The onslaught of the COVID virus has been devastating in many ways, but it has also brought about some creative and innovative ideas. One of the notable ones has occurred right here in Suffield at our local library.
Beginning in April of 2021, librarian Pinki Shah, with her co-worker Sabine Schneider, instituted a Zoom program called Books and Beyond. This is not your usual book group discussion, and it is not part of a larger or national effort; it is something entirely local and entirely owing to the energy and thoughtful problem solving of the two librarians.
Six times a year, during the fall and winter when outdoor activities are limited, the women select a book, often one by a debut author, and one with strong positive reviews. Using the author’s website or publisher’s address, they make contact and issue an invitation for an appearance on Zoom. The plan is for the author to speak for about half an hour, guided by pre-planned questions, and then conduct a discussion with Suffield participants who are on the call. Pinki reports that new authors are generally eager to take part, since the publicity will be helpful to them, even though there is no budget for the program and therefore no compensation. She says about 80% are willing to accept the challenge.
To date there have been 12 sessions, six each in 2021 and 2022. The biggest Zoom call included 36 local readers; the smallest attracted eight. All were successful – there have been no duds! – and they will continue this winter. The sessions are advertised on the library’s website.
Books and Beyond is one of those positive responses to the COVID outbreak which underline a resilience and a kind of robust thinking that refuses to be diminished by adverse circumstances. Hurray for our library and our librarians!