Libraries  |  15 Mar 2021

At nearly 90, Elizabeth Williams helps oversee the volunteers running the two-day Big Bargain Book Sale at the Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre this month.

She is a member of the 160-strong team – covering a range of ages and interests – collectively known as the Friends of Christchurch City Libraries.

Each year, up to 40 “Friends” from “across the generations” unpack, display and help sell thousands of books and magazines that have been withdrawn from library collections.

After 30 years, the oldest and newest life member of the Friends has opted to leave the book sale to the younger volunteers.

Friends of the Library member Barbara Clarke says that the group is involved in many areas of library life but is always looking for new members.

“We have such a range of people involved, including those who help out with our popular book sale, which attracts thousands of people every year,” Mrs Clarke, a former librarian, says.

“The first book sale organised by the group was held at the (now demolished) King Edward Barracks in the central city in 1989.

“Today, we have about 6000 people browsing the annual Big Bargain Book Sale items over two days at the Pioneer Centre.”

She pins the ongoing success of the sale on “everyone’s love of a bargain and the opportunity to purchase ex-library stock at very reasonable prices”.

“Bargain hunters can purchase for their specialist interest areas; gather books and magazines for the bach; select children's picture books, easy and longer reads and interesting non-fiction; and also choose from large print, graphic novels and a huge assortment of novels and non-fiction.”

Christchurch City Council Head of Libraries and Information Carolyn Robertson says that the Friends of the Library is an “invaluable resource”.

“The volunteers really drive the book sale, ensuring everything is well set out and that the sale days go amazingly well,” she says. “They constantly replenish the stock throughout both days so it does not matter when anyone arrives, there are always more bargains on the tables.’’

Set up in 1988, the Friends of the Library provides a monthly programme of book talks with local authors, and raises funds for a range of items, such as chairs for older people, art, digital cameras, wheelchairs and special book trolleys.

This year’s Big Bargain Book Sale will take place at Pioneer Stadium on Friday, 19 March from 9am to 7pm and on Saturday, 20 March from 9am to 4pm.

If you are interested in joining Friends of the Library, you can find out more online.