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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Main Library Book Club

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 19, 2015


The Main Library had their first Book Clubs in April 1902, the month after the Carnegie Building opened to the public.


Librarian Ellen Summers Wilson wanted to attract the public to the new library, and established a Ladies Book Club to read and discuss a new book-of-the-day.


Back then, it was a more difficult task as the library’s collection was extremely limited and obtaining multiple copies of a book was a financial struggle as there was no Interlibrary Loan structure in those days!


Once the single copy, or perhaps a second copy if a club member purchased another copy of the book, was read by the club members, everyone gathered over tea to discuss the virtues of the literature.


Men gathered in the lower level lobby of the library building and looked over maps and publications from the U.S. Government right outside the Men’s Restroom.


Librarian Wilson encouraged men to use the public library, and even stood at the Mill Gates handing out business cards with the library hours and phone number.  That action was not something that a 27 year old young lady was expected to do in 1902.


A Boys and Girls Reading Club incorporated games and puzzles as a way of encouraging reading to the young lads and lassies of the day.


Over the years, various book clubs came and went at the Main Library including the Great Books series of the 1950s and 1960s.


In 2008, the current “Main Library Book Club” was formed for both men and women.  Over the years since, the group has grown into a close-knit group of avid readers, sharing a love for both fiction and nonfiction and a biography here and there.


Readers never completely agree on the book being discussed and a lively discussion always follows.  People have come-and-gone from the group, including a woman who moved 2 hours from Steubenville, but takes every opportunity to return for Book Club.


While the club reads a little of everything, they seem to like intrigue and mysteries the best, with an occasional bestseller or new release thrown into the mix.


People join book clubs for lots of reasons, sometimes to share ideas, sometimes as a social outlet, or for just the sheer joy of reading.


The excitement of talking about a book in a group relates to the sharing of thoughts and observations about a particular book.  Sometimes ideas about the plot and characters change with discussion, more often they don’t.


Why someone comes to a book club doesn’t matter, and the fact that some people contribute few vocal thoughts, while others have lots of ideas, is okay to the entire group.


Every gathering has refreshments and coffee, and the problems of the world are solved during the book discussion.


And that may be the cornerstone of a Book Club.  In our society today, we have so few opportunities to “sit & chat” face-to-face with other human beings.


So maybe it isn’t the cookies?


Come and join the Main Library Book Club, there is always another chair that can be pulled into the circle, and one more cookie on the tray.


The Main Library Book Club meets the last Wednesday of each month at 10:30 am in the North Reading Room of the library.


And what would Librarian Ellen Summers Wilson think of today’s Book Club?  I think she would be proud that 113 years later people are still gathering in her library to share ideas and thoughts.


The books still have Dewey numbers on the spines, and the city founders still peer down from their portraits on the walls of the library.


She might wonder about those typewriters with the picture screens in front of them, and the lights to read the barcodes; and those books with an “e” in front of them that float through the air and are read on those little picture screens….


Well, Miss Wilson might be a little confused by today’s media, but she would be excited that the purpose of her library hasn’t changed a bit!