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‘Grown-up’ summer reading club proves popular

Date: 7/5/2011

July 6, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — Mention the words “summer reading club” and most people think about kids and charts, reward stickers and craft projects.

The Westfield Athenaeum’s “Novel Destinations” summer reading club for adults is nothing like that.

Though it does have a craft — an adult activity using recycled books planned for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 4 — it also offers participants an opportunity to catch a classic film, experience a Hatha Yoga class, have dinner with local author Kevin O’Hara, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the Athenaeum.

There’s plenty of reading to be had, too, with four categories of books — “Questing,” “Japan,” “Time Travel” and “Debut Novels Destined for Fame” — to choose from and review.

It’s a potent mix of books and activities that seems, so far, to be a draw.

“We’ve had a tremendous sign up this year,” Sandra Records, assistant circulation coordinator at the Westfield Athenaeum, said. “In the first week we signed up more people than [we did] in the whole summer last year.”

Circulation Assistant Eleanor Bates estimated that by June 29, 128 people had stopped by the Circulation Desk to sign up. A lot of those summer readers, Records said, are new faces.

She added that the eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction on this year’s reading list were selected to “get people thinking or reading outside of the box ... to try to get them to go off in a different direction” than their usual reads. The only requirement is that each participant pen a short review of his or her chosen book to help the next reader decide if he or she would enjoy reading it.

Bates noted that in just the first week of the club, the books on the adult reading list were “just flying off the shelves.”

Now in its third year, Records said the adult summer reading program is a collaborative effort, with each of the five members of the circulation department suggesting an activity or theme.

Bates, who has designed the Athenaeum’s first-ever behind the scenes tour, which will be offered every Tuesday and Thursday in July at 10:30 a.m., said she was inspired to offer this reading club activity by her own experiences as a library employee.

“As a library, we go to different libraries and museums every year and it’s kind of nice to see what the back rooms look like,” Bates said.

Because the Athenaeum is more than just a public library — “we have archives and we are a museum and we have an art gallery” — she thought avid readers might be interested in a backroom peek.

She said the tour would include a trip up to “the archives on the third floor, a climate controlled area where we keep historical records and things like that,” as well as a visit to the technical services area “to see where new books come in and are cataloged and labeled” and a stop in the Whitney Study.

“I’m trying to keep it to things that people don’t see,” she said.

She’s also planning a stop downstairs where the intra-library loan books come in and out, as well as visits to the museum and art gallery to view the exhibits for July.

“It’s kind of a work in progress,” Bates said. “I’ll go with what people are interested in seeing.”

Participants are asked to sign up for these tours at the Circulation desk and to meet Bates in the Great Hall at 10:25 a.m. to begin the tour.

For complete information on the Athenaeum’s adult reading club, “Novel Destinations,” including the dates and times of all activities, visit the Web site,

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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