That’s the question I asked the members of our 2nd Thursday of the month book group this morning.
This is a group I started about seven years ago when I was still working at the library. The concept was to get more library programming out into the community rather than just hold activities in the library building. One of my colleagues suggested hosting book groups at local independent coffee houses. Have a cup of coffee and discuss books, what could be better? We have branch libraries in many neighborhoods and suburbs around Green Bay and those areas also have coffeehouses. I volunteered to hold one at The Attic: Coffee and Books, which was the business closest to the central library
where I was located. The owner was happy to have us since she also sold books. We decided to run our groups a little different to get people interested. In most book groups everyone reads one title and discusses it at a once a month gathering. At Whadda Ya Readin’? everyone would be asked to buy a coffee or other beverage from our gracious host, then we would gather and, going around the table, everyone would talk about what they were reading or what had just read.
We publicized through posters and bookmarks. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I bagged up some books in case I needed a starter and headed over to the Attic at the appointed time.
It started out slow. In the beginning I would have one or two curious readers. Then one would invite a friend. In a couple of months a few more would show up. Fortunately, I was never there alone and as the years went on the gathering would range from 6 to 10 or sometimes 12. Ten proved to be a perfect number. A few were regulars but people would come and go. Over the years I estimate I saw 40-50 different faces. Two other librarians tried groups in their neighborhoods but they never got off the ground. After
about three years I felt my group needed a shot in the arm so for the first 15 minutes I would talk on a book topic and then we would go into the round table.
This brought in some new faces. I did a series on award winners where I did the Edgar, then the Hugo, then the Booker, etc. I did a series on genres and then sub-genres like under Mystery I would do cozies, gardening mysteries or food mysteries. Bringing along books in the topic and giving the group the opportunity to check them out was popular. In the last year before I retired I featured individual authors.
When I announced my retirement, the library said that they wouldn’t be continuing support of the book group. Partly because they wouldn’t be filling my position and which meant others would be picking up my responsibilities. The group wasn’t necessary to the running of the library. Budget cuts always take the stuff of your soul, just like art and music in the schools.
By now I had a core group of about six who said, “Why do we need the library?” The only thing we wouldn’t have were the books I would bring to check out but that seemed minor to my readers. They just asked if I would stay and facilitate. They were happy to share the author presentation.
So here we are, a year later. Including me, we have a core of nine: Anita, Jeanne, Nancy, Ellie, Bea, Fred, Pete and Ricky. We come and go, depending on vacations, trips, weather. Today two of the regulars were gone but a new face joined us. That’s how it goes. Anita presented Ken Follett and we found out he wrote a bunch of books we had never heard of under a pseudonym before his breakout book, Eye of the Needle, in 1978. Most of us agreed that Pillars of the Earth was our favorite.
Then we went around the table and once again this diverse group of readers did not disappoint. Scattered throughout this post are the books that were presented today. It’s a good group. Once a bunch of strangers but now bound together by a love of books, we have become a mini-family.