Library Features...

READER SERVICES: Providing Tools for a Book-Discussion Group
Branch: Scotts Valley

Oak Tree Villa's Book Discussion Group
AVID READERS: Using special book
kits from the Library, Oak Tree
Villa women meet once a month for
a spirited book discussion

On the second Tuesday of every month, with a little help from the library, a group of women from the Oak Tree Villa senior complex in Scotts Valley get together for a book discussion.

At a typical meeting, 10 to 12 women (average age in the 80s) sit around a table in a conference room for an hour to an hour and a half discussing works such as Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Secret Life of Bees, The Shipping News, and Angle of Repose.

Mary Roy, the Oak Tree Villa resident who started the group five years ago, said that any woman can join (men "have a different perspective," she explained) and the sessions are lively.

"It's amazing how rigorous our discussions are and how diverse the opinions are, given our age," she said. "We've never had a bad meeting yet — ever."

One of the things that makes the group function well is the book-kit program for reading
groups provided through the Scotts Valley branch of the Santa Cruz City-County Library System. "It's worth everything," Roy said.

Pat Lorenzo, Scotts Valley branch manager, said the book kits for discussion groups consist of a set of paperbacks (5-10 per kit) delivered in a zippered bag along with information about the author, a brief summary of the book and suggested questions for discussion.

Books selected for the book kits are typically best sellers or other well-reviewed books chosen by a committee of librarians. There are currently about 100 titles, fiction and non-fiction, and the kits can be sent to any branch for pickup.

Roy said that between the book kits and the spirited — though always respectful — discussions, her reading habits have changed.

"I find I have to read with more care, greater depth, and I have to pay more attention," she said. "I'm a much more careful reader now."

The reading group has encouraged participants to go beyond the book itself to learn more about things. For instance, when the group was reading The Devil in the White City, which is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Jeanne Bender found a copy of Shepp's Pictorial Volume of the Columbia Exposition, which had hundreds of photographs of that fair. She bought it at a flea market and shared it during the group discussion.

And what did she do with it afterwards?

"I sold it on eBay," she said.

story by Mike Wallace