When the doors open Thursday for the annual AAUW book fair at the Arlington Museum of Art, it will begin the final chapter for an event that has become, especially to longtime residents, an Arlington institution.Spokeswoman Mary Ann Huslig said the Arlington branch of American Association of University Women made the difficult choice at its September meeting to end the sale after examining the viability of the event for the past few years. This year’s theme is “31 and Done.”“Every one of us deeply regrets that we need to call it quits. The decision was made only after we could not muster sufficient workers to continue. Many of our younger members work full time, and [the] book fair takes more than a few weekend hours — although many of those with full-time positions continue to offer significant help,” event chairwoman Marye Drexler said of the year-round operation.She pointed out that the work is physically demanding, especially for the most-involved participants, who are well into retirement.But the tipping point came when the club realized that it would need a new venue after this year. The challenge of finding a new location is daunting, and the cost of moving would be a budget stretch.The original 1982 location at the National Guard armory on Randol Mill Road lasted 19 years until the armory closed. Then a nine-year stint at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church was followed with the move to the museum four years ago.Determined to make the last sale one of the best, the committee has worked for the past year soliciting and collecting donations and has assembled 20,000 items — sorted and displayed in over 40 categories — for readers of all ages and interests. Ann Brooks, who assisted Suzanne Sweek in assembling the Curiosities & Collectibles section, said: “One of the most unique books is an 1882 leather bound prayer book printed in French, Regueil de Prieres. I also especially like Bird Neighbors and Birds That Hunt and Are Hunted, published about 1899 with lots of full-page color plates. Aviators might enjoy Bernard Desestres’ Les Alpes En Planeur de la Corse a L’Autriche and Silence on Plane. Both of these books appear to be rather scarce in the USA.”“A unique donation this year was 96 book jackets, most of which are from children’s picture books, including jackets by Dr. Suess, Eric Carle and Robert McCloskey. Of the 68 illustrators, 36 have received Caldecott or Newbery awards. The Illustrators of Alice by Graham Ovenden, 1971, is a possible first-edition jacket.”According to Brooks, a dust jacket adds significant value to a book and is useful for library displays or makes an attractive decorative accessory when framed.A perennial dilemma is storage of the books for sorting and staging before the sale. A classroom at the armory was used for the first year and then with the help of O.K. Carter, space at the Star-Telegram building on Abram was used for a few years before Arlington Charities loaned storage space until 2008. Moving to the museum enabled storing and sorting to be in the same location as the sale.“In 1982, Arlington’s new Fire Chief Strickland arranged for the Arlington fire stations to collect books for us: ‘A good minilibrary for our firefighters,’ he is quoted as saying. They are still collecting books for us in red barrels,” said Brooks.Sweek and Brooks with the help of Marcia Rober and Sandra Sevier have once again compiled an extensive catalog for the sale, something that few, if any, other charity book sales locally provide. Detailed research is required to compile the catalog. It can be previewed online at www.aauwtexas.org/branches/arlington.“Research is so much easier with the Internet,” Brooks said. During most of the earlier years when members Nancy Bennett, Beverly Elbert and the late Mary Schwitzer-Smith were identifying books for Collector’s Corner, they had a large library of books on rare and collectible books that they used for research, explained Brooks.Others serving on the book fair committee are Anne Freeman, Sarah Garrett, Lina McClintock, Jane Freidlin, Brenda Koegler, Sheri Quick, Kathryn Head and Kathryn Thilman.Diane Feldman has worked tirelessly on the book fair since it began and chaired the event for many years. “Diane is the person who made it work. It was her organizational and people skills that built book fair and kept it moving ahead,” said Brooks. She added that she is sad to see the event end and will miss the friendships of her co-workers. An estimated $275,000 has been raised through the sale to fund education and reading programs including HOPE Tutoring, Reading is Fundamental, UTA scholarships and several others. Drexler’s final take on the long run of the event: “[The] book fair is fun. That is why we have made it happen for 31 years. All of us who are involved enjoy working together, enjoy books and enjoy welcoming our customers.Branch President Susan Miller has appointed a committee to explore new fundraising opportunities — with specific instructions to find one that doesn’t require strong backs.
If you go
• Arlington Museum of Art, 201 W. Main St.
• Thursday, 4-8 p.m.
• Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Sunday (half-price day), noon to 5 p.m.
• Admission is free daily except for Thursday, when a $5 donation will be taken at the door.