Illustration by Arikta Trivedi

Book club attempts to stay alive despite record-low attendance.

Online learning wiped out most Book Club members and their longtime tradition of eating brownies and hot apple cider. 

Founded in 1997 by former Country Day librarian Sheila Hefty, the club has a Country Day twist to it.

Unlike your traditional book club where everyone reads the same book, students pick their books individually and talk about them at meetings. 

Joanne Melinson took over as librarian in 2007 and  became the Book Club adviser because she loves to see students enthusiastic about reading and indulge in deep conversations about books.

Melinson, alongside assistant librarian Melissa Strong, has been running the meeting via Zoom since the beginning of the year.

Strong takes notes during meetings and makes a list of all the books that are discussed.

“The summary of each meeting is on our website, so if you miss a meeting you can still be filled in,” Melinson said.

Since the club’s formation, it’s been  tradition for the members to eat brownies and drink hot apple cider during meetings. 

Occasionally, Melinson would bring other snacks, but brownies remain superior.

“People love the brownies so much that now I have to ask permission to bring any other snack,” Melinson said.

But online meetings, the tradition couldn’t be continued this year. 

Meetings are once a month, but scheduling has been a problem.

With the recent changes from the remote to hybrid schedule, Book Club has been trying to find a time that works for everyone. After meeting during lunchtime via Zoom with only a couple people showing up, Melinson decided to make the meetings one Thursday a month at 6 p.m. 

Book Club has a history of varying attendance year by year.

“There was one year when it seemed like if we got five people, it was a lot. And then there’ve been other years where we need to drag some more chairs in,” Melinson said. 

During the 2019-2020 school year, Book Club was averaging up to 20 members a meeting, including students, teachers and administrators. 

The attendance of recent meetings has been slim, with only two students showing up to the latest meeting. 

Melinson attributes the low numbers to two things: the graduating class of ’20 had several loyal members, and current students spend hours on Zoom each day, making reading an additional strain on their eyes.

Melinson, also experiencing the strain, has transitioned to mostly listening to audiobooks. 

There are two other reasons why students don’t attend Book Club — a lack of time and a lack of interest in books.

Sophomore Haylee Holman has a passion for reading books, but her full schedule makes it difficult to carve reading time.

From volleyball for hours a week to long study sessions, Holman needs all the rest she can get. 

“I really value my evenings, and it’s almost impossible for me to make a meeting,” Holman said.

Freshman Kaitlyn Dias is one of many students who doesn’t attend Book Club for the other reason: she doesn’t enjoy reading.

Dias said pleasure reading isn’t a productive use of her time, and she would rather be playing volleyball, doing homework or listening to music.

Also, Dias believes the books that are assigned in English class are more than enough for an average high schooler to read.

Sophomore Samhita Kumar is the sole, loyal Book Club member. Her passion for reading started from a young age from her mother being a writer.

Kumar has been a member of several book clubs, but she especially enjoys the discussions and book recommendations that are brought up during meetings.  

She said the main difference between Book Club last year and this year is the attendance.

“When meetings aren’t in the library, people forget that it’s there. There’s also no free food, so that incentive is not there,  either,” Kumar said.

— By Rod Azghadi

Originally published in the March. 9 edition of the Octagon.

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