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Pandemic-born virtual book club still going strong four years later

The text-based book club first launched during the pandemic as a way for people to connect virtually without the added anxiety of using microphones or cameras
20210326 Introverts Book Club RV
Guelph Public Library is offering an online book club for introverts. Richard Vivian/GuelphToday

A text-based virtual book club born out of the pandemic is still going strong four years later.

The Introverts Book Club was one of the first virtual programs the Guelph Public Library was able to launch during the pandemic to keep people engaged while combating “Zoom fatigue.”

“It’s probably our longest running relic of COVID,” said librarian and club leader Laura Baker. 

A program like this was “absolutely essential during COVID,” because people were so burnt out from constant video calls. 

“It’s nice for people to connect, but not have to be ‘on’ all the time,” she said. 

The group meets once a month over Discord, an instant messaging platform. And while it might be online, the lack of cameras or microphones makes it more of an “old school chatroom,” she said. 

There are no assigned books. Instead, everyone shares what they’ve been reading, which Baker compiles at the end so everyone leaves with a list of recommendations. It’s not limited to books, either. 

“We also talk about things like music, podcasts, things that people are watching, like movies and TV shows, or just new hobbies that people have picked up,” she said. “It’s a pretty casual book club.” 

During the pandemic, Baker said they noticed people seemed to be reading at leisure less frequently, so they wanted to offer the benefits of connecting in a book club without the pressure of having to read something specific. 

“And then that has kind of held true," she said.

While people are reading more now, not everyone is. Plus, some people want to connect and talk about the stories they're watching or listening to, rather than reading. 

"So we just wanted to make sure that those bases were all covered,” she said. 

Once each meeting starts, Baker will ask everyone to “go around the circle, so to speak” to share their book or another medium they’d like to talk about. 

“People can type in whatever. It's an ongoing conversation, but I'll ask people one at a time to share. And then there'll be conversation around that,” she said. 

It might not be as popular as it was four years ago, but she said there are steady numbers and a dedicated group who shows up every month, with newcomers joining from time to time – some from places beyond Guelph like New York, Texas and Scotland. 

Although people are meeting in person again and concerns around COVID-19 are not as prevalent for most, the program has remained, with a dedicated group who shows up every month, and newcomers joining from time to time – some from places beyond Guelph like New York, Texas and Scotland. 

“At the time, it was (for) health concerns. And that could still be an issue for some people or just (people with) busy schedules, social anxiety, or as the name suggests, very introverted people,” she said. “So as we were coming out of COVID, and everyone was talking about moving back to normal, we just didn't want to leave those people behind.” 

The next book club is scheduled for March 22. You can find it here