Interview with Nancy Ruhnke

Nancy Ruhnke (Vic 1973) is the chairperson, and along with F. David Hoeniger, was on the founding committee of the Friends of Victoria University Library. Nancy has been involved with Victoria College most of her life and in 2008, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award.

What are your responsibilities as the driving force behind the book sale?

As the chair of the Friends for the last fourteen years (with the exception of 2009), my primary responsibility is to oversee the book sale committee and their activities (arranging of volunteer shifts, collecting donations, co-ordinating signage as well as sorting and pricing of the donated items). I also serve on the Board of Regents.

What is your favourite aspect being part of the group since its inception?

The people and the friends we’ve made. They are very dedicated and this is what keeps me going.

Could you describe your time as a student at Victoria College? Do you have any particular memories of the library and of the Vic faculty?

I studied classics and ancient history. My favourite memory is of Professor Wallace McLoed, who taught a course on Homer. I was several months pregnant with my son and was increasingly finding it more difficult to climb up the stairs to the classroom on the third floor of Old Vic (there was no elevator there at that time). One day, after Smoking his pipe as usual, he said to me, “Class attendance is not the only avenue to grace, Mrs. Ruhnke!” (laughs)

What was the first book sale like?

It was held at Wymildwood Pub over two days in September of 1992. The interior of the pub was painted black at that time, including the windows! The preparation for the sale took place in a house at 110 Charles Street West, which is now demolished.

We made arrangements with a charitable organization and they agreed to pick the books that weren’t sold. But they didn’t show up and all the boxes had to be carried up the spiral staircase!

One pleasant memory I have is associated with the group of architects, who shared the space with us at 110. They would often invite us to have tea with them.

How has this event changed over the years?

It has grown tremendously! The chaos is now more organized and we know what to expect every year.

In 1996, there was an error made in the booking schedule for the chapel at Old Vic. There was a wedding scheduled to take place there right after the sale! We had to gather up the remaining books very quickly. I’m sure that we looked like the bride’s crazy relatives in some of the wedding photos!



This gallery contains 22 photos.

This week, we would like to showcase some of the unexpected treasures that we find in the book donated to the sale. Whenever we open a box, we just never know what to expect. Items found alongside donations range from … Continue reading

Behind the Scenes—Where Do All These Books Come From?

Although the annual book sale at Victoria College lasts only four days, by the time all the books and other treasures arrive on the tables to be eagerly inspected by countless book lovers, the preparation work takes place year-round.

Friends of Victoria University Library gather together two days every week (and nearly every week of the year) to gather, sort, and price books. Our two workrooms, which include separate sorting and pricing areas, are located in the basement of E.J. Pratt Library. On average, there are between eight and ten volunteers preparing items for the sale.

Donations make their way to us in various ways, but most donors drop off their books in the back entrance of the library. For part of the year (usually until August, which is when we start to get really busy), we also offer a pickup service from which we have gathered a number of rather amusing stories over the years.

For instance, once a donor (who turned out to be quite generous) requested a pickup of a box of books. Two volunteers drove down in their cute little Honda, only to discover upon arrival that the donations were put in a major appliance box. On another occasion, the donor said she had about forty to fifty boxes, and when a fleet of volunteer
cars arrived, they turned out to be shoe boxes…

Aside from making sure that we have plenty of organized inventory, we also ensure that the details regarding the sale are circulating around the campus and the city. We advertise on various University of Toronto web sites, publications, and we also rely on the word of mouth to make sure that we reach all potential customers, and finally, our new blog!