A Different Kind of Instruction: Book Clubs in Academic Libraries

Although recreational reading is usually considered the purview of public libraries, they can add a new value to the academic library that it may desperately need.  Three specific themes have come up in my research regarding this topic.  The director of the Zondervan Library at Kuyper College put it very succinctly in an email she sent me: “1) It brings people to the library who might not normally come into the library; 2) It shows the students an example of a collaborative effort between teaching faculty and librarians; and 3) it shows that the library can be used for more than studying and research” (D. Zandbergen, personal communication, November 10, 2014).

Lisa Forrest validates Zandbergen’s first point in her 2011 article, College book clubs: Collaborating for success, remarking that students told her they’d never been in the library before attending her book club (Forrest, 2011, 19).  She also remarked, “Through the activities of the book club, I have made lasting connections with students I would never have had the opportunity to meet” and that students who would have been too timid to approach a librarian for assistance now felt comfortable doing so, after building a relationship in the more relaxed, non-academic atmosphere of the club (19).  One of an academic library’s struggles is outreach, to appear (and actually be) an inviting and invigorating place for students to come, and to continually reach new students.

Forrest gives the perfect example of collaboration with teaching faculty.  Her library’s book club was distinctly joined to the Women’s Studies program of study at her university, and she and Program Coordinator Jenn Hunt tied the book club’s activities and book choices to female authors and women’s issues (Forrest, 19).  Book clubs like these also afford students the opportunity to meet faculty and staff from their various programs in an informal, out-of-the-classroom arena.  It also is a great way to get faculty and staff to be seen in a joint venture with the library, or even as using the library’s resources, which can be a rare event in some institutions.  Anika Fajardo, in her 2011 article Book clubs: Not just for public libraries, states, “Whether few or many, participants are always a mix of younger and older students, faculty from various disciplines, and staff from different departments.  The college community has come to view the club as a feature of campus life; while attendance has ebbed and flowed, interest has remained” (Fajardo, 2010, 69).

Fajardo also corroborates the third point that a library doesn’t just have to be for quiet work: “While a college library tends to be associated with studying, working and shushing, a book club can be a welcome change from that image” (69).  One of the things I love about the library that I work in is that it tends to be a meeting place for students for all purposes: peer counseling, study groups, just hanging out and, maybe in the future, for book club.  While there are places in the library well-suited to quiet study, there are also places of lively conversation and debate, and a book club would be an excellent contributor to that particular area of library use, and perhaps add a little focus and purpose to the debates.

References:

Fajardo, Anika. (2010). Book Clubs: Not Just for Public Libraries. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 17(1), 65-69. Doi: 10.1080/10691310903584783. Retrieved from:                   http://www.tandfonline.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/doi/abs/10.1080/10691310903584783#.VGJsQvnF9cg

Forrest, Lisa. (2010). College Book Clubs: Collaborating for Success. Journal of Library Innovation, 2(2), 16-21. Retrieved from: http://go.galegroup.com.proxy.lib.wayne.edu/ps/i.do?action=interpret&id=GALE%7CA273195387&v=2.1&u=lom_waynesu&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1

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6 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Instruction: Book Clubs in Academic Libraries

  1. I like the idea of book clubs in any library. I’m glad academic libraries are embracing this. The community college is especially a welcoming space for this, as sometimes students there aren’t sure about majors, studying, etc. and might want to relax and learn unconventionally with their professors and fellow students.

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  2. I like your thought about community colleges, Adrianne, and I think you’re right. There are also a number of colleges and universities that are smaller, but not community colleges, where the student population is small and instruction less formal, where this can be implemented to great advantage.

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  3. I love this idea!!!! I always felt in undergrad as if the only reason I went to a library was to study quietly by myself. There was never a connection with librarians or faculty members, and a book club might have facilitated that. I would have loved to know what my professors were reading, and get to know other people in my program who I might not have met in class. Book blubs could give an academic library less of a research-y feel and allow students to interact in a less serious manner. Great topic!

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  4. This is an idea that really makes sense, especially in a world where networking and connections are vital to career success in many professions, including ours. In addition to getting people into the library and helping them to feel more comfortable using the space and resources, the book clubs can help people make connections with others that they would otherwise not have any contact with.

    We have also been talking and reading all semester about libraries becoming more than just silent book repositories, but many of the programs that facilitate the expanding purpose of the library don’t translate into the academic field. Obviously an academic library isn’t going to have a teen room or family movie night, for example, since the clientele consists of college students and faculty. But a book club is something that can be held anywhere, and it is also an activity where students and faculty can meet and interact on the same level in a casual manner.

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  5. I love book clubs. I think it is a great idea for any library or organization. I think having someone to discuss books with and get ideas about other books to read helps patrons explore and discover new titles.

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