The IU Southeast Library is keeping students, faculty and staff reading over the summer by hosting an online summer book club. The library has a long history of providing book clubs, though most of them have traditionally been face-to-face. The transition to an online book club is a way to continue providing the service while responding to the safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I decided to start the online summer book club as a way to remain connected with our patrons and community, and as a way to help our community stay connected amongst itself,” said Courtney Block, user engagement librarian at IU Southeast. “Reading can bring people together, and my goal is that this book club promotes togetherness.”
Not only is the book club open to the IU Southeast community, friends and family are welcome to join, as the club is entirely online, and reading materials can be found on the library’s website. The club will meet on select Fridays through the summer via Zoom.
“We will meet a total of five times, so there are five short stories,” said Block. “I wanted to keep it as easy as possible to join and participate, so short stories are a natural fit for that. I also wanted to acknowledge that people are very busy with their continued adjustment to online teaching and work and study, so I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone.”
The reading selection includes some personal favorites of Block’s, including the first story, “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood. Other stories were chosen due to both their ability to foster a conversation and with the intent to have diverse voices and representation. Some of these stories include “The Book of Martha” by prolific African American author Octavia Butler and “Aguanile” by African American and Puerto Rican author Amina Gautier.
“Something magical happens when people read the same thing and then sit down to discuss it,” said Block. “It allows people to make connections to and share things about themselves and the world around them, and it naturally encourages vulnerability while simultaneously teaching us to listen to others.”
So far, over 60 people have signed up for the book club.
“Literature can elicit very strong emotions, and creating a space to express our reactions to and thoughts about literature is important,” said Block. “I don’t over-regulate the conversations that organically happen during book club because that’s another part of the magic—the ability to let the conversation flow and to watch attendees make broader connections and understanding about the world around us. I kind of think that every conversation during a book club session is the conversation that attendees needed—almost like it was meant to be. That might seem a bit mystical (haha), but hey, books are magic.”
The first book club meeting will be this Friday, June 12. To sign up for updates, reading materials and Zoom invites, fill out the online form.