Nine members of the Friday Morning Senior Book Club gathered at R.H. Stafford Library in Woodbury on the second Friday in February to discuss their latest book, as they have for many years. But for the group that has been coming together since 2006, this was only their second time meeting as an official book club of the Washington County Library.
People filter into the meeting room, life updates are shared, and familiar seats are taken. A new member walks in, and she is greeted warmly. “We had another new member last month,” said Barbara Wilson, who organizes the book club. ”Which is great. That was the purpose of aligning ourselves with the library. We were very excited about the prospect of having new members.”
Becoming established as an official book club means the club is library-sponsored and has a librarian assigned to help with the logistics of running a book club (such as providing title suggestions, identifying discussion questions, securing meeting space). The official designation also enables the library to promote the club through its online calendar of events and social media platforms, which can help increase attendance.
Membership of the Friday Morning Senior Book Club has fluctuated over the 12 years it has been gathering at the R.H. Stafford Library. Some members move away to warmer climates, others take a leave of absence for health reasons. The makeup of the club has changed, too.
“I think this is the first time that we haven’t had a man,” mused Lorraine Raths, whose husband founded the book club in 2006. “We’ve always had a token man, at least.”
The library supports opportunities for residents of all ages to connect with one another, and connect with the library’s many services and materials, as part of its mission to inspire curiosity, champion innovation, and spark opportunity. The book club is a perfect example, choosing material that drives meaningful conversation and reflection.
“We read challenging material, not romance stories and things like that,” explained Diane Ablan. Over the years, members have read several titles they affectionately call “heavies” – meaning both the emotional draw of the writing and the physical heft of the book, such as "New York" by Edward Rutherfurd.
“That one weighed 13 pounds!” Louise Jacobs exclaimed, pointing to a fellow club member. “She had to loan me her Kindle because I could not physically hold it!”
The book club has used using a variety of book formats over the years – from physical copies and e-books, to audiobooks for a visually-impaired member. Occasionally, the library’s instant book club kits have come in handy, assuring there are enough copies for everyone and providing discussion questions. Although the group rarely has trouble getting the conversation to flow, said Barbara. And even after the dialogue has died down and the group leaves R.H. Stafford Library, the insight of members carries on outside of the group’s meetings.
“I write a little synopsis about every book. I recommend a lot of books, and it’s so nice because sometimes when somebody asks me about a book I’ll say ‘well, this is what I thought about it’ and I’ll let them read my notes,” said Zelda Christian, smiling and gently flipping through her neatly handwritten pages in a three-ring binder, her earliest entry dating back to 2008.
For more information about Washington County Library book clubs meeting at various branch locations, including the Friday Morning Senior Book Club, visit the Washington County Library Book Club page.