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genteXt: Books, Bars, and Beers

Durham County Library
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Innovation Leader: Jennifer Lohmann, LIFT Librarian, jlohmann@durhamcountync.gov

Problem Statement

During a discussion about Durham Reads Together 2007, one of our community partners pointed out that the library does not serve “young adults” particularly well. There are programs for children and teens, book clubs aimed (whether purposely or not) at older adults, computer classes, etc., but very little for the group of people being called the Creative Class (adults in their 20s and 30s). Our Main Library desperately needs renovation and is not a place where the people we had in mind would come to a program, we were at a loss to figure out how to serve them. They pay taxes and are library supporters, but the library does not offer them services. More and more of that group are moving to Durham, bringing restaurants and art galleries and helping to renovate our struggling downtown. The idea from the program came from an email posting to the fiction_l listserv, a listserv for librarians on books and readers. The original Genre-X was started in Oak Park, Illinois. They didn’t mind at all if we borrowed their idea and adapted it to fit our location.

Innovation

Durham County Library borrowed and expanded on Oak Park’s idea. We started our book club aimed specifically at adults in their 20s and 30s. Our first meeting was in January 2008. We choose titles that are “edgier” and have six or so bars and restaurants we meet at around the city. Our biggest innovation and expansion of the Oak Park idea was making use of the social network Meetup.com to advertise the book club. All of our meetings are posted on Meetup, as well as discussion questions and further readings. genteXters use Meetup to communicate with one another and advertise their own events.

Progress

Our results have been fantastic, which you can see from our website. The book club just celebrated its second anniversary in January 2010. We have anywhere from 15-30 people show up to each book club and are about half and half male/female. We have over 200 people following our events and about 50 regular attendees (a person we see at least every other month). Besides the numbers, genteXt has a real sense of community. Many people who met at genteXt have become friends outside of the book club and we support each other at personal events and shows. Many genteXters express a new relationship with the library and, even if they don’t come into our buildings, feel a part of the Durham County Library community. They follow us on facebook and ask questions about the health of the library, new buildings, etc. The book club is a great success with lots of internal energy that keeps it going.