21 Jul 2016

The air outside is bitterly cold but inside the Shirley Library the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

It is mid morning and a group of women are having coffee as they talk about the latest book they’ve just read – The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

The book has created division among the group. Some reckon it was “sweet’’, others that it was “boring’’.

“The best thing about it was that it was short,’’ one group member quips.

Differences of opinion are common when this book group holds its monthly meeting.

“It can get very animated,’’ says group member Thelma Bracewell. “We all have lots of opinions and lots of life experience. It’s all good natured and we all talk a mile to the minute.’’

Helen Cummings joined the book group about a year ago and enjoys the robust discussions and being introduced to new authors.

“It broadens your reading horizons because you read books you wouldn’t normally pick up,’’ she says.

Christchurch Libraries became part of the nationwide Book Discussion Scheme about two-and-a-half-years ago and since then the number of book groups or clubs it runs has grown steadily.

As well as the book group at Shirley, there are book groups running at South, Peterborough, Upper Riccarton, New Brighton, Parklands, and Fendalton libraries.

The groups meet once a month to discuss the book they have been given to read.

Christchurch Libraries Acting Team Leader Outreach and Learning Kim Slack says book group members range from university students and English language students through to the retired.

The groups meet at various times through the day and evening and take different formats, depending on the wishes of the group. Some of the clubs are very social and prefer to have their book discussions over wine and nibbles.

“It is a great way for people to socialise and connect with others,’’ says Ms Slack.

“The feedback we get from people is they enjoy the groups because they get introduced to new reading material and they also get to meet new people and make new friends.’’

Libraries Assistant Roberta Smith has been a big champion of the book clubs and loves being involved with them.

“Book clubs at libraries is one of those matches made in heaven,’’ she says.

“We have the books, we have the desire to connect with our communities, and our members want to share their reading experiences and meet other like-minded people.

“What I like about the library groups is they start off very disparate in terms of reading tastes, ages, gender, education and social backgrounds but have a common meeting point in the book of the month.’’

Find out more about Christchurch Libraries’ book groups