Around Town

Online community for book lovers set to launch

Librarians to go live online

WESTFIELD-Librarians from the Westfield Athenaeum will soon launch new ways to stay connected with patrons, recreating a community online with an emphasis on a low-stress environment.

“We do miss our patrons very much,” said Gretchen Hohmeyer, youth services librarian. “Interacting with other people who love books is one of the best parts of the job.”

Gretchen Hohmeyer, youth services librarian at the Westfield Athenaeum, encourages area residents of all ages to take part in two new online services – a reader’s advisory series and “book tastings.” (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Hohmeyer noted that since the Athenaeum closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members have been brainstorming ideas on how to engage the book lovers in the Greater Westfield area.

“Due to COVID-19, we – and the rest of our patrons – have been removed from a strong community of bookish love and communication,” said Hohmeyer, adding, “There’s a lot going on right now, but books are always good medicine.”

Hohmeyer said she is hopeful the new initiatives – a “Reader’s Advisory Series” and “Book Tastings” – will be popular with area residents.

“Even as we are socially distancing, that doesn’t mean that we have to be socially absent,” said Hohmeyer. “It is more important than ever to keep the community together as best we can.”

Hohmeyer noted Athenaeum staff members are dedicated to helping engage the public in whatever way they are able.

“The reader’s advisory hours are our best replacement for the fact that we can’t chat with you over the counter in the library, and the pandemic has gone on so long that you probably need a few new reads,” said Hohmeyer, noting the program kicks off May 18. 

The reader’s advisory hours will be live on the Athenaeum’s Facebook page and take place on Mondays at 10 a.m., led by Anne Brossard, adult circulation assistant; on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., led by Olivia Eberli, assistant department head of youth services and the teen librarian, and on Fridays at 3 p.m., hosted by Hohmeyer.

“We hope to add additional librarians to the rotation, but we’re the guinea pigs,” said Hohmeyer, adding the times will be subject to change once they have a sense of demand and interest.

“The reader’s advisory series is not a monologue in any way,” said Hohmeyer, noting the women will be “hanging out on Facebook Live,” waiting to interact with patrons who might want to ask reader’s advisory questions in the comments.

“We can help you find your next few reads and help you figure out how to access them,” said Hohmeyer. “Just because the physical library is closed doesn’t mean the library can’t lend you e-books, but they can be confusing to access.”

Beginning in June, the “Book Tastings” will be active conversations.

“Patrons are welcome to bring up any books they are or have read in one of the four genres and give and get recommendations from a community of fellow readers,” said Hohmeyer.

The women see the book tastings as a low-stress way to fill the void of bookish discussion.

“Instead of asking people to read a certain book, just come in ready to talk about whatever you’re already reading,” said Hohmeyer. “Hopefully, you’ll leave with a whole bunch of recommendations from other readers like you.”

The book tasting launch dates are June 2 for the “Young Adult Book Tasting,” June 9 for the “General Fiction Book Tasting,” June 16 for the “Genre Fiction Book Tasting,” and June 23 for the “Nonfiction Book Tasting.” All sessions begin at 1 p.m. live on the Westfield Athenaeum Facebook page.

The Young Adult and Genre Fiction book tastings will be run by Eberli and Hohmeyer, while the General Fiction and Nonfiction Book Tastings will be led by Brossard and Hohmeyer.

“Other librarians are hoping to come by to join the conversation and prep to enter the ring themselves,” said Hohmeyer.

“We offer these spaces as places where the community can come together even though the physical library is closed,” said Hohmeyer. “They are also just the beginning. Stay tuned for more exciting opportunities.”

For more details on the new programs, and a short video to watch by Hohmeyer reviewing specific details on the online services, visit the Westfield Athenaeum’s Facebook page.

To Top