Sacramento Public Library

A patron (and active Friend) had an idea that started in one Sacramento Public Library branch and is now being looked at as a model for the State of California. She and a supportive branch supervisor introduced an audiobook option into a new book club, so that visually impaired readers could participate along with sighted readers. She had discovered that listening to a book brings a completely different dimension to the experience, and she thought many people, sighted or not, might enjoy talking with others about the books they’ve listened to as much as many of us enjoy discussing movies we’ve seen or books we’ve read the usual way.

She approached a college teacher who was leading a book study at another branch and asked if she would be interested in leading an audio-only book discussion. Well, you know how it is when people get to talking. Shortly, our Friend was on the phone with me (Sacramento Public Library collection management), asking how they could best have several people listening to the same audiobook. After much discussion and considering all the audio formats and the costs involved in providing multiple copies, the decision was made to incorporate three “always available” downloadable audiobooks into a winter study series themed “Accuracy and Truth: Where Reporting Meets Memoir.” They listened to The Soloist, by Steve Lopez, narrated by William Hughes; Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, narrated by Anthony Heald; and Columbine by Dave Cullen, narrated by Don Leslie. The Library did not have to make any changes to our complement of “always available audiobooks”; it just so happened that there were three that fit beautifully into the theme of reporters writing about personal experience.

Before the winter series even started, this Friend of the Library was at The California Center for the Book, asking why such programs could not be replicated in libraries everywhere. I had told her that my inquiries to other library listervs came up blank when I asked, “Who’s doing audio-only book discussion groups?” The contact at the Center for the book was intrigued – so much so that the Center is now preparing a program using audiobooks for California libraries, patterned on the Women of Mystery book-club-in-a-box they offer for library book groups. And our Sacramento pioneers are helping to make it happen. There are still questions to be answered (remember those costs and varied formats?) and much work to be done before the program is ready for distribution, but it’s nice to know it all started with three “always available” downloadable audiobooks from OverDrive.

Carolyn Rokke is library materials manager for the Sacramento Public Library.

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