A four-decade tradition will be drawing to a close at this weekend’s Arts Festival at Rose Lawn.
The American Association of University Women is ending its used-book sale scholarship fundraiser after being part of the annual fall festival for 40 years and raising more than $30,000 for nontraditional female college students in Bartow County.
“We have agonized over this decision for a couple of years,” AAUW Treasurer Diane Sakmar said. “The primary reason is the lack of a free and adequate storage space where we can work on books — sorting, etc. — throughout the year. A paid storage space would literally eat up all our profits.”
The age of the members also has played a part in discontinuing the sale, according to Sakmar.
“We used to do all the book moving ourselves, but as the group has grown older, we’ve come to rely on volunteer and paid student labor to set up and take down, and the volunteer portion can sometimes be iffy,” she said. “Aging membership means that fewer of our own members are even physically able to help with sales at the festival.”
Weather, competition and electronics also were big factors in the decision, she said.
“Last year, we lost 20 cartons of books to a deluge late Sunday afternoon, even though we were under a tent, and there have been other years when rain was a factor,” she said. “We have a great relationship with the Friends of the Library, but their quarterly book sales certainly do cut into our ability to sell books, and their fall sale usually comes about a week before Rose Lawn — tough timing for us. Finally, the growth of e-readers has also hurt us.”
Rose Lawn Museum Director Jane Drew said discontinuing the book sale “will be the festival’s loss, not to have them as participants in May Market and the arts festival each year.”
“We understand,” she said. “From time to time, we have lost vendors that were very special and unique. [The sale] brought a lot to our show. It had a lot of people interested.”
Co-chaired by Susan Brossoie and Iris Stein, the final sale at the festival will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. on the grounds of Rose Lawn Museum at 224 W. Cherokee Ave. in Cartersville and will feature all kinds of books.
“Fiction — hardback and paperback — [and] nonfiction — history, politics, biography, memoirs, self-help, lots of great cookbooks and some gorgeous ‘coffee-table’ photographic books,” Sakmar said. “We also have a good number of children’s and young-adult books.”
She also is “proud to say” that the group hasn’t raised its prices in at least nine years.
“We’re still using the same laminated price lists I made when I was teaching, and I’ve been retired eight years,” she said. “Prices are based on the book’s original price and age. Most hardbacks are in the $1 to $3 range, although those gorgeous coffee-table volumes that sold originally for $40 and up will go for $5 or more.”
Books are donated by the “generous readers of Cartersville and Bartow County who know and support our mission,” Sakmar said.
“We know that we have many loyal customers who buy books from us and then give them and others back to us the next year,” she said. “We really are book recyclers.”
The sale, which was AAUW’s only fundraiser until last year, has generated as much as $3,800 in education funds in one year, “but generally it’s somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000,” Sakmar said, noting more than $2,600 was raised last year.
The book sale got started the same year the local chapter of AAUW was founded — 1977, according to Sakmar.
“Book sales as a means to raise scholarship funds are a common feature of AAUW branches across the country,” she said. “The Atlanta, Cobb and North Fulton branches combine for a huge one every year in the metro area. Since the organization’s goal is to empower women and girls through education and advocacy, a book sale seems like an appropriate fit.”
As far as she knows, scholarships began being awarded that very first year, she said.
“I joined about seven years after the group was organized, and the scholarship book sale was already a well-established event by that time,” she said. “It was originally held in the little schoolhouse on the front lawn of Rose Lawn but quickly outgrew that space.”
Since that time, the organization has awarded thousands of dollars in scholarship money to nontraditional female students.
“This is our 40-year anniversary, and although I don’t have access to all the financial records from the earliest years, I know we have contributed well over $30,000, perhaps even $40,000,” the treasurer said.
Each year, the group awards “as many [scholarships] as funds allow,” Sakmar said.
“Book-sale proceeds are designated for education and may be used only for scholarships and our eighth-grade girls’ STEM program, which is growing,” she said. “We generally award two scholarships but can sometimes provide three, if we have a good book sale.”
The scholarships, which have grown from $300 — “a significant amount in 1977” — to $1,000, are not awarded to recent high school graduates “because they have access to other financial resources such as the HOPE,” she said.
“We target women who have been out of school for some time who have perhaps started college but stopped because of family obligations or financial reasons,” she said. “So, our awardees tend to be in their 30s or 40s. When a candidate has two or more years of coursework already completed, we know that she is more likely to actually finish her degree, and that’s what we are about — helping students get across the finish line, whether for an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree.”
Applicants also must be Bartow County residents who are enrolled at a regionally accredited college or university and must complete the one-page application at http://cartersvillebartow-ga.aauw.net by April.
While the group can fund the scholarships at least one more year, whether it will be able to continue funding them is uncertain, according to Sakmar.
“That is the big question,” she said. “We want to continue to provide scholarships and are exploring other ways to fundraise, but finding another single event that will raise the same amount is difficult. There are a number of other charitable organizations in the community that have carved out their niche — the Service League’s rummage sale, dance and poinsettia sale, for example — and we will simply have to find a new niche of our own. We have been known as the book ladies, and we’re going to have to reinvent ourselves.”