Saturday, February 24, 2018

Digital dichotomy: Local book clubs rise in the age of the e-reader

By Meredith Shamburger
Jan. 13, 2018 at 10:30 p.m.

Evelyn Oswald and other Young@Heart Book Club members discuss recently read books Tuesday, January 9, 2018, during a club meeting at the Longvew Public Library. (Les Hassell/News-Journal Photo)

Reading in the digital age is becoming a social event.

Marjorie Dorn's job overseeing interlibrary loans at the Longview Public Library involves keeping track of books being checked-out. One thing she's noticed: Programs such as Overdrive and Hoopla, which allow patrons to check out e-books, are spurring more participation in some book clubs, like an off-campus one at the Arabella of Longview senior living community where many members use e-reader devices.

"They get some physical copies, but I would say e-books definitely lend a hand in getting people more involved and willing to read, because it's easier access," Dorn said.

A rise in e-book use doesn't mean local book clubs, even library-hosted ones, are going away. It means more and more people are joining or even starting their own book clubs. And book club organizers say it's because more people want to discuss what they're reading with other people.

The Longview Public Library's Diverse Readers Book Club, led by Christian Pippens, has seen a surge in readers because it's a chance for people to connect, Pippins said.

"There's more and more people wanting to read books together," she said. "It's moreso not so much the actual reading, but people wanting a group that they could come with and enjoy and you have a group of people that enjoy the same thing that you like to do and you are able to discuss it. It becomes like a miniature family in a lot of ways."

Dorn herself began the Young @ Heart book club last year for people who enjoy reading young adult novels. She and the library's Tech Services Supervisor Taylor Harding say they've seen a ton of positive response.

"We've had a ton of interest online and in person for these book clubs, so people definitely want not only to have a social interaction in discussing books, but they want to be able to read (more)," Harding said. "We've heard from so many people that 'It's gotten me back into reading.' That's a really big part of why they decided to join the club."

Evelyn Oswald is a member of both Diverse Readers and Young @ Heart. It can be hard to juggle two book clubs, she said, but she really wanted to do something that would get her reading more.

"I love reading, but I've been having a hard time lately getting motivated to read," she said. "So I thought joining a book club would push me more to read. Then I heard about diverse readers, where I thought maybe a book club would also open up different types of books that I read.I usually just read fiction. With diverse readers, we're doing nonfiction, graphic novels, young adult, all that. I wanted to read different kinds of books and read more."

In her work at the library, Pippins sees how e-books have made it easier for people to get books, but there are still people who don't have an e-reader or don't know how to use the device, she said. So the Diverse Readers club uses interlibrary loans for their selections. They pick their books looking at the year as a whole, with an eye to keep things diverse in terms of genre, publication date and popularity.

"We try to do a mixture of both: stuff that's popular and then stuff that's not, because some of the books that we choose too are also books that we all chose individually," Pippins said, adding that gives participants a chance to read books they might not normally select on their own.

And because they see book club members in their 20s through their 60s, reading discussions can get lively.

"Now some people in our group kind of agree a little bit and then some don't agree all the time, but I think that's good because it gives you a chance to have that open discussion and discuss it out and see where you go," Pippins said.

The Young @ Heart book club is not quite seeing the number of readers each month as some other clubs because it's a relatively new group, but Harding says the library notices that it's not just book club attendees reading the club's selections. The club's reading list is online, and it's spurred other patrons to read those same books too.

"There are people reading with us, just not necessarily coming to the meetings," she said. "So it's good to see that they're still circulating."

If you go

Diverse Readers Book Club

When: 2 p.m., third Saturday of each month

Where: Longview Public Library

Informal Ladies Book Club

When: 6:30 p.m., fourth Thursday of each month

Where: Longview Public Library

Young @ Heart Book Club

When: 6 p.m., first Tuesday of each month

Where: Longview Public Library



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