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April 21, 2008

More Library Offerings

Posted by carol
National Library Week came to a close on April 19th, but as Barbara A. Genco, one of our guest bloggers, pointed out, libraries should be celebrated year round --- and we'll be hearing from librarians on a regular basis. In this post, Kathryn Andrews, a librarian from Warrenton, Virginia, shares what some of the area's library book clubs are reading --- and how being close to the U.S. capital plays a part in inspiring lively discussions. She also shares tips about a service offered on some library websites: saving book lists. And if you're looking for a book club to join, check with your local library. As Kathryn illustrates, they sometimes host a diverse array of groups.

Fauquier County Public Library is a three-branch system in a county about 45 miles outside Washington, D.C. We have many patrons who commute to the District daily for work, and so our CDs and audiobooks are always at least 30% off the shelf/checked out at any given time. People say they are "lifesavers" when it comes to spending several hours on the highway in traffic, moving or not.

We have many avid readers who keep track of their reads in loose-leaf notebooks, on index cards in a file box, and in journals. I've even seen computer printouts with checklists brought to the desk to place holds on an author's other books. Our library website now has a "reading history" button, so that with each checkout, a patron can opt to keep his or her list online. They can go back at any time to refer or to delete, as they wish.

I used to write my titles and authors on the calendar and try to "best" myself by reading more books each year. Now I use the journal method, as I can write a four of five line synopsis. That's especially helpful when friends and family (and dentists and others) ask for a recommendation. And you can always jot down the author's other books if you want to make a future reading list.

We have several book clubs that meet at our library branches. Last month the Mystery Book Club (all women and one man) discussed The Savage Garden by Mark Mills, and this month the group's selection was Evelyn David's debut novel Murder Off the Books. Our two Great Books clubs (one meets during the day and the other in the evening) are small but evenly matched in gender, and members select classical reads --- such as On Liberty by John Stuart Mill and The Drum Major Instinct by Martin Luther King Jr. --- and have powerful and deep discussions. Very stimulating!

The other groups are more general and are composed primarily of women. They read a lot of contemporary fiction but do like to vary it up with some classics and non-fiction, such as the occasional political book-of-choice. These are probably the liveliest discussions, as we are so close to the White House and seat of the U.S. government. Fauquier County itself is rich with history of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. We have a great genealogy room that's visited by people from across the United States and Canada searching for their ancestors, immigration info, plantation records, etc. It's quite interesting, even before you get to the stack on the ghost sightings and various haunted buildings in the area. One book club has even read some local history titles and then done walking tours of the small towns and villages in the area.

Our knitting/stitching groups get together once a month at the branches to knit and gab about their projects, latest books read, trade patterns, etc. It's a very diverse county --- all peoples, all levels, many who are home schooled, and the library is well-used. Our website is chockfull of information and useful for all age levels.

When I left nursing after thirty-five years, I knew I wanted to get back to books and my passion for reading in some form. I feel I get to work in the "candy store" now. A library is such a real treasure that I hope the physical book never becomes obsolete. There is something about seeing, picking up and reading the flyleaf of a new book that can't ever be duplicated.

---Kathryn Andrews