The Community Book Club is the longest running adult program offered by CommUNITY Education. It celebrated its fifth birthday Thursday.
The first gathering consisted of four women, said Elizabeth Huff, Storm /lake Public Library. "We were sort of a test group," she said, adding now between 14-23 reading enthusiasts take part in the monthly book reading and discussion groups.
In the beginning there was a fee required of the participants and the discussion groups were held in different locations. Several months into the program, Susan Stone, then director of the library, suggested the discussion groups meet at the library each month and that works well - surrounding those reading enthusiasts with shelves and shelves of books.
There is no longer any fee required and no registration. CommUNITY Ed promotes the program. Any one may join in any month that they wish.
Many of the participants are repeats. They enjoy the fact that they have gotten to know several people that they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to meet had they not shared that reading interest.
As a group, suggestions are made on which book will be the "book of the month." They plan about six months ahead. The books are made available to the participants through the state library loan program, so participants don't have to go out and purchase each book read.
The books selected aren't usually the current best sellers; it would be too difficult to obtain a large number of books from the loaner program.
"We read some of the books that were number maybe a couple years ago," said Sheila Neuroth. "We can wait."
"We don't always like the books," said Huff. "Most finish them but some just can't get through." There is never pointed fingers at those who can't complete a book. "We're not that kind of group," Huff laughed.
Those that can't complete the book, due to, say, lack of interest, still take part in the discussion groups which are always held the last Thursday of the month at the library.
"We have some really lively discussions," said Paulette Erlandson, who has been taking part for a year. The discussions get real wild when part of the group likes the book and part of the group didn't like it.
Then there are some books that "absolutely can't be put down," said another participant.
Joyce Sandine described herself as a "tactile" person and while reading, if she comes across a word she doesn't know, she will get the dictionary out and look it up.
Many of the participants said they have read books in the club that they may never have picked up on their own. One example is a book about Jonas Salk which all of readers found to be outstanding and brought great discussion.
An exciting event that took place was when Huff entered the book club into a contest which provided the winning club a conference call with the author Amy Ephron ("One Sunday Morning" which the group was reading at the time.) The SL book club was the winner and had great fun visiting with her.
Judy Steffen has been part of the book club for four and one-half years.
"I've always been a reader. It's one of my three hobbies. The other two are making rosaries and cutting out coupons for servicemen." Judy reads an average of three novels each month.
For more information on the program, contact Elizabeth Huff at the library, 732- 8026. Books and discussion sheets are available at the library for anyone who wishes to participate.