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VCU Libraries fall book sale returns with renewed energy and a new purpose benefiting student-run community projects

September 27, 2016

The Friends of VCU Libraries fall book sale, on hiatus during construction of the new library, returns Oct. 27-31 with help from a new partner, the VCU Emerging Leaders Program.   

Proceeds from the sale benefit libraries’ programs and service projects of the VCU Emerging Leaders Program. 

Each year, 50 to 70 students are chosen for this program. Among them is Becky Sheridan, a second-year from Midlothian who is working on the book sale. She explains that the  leadership program “focuses on helping first-year students develop their skills and knowledge of leadership through classes, advising and service projects.”

Participants, assigned to small workgroups, take on lead roles in service projects such as the book sale.  

Friends book sale chair Nick Cooke says, "We're looking forward to working side-by-side with these student leaders and we expect a very successful sale."

For many years, the Friends of VCU Libraries has held an annual book sale to raise funds to support library programs. The annual fall sale was not held in 2014 and 2015 during construction of the new library.

During the hiatus, the development office and the book sale committee evaluated the sale and decided that it, like the building itself, was due for a makeover.

While the book sale has been a steady source of income for Friends programming, it also requires an investment of hundreds of hours of staff and volunteer time to organize and manage the sale. “Nationwide, lots of libraries hold book sales. Generally, as a fundraising tool, they’re not terribly efficient. They’re hard, dusty work and they demand lots of staff and volunteer time,” said Kelly Gotschalk, director of development and major gifts for VCU Libraries.

“Their greatest value is in their community service and community engagement aspects. People rally around the sale and like to help. For book lovers, it’s the ultimate reuse-recycle shopping experience and you can buy wonderful books for very little money.”

How could VCU’s book sale move to the next level in its community service and be better managed in the future? The answer Gotschalk arrived at: Tap VCU’s deep student talent pool.

Leadership in action

Gotschalk reached out to Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Reuban Rodriguez, Ed.D. Rodriguez referred her to the innovative VCU Emerging Leaders Program. This initiative of the Division of Student Affairs matches 40 first-year students with 20 sophomore mentors. They learn about leadership through both study and action.

“Emerging Leaders was created as a dynamic first-year leadership program that would support the recruitment and success of academically talented students from across Virginia,” said James Gahagan, Ph.D., who directs the program. “Once students are invited to participate in the program, they take leadership classes together and are assigned an upper-class mentor who meets weekly with two to three students and assists them in their transition to VCU.

These mentor/mentee groups, called “pods,” then begin to work on a service project that directly impacts the quality of student life at VCU or life in the greater Richmond community. This year’s projects included an emphasis on bystander accountability, encouraging students toward healthy eating and helping to establish a thrift store.”

The student leaders group and the Friends agreed to a labor and profit-sharing partnership with the VCU Libraries book sale. The students' help in promoting and staffing the annual book sale will yield funds (30 to 50 percent of total revenues) that they, in turn, will rollover into their own community service projects.

Book sale donations directly benefit student projects

“In this way, a portion of the money generated from books donated to the libraries will immediately and directly benefit student activities and important student-centered projects on campus,” said Gotschalk. “Monies raised from the book sale during October, for instance, will help fund student service projects in the next academic year."

In the leadership development program, “we are challenged with identifying a problem in the community and developing a project to help solve it,” said Virginia Slattum, a nursing student and mentor in 2015-16. “Historically, we had to raise funds to complete the project that we implement. During my project last year, we spent a large portion of our time raising funds and, therefore, had less time to actually implement the project, so this partnership with the Friends is fantastic.”

Beginning in fall 2015, the students and Friends members met, brainstormed and worked together to develop plans for an experiment: A one-day, pop-up style book sale in the new Cabell Lecture Hall. The April 20 sale—followed by a half-day reduced price event—succeeded. Sales exceeded $5,000 over one and a half days. “The students also brought more students to the sale than I recall participating previously,” said University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider.

“I had no idea the event would be so successful,” said Slattum. The amount of money raised in one day was beyond expectation and I am very excited to see what the fall book sale will bring. Students were very excited and bought a lot of books."

Students brought energy and enthusiasm to the sale, according to Friends of VCU Libraries Book Sale Chairman Nick Cooke. “These students are delightful to work with. We look forward to this new partnership and all that it will bring in terms of growing a relationship between the Friends and VCU’s students as well as the increased visibility and success of the sale.”

Book Sale Hours

Thursday, Oct. 27  9 a.m.–noon Preview sale for Friends of VCU Libraries members
  noon–7 p.m. Sale opens to the public
Friday, Oct. 28 9 a.m.–5 p.m.  
Saturday, Oct. 29 9 a.m.–5 p.m.  
Sunday, Oct. 30 1–4 p.m.  
Monday, Oct. 31 9 a.m.–7 p.m.  

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