The annual McGill Book Fair will be cancelled this year due to ongoing construction outside of Redpath and McLennan libraries. This is the first time since its initiation in 1971 that the fair has been cancelled.
The late August press release announcing the cancellation stated that the fair was scheduled to run this year from October 22 to 24. According to Sally Cooper, the coordinator of the Book Fair, the 2013 date had been known “for about three years,” as most dates are scheduled years in advance.
The fair is usually held in the autumn of each year, and is entirely volunteer-led. Over the decades since its inception, the fair has raised funds of over $1.6 million, with all proceeds donated toward providing McGill scholarships.
Dan Doran, the Associate Director of Project Management in Facilities, Operations, and Development – part of University Services – addressed the ongoing construction in an email to The Daily.
“The Book Fair had always been scheduled at a time that would conflict with the terrace construction,” said Doran.
Prior to construction, during the planning portion of the project, a meeting occurred between Doran, the project manager, and all the project stakeholders where “it was explained that the Book Fair this year would not be able to be held in its normal location.”
Cooper said that the “decision to cancel was taken by a group of volunteers during the summer,” and was then brought to the attention of Vice-Principal (Development and Alumni Relations) Marc Weinstein and the McGill community.
Despite the fair’s cancellation, Cooper told The Daily that the staff has continued sorting and pricing the books they have received, and intends on collecting books again in the spring for next year’s fair.
According to Cooper, as construction continued earlier this year around Redpath, the prospects for the fair appeared dimmer. “At first it seemed that [the construction] wouldn’t be too big a problem, but then we heard more details and discovered that they would […be] closing all the doors that open onto the terrace,” she said.
As construction regulations required that a wall be built across the fair’s space in the basement in order to replace the Redpath windows, volunteers were left without an adequate entrance or exit.
“We tried to find another way to keep bringing in the books, but nothing worked so we made the decision to stop accepting books after June 6,” Cooper said.
That lack of space, combined with delays from the Quebec construction strike, left few options to fair organizers other than to cancel.
Despite the cancellation being “unfortunate,” Cooper confirmed that “the only safe thing to do was cancel the sale,” and acknowledged that the ongoing construction is “very badly needed.”
The projected date of completion for the construction was November 15, but because of construction strikes during the summer, the date has been extended several weeks.
The province-wide strike involved 175,000 construction workers in Quebec. After two weeks, the 77,000 workers that had not negotiated an end to the strike were forced back to work by Bill 54, which threatened to fine groups and individuals who refused to comply.
The tentative completion date for the library construction has now been set for early- to mid-December. According to organizers, the annual Book Fair will resume in October 2014.