In Fine Arts, we are always trying to think up programs that will work with our almost non-existent budget, and which fits within the literacy focus that our library supports.
One popular type of program at Saskatoon Public Library is book club. This fills our literacy focus for programming, as well it uses the Book Club in a Bag that Fiction Services prepare helps. Without their assistance, preparing the program would take a bit more work. Fiction Services orders enough copies of books for their Book Club in a Bag, typically 8-10 copies. If we need more copies, or it isn’t a title in the Book Club collection, they will bring in enough copies from across the system and from throughout province (a benefit of being part of a provincial consortium). In addition to gathering the books for the book club members, they assemble an author biography, interview, and book club questions. They assemble all of this in a bag, which I go and pick up. All I have to do is promote the program, read the book, and hope people register and show up.
So how does this relate to Fine Arts?
I was doing some research into library arts programs, and I noticed that several museums offered a book club as part of the museum/gallery programming. Often the book ties into current or upcoming exhibits, but the main focus was to use an art book. I thought ‘Wow, that is something I can do with our programming mandate AND to be specific with our department.’ I thought it would be great to have a book club with an art theme, held in our department, and with art monographs, biographies or any other resource from our collection that relates to the book club book of the month. During our book club meetings I pull these related books out, and place them on the table. They become an integral part of our discussion. For example, the first book we did was Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan. To go with this, I pulled books of Coco Chanel’s fashion, and fashion from the 1940s. We flipped through these books, and were able to match up illustrations from the books pulled with photographs in Vaughan’s book.
Other books used so far in the Fine Arts Book Club:
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
This year is a trial run for this program. I’m enjoying it so far. I think it is a great way to connect our department, which is specialized and is viewed as different from the rest of the branches/departments at the library, with the other departments in the type of programming we offer. I could see this idea as being a possible program in other libraries as well. An academic library could hold a program like this for faculty and staff, or open it up to students as well. It could be a great stress relief to read a book for pleasure while studying. A special library could offer a book club to reach out to the staff in the company it is a part of. Book Clubs are a great way to meet people you may not meet otherwise – as I am discovering!