History of the Friends of Victoria University Library


Our beginnings link to Professor F. David Hoeniger who operated the Alumni Secondhand Bookshop in an charming, quirky room on the ground floor of the E.J. Pratt Library. There is an interesting story behind our start as a group: some time in 1991, one of our members, Craig Ruhnke stopped by the book shop one day to drop off some donations and inquired whether Professor Hoeniger would like some help… and the rest is history!  He and his wife Nancy have been involved ever since. Our executive at first consisted of about eight to ten individuals and, our first book sale was held in 1992 in the basement of the Wymilwood Building, run by numerous volunteers, but initially planned by only a handful of organizers.


Anyone is welcome to join us! Our membership does not solely consist of Victoria College Alumni—volunteers come from all walks of life. Our oldest volunteer, Doctor Albert Bowron, a retired librarian, is almost ninety-three. Over the years, the membership has experienced significant growth, and many more book sale volunteers joined us, many with expert knowledge. For instance, one of our volunteers identified a copy of the first edition of Agatha Christie’s, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd, published in  1926 (it was originally bought at a sale at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church), which was sold for $10,000.

Our Role and Achievements

Friends play a vital role in the life of the library. We organize lectures and a variety of library centred-events, which encourage gatherings of friends at Vic. They also foster a sense of camaraderie, of getting together with a purpose. Proceeds from the book sale are the main source of revenue. We have also sponsored and number of initiatives since our inception in 1991:

  • 2011: funds provided toward the establishment of the reading garden in front of E.J. Pratt Library
  • 2001: renovation of the library (about $750,000)
  • ongoing: fundraising also benefits many of the special collections at the library (including Virginia Woolf and Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
  • ongoing: financial aid to students in forms of scholarships and bursaries.

Our Events

Every year, we organize a variety of events to enhance the life of Vic community. They are open to members and non-members alike:

  • Virginia Woolf Party
  • tour of Picasso ceramics at UC Art Centre
  • tours of special collections at the Toronto Reference Library, such as the Sherlock Holmes Collection
  • various exhibits at the E.J. Pratt Library (for instance, Norman Jewison Papers)
  • auction (organized by Ruth Bentley; items included a paper book signed by Margret Atwood as well as a dress that was belonged to Anne Murray, purchased by Ann Black, and a mantle piece from a demolished house on Charles Street West).