Book club becomes ‘another avenue of being social’

Well Read Cougs brings books, discussion virtually; organizes events to keep readers engaged

Though+the+book+club+is+run+by+the+Alumni+Association%2C+anyone+is+welcome+to+join.

COURTESY OF WELL READ COUGS

Though the book club is run by the Alumni Association, anyone is welcome to join.

BJORN KNOBLAUCH, Evergreen reporter

The pandemic has prompted a large response at WSU, leading to the creation of new ways for students to connect, like the Well Read Cougs program. This is a virtual book club organized by the Alumni Association in cooperation with the WSU Libraries.

The club is free to all students and alums and was created to inspire members to read and make new reading opportunities, according to the Alumni Association website.

The current book up for discussion is “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson, which was recently turned into a motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan. This book is a particularly relevant choice in today’s climate with a strong focus on social justice, being the true story of a wrongfully convicted black man. 

“[Well Read Cougs is] affording [students] opportunities to gain new perspectives on the world and how they fit into our world,” librarian Erica England said. 

Engagement Coordinator Brittany Labbe organizes Well Read Cougs for the Alumni Association. She said the book club does not focus on a particular topic and instead allows members to vote for the next selection from a provided list. 

The Well Read Cougs message boards are hosted by a private vendor called Professional Book Club Guru, which specializes in hosting online book clubs for large organizations. The company hosts the book club’s online presence, providing an easy framework within which to discuss the books.

The program still takes advantage of WSU’s resources as an educational institution in the form of a partnership with WSU Libraries, which is organized by England.

The library provides additional resources for book club members. This includes LibGuides, a page on the WSU Libraries website that provides information and links for further reading on the book club selections, England said.

Examples of these are a link to Stevenson’s Ted Talk, as well as information on relevant research conducted at WSU. Well Read Cougs also occasionally organizes events to go along with the book, such as a recent talk by Anna Plemons, WSU Tri-Cities clinical associate professor and expert on educational justice in U.S. prisons, who spoke in regards to “Just Mercy.”

Both Labbe and England said they are satisfied with the response to the book club so far. Labbe said about 700 students and alums have signed up to participate. England said the LibGuide page has also received high traffic.

Another major advantage of Well Read Cougs, Labbe said, is it targets a demographic not typically interested in many on-campus events: introverts. 

Labbe said most on-campus events such as gamedays and tailgates tend to skew strongly towards an extroverted crowd, while more low-key remote events such as Well Read Cougs are a new way the Alumni Association is trying to engage introverts. 

“Right now, where everything is so remote, and we aren’t able to come together — this is an opportunity for students to meet new people, to make new friends, to another avenue of being social,” England said.

Well Read Cougs is one of over 800 events, many of which are chapter-specific. The Alumni Association is planning in an effort to keep alumni and students interested during this difficult time, Labbe said.