Sunday, November 25, 2012

You can please some of the people...

Last night I met a friend for dinner in Nashua. We both wanted to take enjoy the Nashua Winter Stroll. It's a lovely event. All the major downtown streets are closed off. Stores stay open until 10pm. Public buildings, churches, and larger stores all host musical performances. There's a tree lighting and an ice sculpture demonstration in front of city hall.

Several friends who attended said that the event was a boring bust. I had a wonderful time. Those of us who had fun jokingly said that it may have been the company they attended with. They retorted that they had no idea that there were performances going on inside the building. Seriously? Not only was there a downloadable schedule of events, but virtually every store and restaurant had a printed copy near the front of the establishment. If you didn't have a good time, you simply were not trying to!

All the walking around didn't do my chronic pain any good at all. I was extremely sore for at least the last two hours I was walking around. I had my cane with me, but it didn't matter. Anyone else would have left when the pain got severe, or would have opted not to attend an activity that was destined to guarantee an excruciating outcome. However, I have modified my life style so much already over the last few years that I stubbornly refuse to detach myself completely from things I enjoy. I do make some compromises but sometimes I refuse to give into the plaintive voices of the various pains that intrude on my life.

One of the things I needed to take care of this weekend was writing up an announcement for my church newsletter regarding the upcoming titles selected by the book group that I moderate. I've been with this group for a decade. There are six core members, with a few others who move in and out of our orbit.

Our reading choices are all over the map. Our primary focus is literary fiction, but we usually pick up a classic, a science fiction, and a non-fiction title throughout the year. We try to keep our selections under 400 pages, so that everyone can finish the book in a month. We used to have a hard and fast rule that the book had to be "in print" and "in paperback" so that the book was easily available to most who wanted to participate.

Last month we picked a relatively current novel that wasn't available in paperback. When we selected it, the folks who were present decided that it was fine to pick a hardcover as long as it was available in the library since several people never bought the books but always got them at the library. When we met to discuss the book, it turned out that a few of our library-folks hadn't been able to get the book from the library because it had been so popular.

There was some discussion that we should probably avoid "brand new" books since that would make it tough to get them at the library. Our October book had only been out since the end of July. Someone suggested a book for January that had also come out at the same time. The library-folks guessed that it would be fine by then. The state library system has seventeen copies, plus another four in large-print.

For most of my tenure with the group, I have been the primary person recommending books for us to read. More than half the time my choices are shot down. Some of the people who shoot down my choices occasionally make suggestions of their own. So long as we have choices that most of us want to read, I don't care who makes the suggestion.

I tend to recommend titles that are available as audiobooks, since that's the primary way that I 'read'. Once or twice, I have suggested a book that I knew was only available in paperback because it sounded like a good read and worthy of discussion. That last part is sometimes a challenge as well. Just because a book is an enjoyable read, doesn't mean that it will spawn a good discussion.

Last week I suggested another relatively new book for February. Four people chimed in that it sounded like a good choice. This morning, one of the library-folk, Carol, said that it sounded good but that it might be too new to get from the library in time. I decided to check the state library catalog for the book's status. There were seven copies within the system and all were currently checked out.

I founded myself simultaneously bummed and annoyed with the situation. Carol had a point. The book came out in mid-October. February would only be four months after publication. However, here's where my annoyance kicks in. Carol has never suggested something for the group to read, and she didn't offer an alternative this time. So I found myself responding quickly with a bit of venom, which I tempered in the end to hopefully open up the discussion and engage the group in deciding its own operating principals going forward. Here are the questions that I asked and the final point that I made:
  • If we stick to the "paperback" rule, are we assuming that library copies will be readily available at that point?
  • Do books need to be available in e-reader format?
  • Do books need to be available from Audible?
  • If we ditch the paperback rule, how many copies of a book need to be available in the GMILCS system with how many months lead time to assure that the most people in our group will get the chance to read the book before we meet?
  • We do want to make sure that we're reading things that are accessible to the most people. But, we also want to make sure that we are reading things that sound interesting to the most people.
Before receiving Carol's email, I had sent out another book suggestion. In my response to Carol, I pointed out that THAT book was available in paperback but was NOT available in the library system. I truly hope that this interchange with Carol inspires some discussion from the group. I want this group to be of interest to more people, so I don't want to shut down anyone's opinion or stymie their ability to participate. On the other hand, I truly dislike people who are quick to criticize but rare to offer up alternatives themselves. It's far easier to say 'no' than to put your own opinion out there for the judgement of others.

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