The American Association of University Women Used Book Sale is a popular community event that raises more than $100,000 annually for scholarship and other causes.
The State College branch of the AAUW started the sale in 1962. Since that time, the event has grown to become a model for other groups considering a used book sale as a fundraiser.
The first sale was held at the Bell Telephone Company building on East College Avenue to raise money that the local branch sent to the national AAUW organization. A dozen volunteers worked at the sale and books sold for a nickel apiece. The event raised $176.
Members quickly recognized that the book sale could become a good way to fund scholarships and educational programs. During the next twenty years, the event moved to various locations in downtown State College.
In 1983, the sale moved to the Penn State campus and was held at the Hetzel Union Building (HUB). In 1999, the event moved to its present location at the Penn State Snider Ag Arena.
The State College branch of the AAUW has its roots in the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which was founded in 1882. In 1916, a State College branch of the association was established to encourage women’s education and promote socialization among college-educated women. Six years later, the local branch merged with the American Association of University Women, which had been founded to fight discrimination on co-educational campuses and encourage women’s careers.
In its early years, the branch purchased materials for local libraries and established a loan fund to assist women students. By the middle of the 20th century, it was helping to support the Food Bank, Senior Citizens Center, Schlow Memorial Library, and the Women’s Resources Center.
The used book sale is a mammoth volunteer commitment. Throughout the year, donated books are culled and sorted into thirty-three subject categories. The books are then priced and stored until the four-day sale in May.
In 2001, the sale raised more than $100,000 for the first time. Even with reading habits increasingly shifting from printed books to e-readers, net proceeds continue in the six digits.
In recent years, local and state environmental groups have recognized the branch’s recycling efforts. In 2014 alone, more than ten tons of paper were recycled from books that could not be sold because of their age and/or condition.
Money raised from the sale fund branch priorities, which include local scholarships for adult women returning to higher education studies, the community grants program, and covering costs associated with the Used Book Sale and branch operations. Funding is also sent to the national AAUW for research and the Legal Advocacy Fund. Local organizations that have received funding include CentreSafe (formerly known as the Centre County Women’s Resource Center), Centre Volunteers in Medicine, and the State College Area School District.
In 1983, book sale leaders wrote a booklet on fundraising through a used book sale. Titled Hooked on Books, the sixteen-page booklet is a primer for other groups considering a similar event.
The used book sale was not held in 2020 and an abbreviated version was held in 2021 because of the Covid pandemic. The sale returned to its traditional format in 2022.
AAUW State College Branch Centennial History, 1916-2016.
American Association of University Women State College https://aauwstatecollege.org/ (Accessed April 9, 2022).
First Published: May 6, 2022
Last Modified: April 30, 2023