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Features

Not the typical library book group

Romeoville library's over 21 book discussion program still going strong

Attendees of November's Books and Beer discussion gather for a group photo. The group meets monthly at the White Oak Library District's Romeoville branch. November's selection was "The Assistants" by Camille Perri.
Attendees of November's Books and Beer discussion gather for a group photo. The group meets monthly at the White Oak Library District's Romeoville branch. November's selection was "The Assistants" by Camille Perri.

The best place in town for a beer and great conversation is – the local library?

If you're a reader who likes discussing good books over a beer, perhaps yes.

Each month, the Romeoville branch of the White Oak Library District hosts a Books and Beer book discussion group.

That group started nearly two years ago and it's still going strong, Gayle Szpytek, adult services librarian said.

The next meeting is Dec. 10. The featured book is “Dear Mrs. Bird” by AJ Pearce.

"Dare Mrs. Bird" is the story of a young woman during the London Blitz who dreams of becoming a war correspondent and winds up assisting and advice columnist.

Why beer at a library book club?

A couple factors led to the formation of Books and Beer.

One was a desire to attract a group of readers the library might not be reaching, Szpytek said.

The other was the demise of a different book discussion group. That one had met in the morning but had dwindled to “one or two people,” Szpytek said.

So Szpytek thought, “Why not try an evening group and try a different spin on it?”

That different spin was the beer, along with a relaxed atmosphere. Like all new ideas, Books and Beer took time to grow.

“The first time I had one person,” Szpytek said. “And now I have 10 to 12 who come.”

The Books and Beer group attracts a wide range of ages, she said, Not all are even patrons of the three White Oak library branches: Crest Hill, Lockport and Romeoville, she added.

“We even have some from Joliet,” Szpytek said.

Szpytek said the trend for many libraries today is to hold events outside the library. Szpytek considered joining that trend but saw some challenges with that.

“It makes it more chaotic for staffing here,” Szpytek said. “and it puts a point price on it. If I have it here, at the library, it’s free.”

Szpytek herself is enjoying the low-key book discussion group, where those who’ve read the book and those who have not feel equally comfortable, she said.

"It's not all about the book," Szpytek said. "It's also a social event."

So the library provides the beer – it's not an open bar – most often a Bud Light or Miller Lite – and a “beer of the month,” Szpytek said.

"I get a mixed tall pack, whatever is one sale," she said.

The library also provides some packaged snacks and water, she added.

“We sit in a meeting room around a table,” Szpytek said. “It’s a little formalish, so I think it creates a more casual atmosphere.”

For those new to the group, the snacks and beverages give people an opportunity to move their hands and be part of the dynamic. Everyone winds up sharing, whether they read the book, Szpytek said.

"Everyone has a great time," she said.

More programs

But it's not just the Romeoville branch of the White Oak Library District that offers a book discussion combined with refreshments.

The Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook offers a morning book discussion on the third Tuesday of the month: Coffee and Conversation Book Club.

This month's event is 10:30 a.m. to noon on Nov. 19 at the library, 300 W. Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook.

The featured book is "The Wife Between Us" by Greer Hendricks. It's a drop-in event.

For more information, call 630-759-2102 or visit fountaindale.org.

The Frankfort Public Library District holds a monthly CoffeeCake and Crime mystery book discussion.

The next event will be 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6 at the library, 21119 S Pfeiffer Road, Frankfort.

This month's selection is "The Life We Bury" by Allen Eskens.

Attendees must register. Call 815-534-6173 or register at frankfortlibrary.org.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Books and Beer discussion group

WHEN: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10

WHERE: White Oak Library District, 201 Normantown Road, Romeoville

ETC: Book available one month prior to the discussion and can be picked up at the Romeoville branch library's adult services desk and will be due back one week after the book club date.

INFORMATION: Contact Gayle Szpytek at 815-552-4230 or gszpytek@whiteoaklibrary.org or visit whiteoaklibrary.org.

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