, who all benefit from the personalized attention they receive from the Library’s dedicated staff.

The annual book sale is one of several annual activities of the Friends of the Library, each year raising more than $100,000 to support the Graham Library and Trinity students. After a two-year, pandemic-induced hiatus, the much-loved event will return to Seeley Hall this fall in its 45th year.

Here are 10 reasons why we believe the Trinity book sale is tops:

  1. It’s fun!

There’s a buzz in the air as book lovers arrive to treasure hunt, many running into old Trinity friends (and making new ones).

  1. Bibliophiles abound.

Some may be scooping up every book they can carry, and some may want to chat about a particular tome they’ve just discovered. People from all walks of life attend over the sale’s five days, some first-timers and some who have been attending since 1975. All share an affinity for the written word.

  1. There is something for everyone.

Tens of thousands of titles are on offer, meticulously organized into 70 sections by devoted subject specialists. They include popular and classic literature, divinity, erotica, cookbooks, children’s books, and everything in between.

  1. It’s for a great cause.

By shopping the sale, you’ll be supporting Trinity students and the John W. Graham Library. In fact, since 1975, The Friends of the Library at Trinity College has raised over $5 million for the Graham Library, including an endowment, making the Friends collectively the biggest donor to the library.

“Now, when the internet has allowed for impersonal connections, the library is a welcome oasis where you can talk to a person about your scholarly and personal needs, not to mention work in an appropriate study space,” says Friends of the Library President Linda Bell.

  1. You won’t find better deals anywhere.

The book sale’s mantra says it all: “Our prices are so good that we can’t sell them for less.” Book prices typically range from two to five dollars.

  1. You might uncover a treasure or two.

There was that first-edition paperback of Lolita, a Rudyard Kipling novel signed by Kipling himself, and a find by Friend of the Library Nancy Graham ’58, who bought an Ogden Nash book for two dollars and discovered a handwritten inscription by Nash himself inside.

In 2019, Vincent Pham, then a first-year Trinity student and book sale volunteer, found in the Rare Books room “a two-volume set of the Breviarium Monasticum—essentially a book of prayers used by priests and brothers in the Benedictine Order—handsomely bound in black leather, with gilded edges with ribbon markers, in very good condition from the mid-1950s.” That rare find sparked Pham’s current passion for collecting antique Catholic liturgical books.

  1. It has a legacy spanning nearly half a century that includes alumni, students, staff and faculty.

The five founding members of the Friends of the Library—Helen (Pepall) Bradfield ’60, Jean (Griffin) Elliott ’61, Catherine (Curry) Graham ’62, Alice (West) Bastedo ’61, and Lisa (Balfour) Bowen ’61—spearheaded the first Book Sale, which earned $2,100. With the help of countless volunteers working year-round for nearly 50 years, the Trinity College Book Sale has become a must-attend annual event for book lovers, earning press coverage in Toronto and beyond.

In 2009, The Globe and Mail wrote of the sale: “It is this country’s—and possibly this continent’s—greatest celebration of the allegedly dead medium known as the printed word.” There are some 50,000 books being hawked, ranging from a rare 1884 world atlas selling for $100 to vintage literary paperbacks—Eliot, Hemingway, Richler—selling for pocket change. Nowhere else will you find a table of second-hand theology books assembled by an actual theologian.”

Philip Benmore ’17 (M.Div) remembers boarding a Greyhound bus with fellow Trent University students in 2009, travelling two hours from Peterborough specifically to attend the book sale. “I started working for the sale later when I came to Trinity to study Theology and have been a regular volunteer and book sale shopper every year since,” he says.

NOTE: Volunteers are still needed this year for setup, cleanup and running the sale. If you can help, please leave a message at 416-978-6750 or email Volunteering has its perks, too, says fourth-year student Vincent Pham, who helped with the 2019 Book Sale: “One of the best parts was the little slip of paper that allowed early access to the sale, enabling me to avoid the crowds and get ‘first dibs’ on the inventory.”

  1. It’s not only books.

Art (including once, a Marc Chagall print), sheet music, CDs from around the world, and the much-loved Friends of the Library greeting cards, which draw on images from the Graham Library’s rare book collection, are all on offer.

  1. You never know whom you’ll meet.

Stories abound of unexpected encounters at the sale. Alumni tell of running into former classmates and faculty members, even cousins they didn’t know were planning to attend. At least one current couple owes the start of their relationship to volunteering together at the book sale a few years back.

  1. You may be inspired to join the Friends of the Library.

Nancy Graham says that for her, volunteering with the sale for many years has given her “a sense of finding a new home on campus, of rubbing shoulders with people engaged at the growing point of learning and teaching, of accidentally encountering new ideas and learning new language, and the luxury of continuing an association with an institution that provided me with four years of exciting growth.”

In addition to the book sale, the Friends of the Library organizes a lecture series and an annual Christmas celebration, which is a highlight for members. After two years of online celebrations, they are optimistic about being able to gather in person this December for a themed holiday program (this year’s theme is “Christmas in the North”) with storytelling and musical performances, punctuated by delicious refreshments served in a festively decorated Seeley Hall.

To join the Friends of the Library, make a charitable donation to Trinity College (minimum $25) here.

The 45th Trinity College Annual Book Sale will take place Thursday, October 20 to Monday, October 24 in Seeley Hall, Trinity College, University of Toronto, 6 Hoskin Avenue. Opening day admission charge is $5. For more information, visit the Friends of the Library Book Sale web page.


As published in the September 2022 Newsletter.

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