by Kylie Taggart
Despite the power of social media to inform the masses, it was mainly low-tech methods of communication that helped get the word out about last year’s Mutchmor Book Sale.
The organizers of the annual event were worried that nobody would find the sale in April last year because it was the first year the sale was held at Mutchmor Public School. For the previous 32 years it was held at First Avenue Public School. When the Early French Immersion students moved to Mutchmor last year, the book sale moved with them.
Granted, the sale would be hard to miss. It is no small thing, as it typically involves 30,000 good quality used books and hundreds of parent, grandparent and alumni volunteers. Still, the organizers fretted that shoppers would show up at the wrong school.
Thankfully, shoppers found the sale. It was due to the hard work of Anne-Marie Hinther and Christine Honeywell-Dobbin, the volunteers in charge of communication.
Hinther and Honeywell-Dobbin didn’t stop at just getting the word out to the general public. They also investigated what type of advertising would work.
“We had all these ideas on how to promote the sale and we put them into place, but we wanted to know: is it working?” explained Hinther. They put together a simple survey and asked shoppers how they had heard about the sale.
The unexpected finding was that the traditional methods of communication seemed to be what drew the majority of survey respondents to the book sale.
“Surprisingly, postering was a big thing,” revealed Hinther. Year after year, volunteers walk the neighbourhood, often with their children, and plaster telephone poles and notice boards with posters advertising the book sale. Year after year, frustration sets in as posters get repeatedly torn down or covered up. Regardless, it seems that people see them.
The survey results showed that articles in the Glebe Report and OSCAR brought in customers, as did a segment Hinther and her daughter did on CBC radio. Other comments from shoppers included:
“I always come to the sale.”
“I looked it up on the web.”
“My friend told me about it.”
“My children went to First Ave.”
“I saw the sign on the school.”
Hinther and Honeywell-Dobbin also contacted other TV and radio outlets, created a Facebook event, wrote tweets for the school’s Twitter account and posted news of the sale on various community websites. Sam Harris handled the numerous messages to the school community.
The survey questions also revealed that many people simply search for large book sales online. Sites like www.booksalefinder.com list sales in different areas.
Some shoppers reported that they had trouble finding the times of the sale. For the 2017 book sale, the times will be posted on a new website designed by Elspeth Tory. The site can be found at mutchmorbooksale.com.
The 2017 sale will have different shopping hours to reflect our new location. For example, instead of being open on Friday during school hours, the sale will be open later on Saturday evening to allow those enjoying dinner on Bank Street or at Lansdowne to wander into the book sale afterwards.
The money raised goes to the Mutchmor School Council budget. Last year, the council contributed proceeds from the sale to:
Equipment and programs at Mutchmor Public School, and other schools in need in the Ottawa region,
Ottawa Centre Refugee Action,
Funding for programs at two schools in Canada’s North, and
The Educational Foundation of Ottawa.
Some of the proceeds of this year’s sale will help fund a new play structure in the Mutchmor school yard between Fourth and Third avenues. Council hopes to replace the structure in 2020.
This year’s Mutchmor Public School Book Sale will take place at the school from Thursday, April 27 to Sunday, April 30. Look for our posters and check out mutchmorbooksale.com.
Kylie Taggart is a Mutchmor parent who remembers the excitement of the First Avenue book sale and is happy to relive it at Mutchmor with her children each year.