Sonoma County Library offers reading inspiration with book bundle program

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, October 30, 2021


Wondering what to read next or want to get back into reading but not sure where to start? The Sonoma County Library has a fun reading program initiative called the book bundle program where readers simply fill out an online form and answer a few questions in order to request a selection of books handpicked by a librarian.

“We started working on this program really kind of early in the pandemic. In quarantine, libraries were closed and we were accustomed to patrons coming in, browsing the library and checking out lots of materials,” said Kathy DeWeese, a youth services administrator with the Sonoma County Library.

She said over the years the library has expanded its collection of materials and books, so there’s a lot to choose from.

“We have a much more robust collection, but if you don’t know what exactly you’re looking for you have to browse, so we started working on this project and we started with children’s book,” DeWeese said.

She said the book bundle program was first created with the intent to support families with children at home. She said parents would reach out to the library and say, “Just give me a stack of picture books.”

From there, the book bundle program eventually expanded to include bundles for teens and adults.

“What was happening is the people who regularly use their library who have developed a relationship with their librarian knew they could just call and ask them to pull some books, and what we were hoping to do with this project was to give them an avenue for connection. We were trying to push out there that we’d be happy to compile a pile of books for you,” DeWeese said.

The bundle program started last December, and while the program was initially started for young and up-and-coming readers, the library expanded the program to teen and adult books.

“With adults and teens people have a lot more set concepts of what they are interested in and what they’re looking for, but we want to give them the opportunity to be surprised and get something they might have been looking for,” DeWeese said.

When filling out the book bundle form, people are asked to include their first and last name, library card number, email, phone number, where they’d like to pick up their book and whether they’re a child, teen or adult reader.

Oftentimes included in the book bundle is a little drawing or a note from the librarian — something to make patrons feel connected to the library.

“With this program … people feel more connected to their library. Of course increasing literacy levels and exposure to reading and writing, books and materials is always a goal of the library as well,” DeWeese said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who have used the service,” she said. “I’ve definitely heard from people, ‘Wow, I never would have picked this, thank you so much for choosing it.’”

The library also has a more specific book request program called, “What should I read next?” With this program you can request two to three personalized recommendations.

When filling out the request form, you can note if you prefer fiction or nonfiction and you can list the genres of books you like as well what books you’ve read recently and what you liked or didn’t like about them.

“It is a little more specific and detailed to a reading interest,” DeWeese said.

In terms of circulation, she said the numbers are going up. DeWeese said that circulation had gone to zero when the county’s libraries closed because of the pandemic. Things started to pick up once the library adapted to offer curbside pickup.

“I think a lot of people were reading during the pandemic,” she said. Now that libraries are open and some curbside services are continuing, they’re seeing a steady increase in circulation.

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