EZEKIEL NELSON | The Daily Evergreen
Neill Public Library supports community reading through a specialized book-lending program and by hosting a monthly book club to promote all-inclusive discussion.
The Grand Avenue Book Club began in 2008 when club leader Rezina Emmons was asked by the librarian of Neill Public Library at the time if she wanted to start one. Since then, the club has met on the first Thursday of every month.
“If you’re a book lover, it’s a great way to share your love of books,” Emmons said. “It’s always fascinating when people read a book and see what you’re drawn to versus what they’re drawn to.”
In a typical meeting, the library will serve light refreshments and the Friends of Neill Public Library, a nonprofit organization, supply a popcorn machine to serve club members as well, she said.
The meetings have a very free-flowing atmosphere in which members are welcome to come and go as they please, Emmons said.
Everyone has the opportunity to speak if they choose, even if they haven’t read the book, Emmons said. Sometimes hearing what others have to say will help them decide if they want to read the book. In a discussion, everyone has a different viewpoint and makes connections in many ways.
“You know they say two brains are better than one?” Emmons said. “In this case, 15 are even better.”
About every six months, club members will submit three fiction and three nonfiction suggestions of books, Emmons said. One member of the club organizes them into a list, and they vote on the selections.
The club alternates between reading fiction and nonfiction every month, she said. Both types make great learning opportunities. In addition, genres include juvenile, young adult and a wide range of others as members pick the selections.
“Fiction is written with the basics of truth,” Emmons said. “Authors do research as well, so when they have specific settings in certain areas, the reader can go, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve walked along that street.’ ”
If a book they read in the club has a movie adaptation, the club will watch the movie and compare it to the book at the club meeting, Emmons said.
For example, the club recently read “The Boys in the Boat” and watched the movie afterward, she said.
The library hosts the movie nights, which are open to the public, Emmons said. In the following meeting after the movie, they compare the movie to the book, and then move on to the next book.
“When you read a book, your imagination is projecting what’s happening,” Emmons said. “Like how many people have read the Jack Reacher books, watch the movie and go, ‘That’s not my Jack Reacher.’ ”
The Grand Avenue Book Club uses book club kits from the library, which gives members a chance to read the book without actually having to pay for it, Emmons said. Hardcover copies can get expensive, and not every member has a personal library at home to store all those books.
The book club kits that Neill Public Library offers actually grew out of the book club, Emmons said. Each kit contains eight to 10 copies of a particular book, along with a packet of author information, book reviews and suggested discussion questions.
The Grand Avenue Book Club checks out these kits for six weeks and lends them to members, Emmons said. The kit also includes a sign-up sheet to keep track of the copies loaned. Other book clubs in the area can check out these kits as well.
More and more book clubs seem to be appearing in the Palouse area, Emmons said, all of which run in very different ways and give people plenty of options to choose from. Some take place in people’s houses, where they share an appetizer and then discuss the book, she said.
“Some even meet during the day just because they’re moms, so the kids are at school,” Emmons said. “So you just have to discover what fits into your world.”
Ashley Hayes, the library assistant for the circulation department, also assists Emmons with club-related duties. This usually includes taking notes during meetings, sending reminder emails and managing communication, she said.
The conversations during club meetings always diverge into interesting topics, Hayes said. On the most recent reading, the discussion went from the book to architecture to the Seattle World’s fair. The conversation always tailors around the individuals’ experiences.
The book club keeps meetings very casual and welcoming for anyone who wants to try it out, Hayes said.
“They are always taking new members and the group is very welcoming,” Hayes said. “Rezina always makes it a point to come and get a feel for it even if you haven’t read the book. Just to get a feel for the conversation.”
The Grand Avenue Book Club meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month in the Hecht Room of the library.
Book-related movie nights are scheduled in advance depending on the book. There is no fee to join and no fee for any movie night at the library. For more information, those interested in joining the club can call or visit the library.