Library Book Club history outlined in new book

by Jerome Reading, Patron Saint and Heavenly Intercessor of Libraries

Before the Second World War, most academic librarians considered the promotion of extracurricular reading to be a core component of their professional duties. Typical of this approach to librarianship was Edwin Osgood Grover, Director of the Library at Rollins College, who taught a popular course in recreational reading and in 1926 was made “Professor of Books” at the college.

Since the 1950s, academic librarians have increasingly seen themselves as information specialists, and the promotion of reading to be the mission of public libraries. In recent years, however, a number of academic librarians have joined researchers who question the healthfulness of consuming unprecedented amounts of “fast” information produced on the internet and in social media. Taking a cue from the globally successful “slow foods” movement, journalist Maura Kelly, in a 2012 article for The Atlantic, proposed a “Slow Books Manifesto” that called on readers to set aside 30 minutes of the reading day from newspapers, websites, magazines, and even non-fiction books, in order to read literature.1

The Slow Book Revolution: Creating a New Culture of Reading on College Campuses and Beyond,2 published in September, is also a fruit of the idea that, just as foods grown and harvested with care for slow enjoyment are healthier for the body than industrialized products, books written for attentive reading and reflection are healthier for the mind than an intellectual diet based on electronic information.

Included in The Slow Book Revolution is a case study of the Regent Library Book Club by Associate Librarian Harold Henkel. In the chapter Harold gives an overview of the Book Club’s history since its founding in 2008, and discusses what has been successful and not so successful in order to provide a guide to other academic librarians considering a book club at their institutions. Harold says he was honored to contribute a chapter and hopes that the book inspires other academic librarians to take up the cause of promoting literature on their campuses.

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1Maura Kelly, “A Slow-Books Manifesto” The Atlantic, March 26, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/03/a-slow-books-manifesto/254884/.

2Meagan Lacy, et al., The Slow Book Revolution: Creating a New Culture of Reading on College Campuses and Beyond (Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2014).