Berkeley Bookstore Fundraiser Benefits Community Schools

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Photo by Nora Jang

Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts, a local bookstore on College Avenue, held its third annual School Benefit Weekend for local schools on Saturday, November 19 and Sunday, November 20. The bookstore donated back to the school twenty percent of all purchases by customers who brought their receipts to school offices by November 30.

For those who wanted to donate to Berkeley High School in more than one way, the BHS librarians also created a list of fifteen books that they wished to add to the school’s collection, which could be purchased at the Mrs. Dalloway’s fundraiser. Nine of the fifteen were received in donation. “We did well, I was pleased,” said BHS librarian Alexandra Provence. “It’s so wonderful we were involved.”

Anne Whaling, a BHS parent and children’s book buyer for Mrs. Dalloway’s, is in charge of selecting the books for all young readers, from infants to high schoolers, that are stocked at the bookstore. She said: “I like to think that we support one another in whatever way we can. Mrs. Dalloway’s, a small bookstore, can’t fix our community’s problems, but we can make a difference for a weekend.”

The fundraiser was mutually beneficial. According to Whaling, members of the Berkeley community support the fundraiser because they enjoy giving back. “The customers who shop at Mrs. Dalloway’s during the fundraising weekend are so appreciative that we hold this event, that I have to believe we are doing the right thing,” Whaling said. “Public schools and independent bookstores are both struggling, and if we can find a way to help each other out, that makes it all worthwhile.”

However, Mrs. Dalloway’s generosity to schools isn’t limited to one weekend a year. The store also offers discounts to local teachers who are buying books for their classrooms or libraries. “We also arrange author visits to local schools,” she said. “We have had many successful events with authors at local schools, including Belva Davis, author of Never in My Wildest Dreams, who visited Berkeley High last Spring."

This is the third year in a row that Mrs. Dalloway’s has held a fundraiser for schools, the first having been in 2009. “We started doing these because [someone from] a local school, Berkwood Hedge, approached me about doing a fundraiser for their school, in the same way that Cody’s Books had done in the past. I worked at Cody’s Books and was familiar with the idea, and so we decided to try something similar,” Whaling explained.

The first fundraiser only included five local schools in addition to Berkwood Hedge, and as Whaling told it: “It was such a successful event that the next year we invited all the [Berkeley Unified School District] schools, including BHS. And this year we invited even more schools in the area. I assume we’ll keep doing these events for a while.”

Mrs. Dalloway’s also hosts a wide variety of other activities, including daily story times for younger children and displaying and selling the works of local artists, such as cards, jewelry, and art. “Our distinguished and varied events calendar, which gives local book lovers the opportunity to meet accomplished authors, makes our town a more interesting, culturally rich place to live,” Whaling commented. “We also help launch local authors by providing them a venue to present their books, which is something that Amazon and Barnes & Nobles do not offer.”

As many other local bookstores are closing, Mrs. Dalloway’s still manages to stay in business, and it is perhaps due to their efforts to stay tied to the community. “All the booksellers in the store have an area of expertise, such as poetry, gardening, children’s books, etcetera, and we are able to provide great advice and recommendations that our customers value.” She explained that Mrs. Dalloway’s benefits the community in multiple ways. Unlike the online retailer Amazon, which began by selling books and has now expanded to providing a range of products, small local bookstores collect sales taxes that help our community. “Mrs. Dalloway’s is a small, independent bookstore, which means we have to compete against the big chains...To be successful, we need to be very tuned in to our community and neighbors,” said Whaling.

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