I really didn’t like this book. I really wanted to – it’s the story of a small town librarian, Maura Beth, who has been told by the city council that she has until the end of the year to show the worth of her library or it will be closed. There is a cast of small town characters – a restaurant owner, an elderly genealogist, a retiree, a cooking show host – who rally around as Maura Beth starts the Cherry Cola Book Club in an attempt to boost library usage and secure their future funding.
Given the current state of library funding as a priority throughout the country, and the importance of libraries to their communities, this book could’ve been so much more than what it was – a sweet story with likable characters of a town pulling together to save their library – at least temporarily.
My frustration with the book was the author’s apparent lack of knowledge about libraries and librarians and what they actually accomplish in their communities. Maura Beth has been the director for six years, has virtually no one using the library, and this is the first time she’s trying to do something about it?! Reading this book I had a hard time understanding why she’d been getting paid at all for the past six years – the author made it seem like all she did was sit in her office and occasionally order some books. But now that her job is in jeopardy she thinks it might be important to do something more? And her miraculous plan is to start a book discussion group? Don’t get me wrong, book discussion groups are great – almost all libraries already have them along with computers, internet access, early literacy programming, summer reading programs, entertainers, movie nights, author presentations, computer classes, art classes, writing groups, teen groups, job hunting and continuing education resources, reference resources, GED and ESL classes…
The problem that libraries have is not a lack of use – many libraries are seeing increased usage year after year – the problem is a lack of public funding as budgets continue to shrink and public libraries attempt to support greater need with less resources – the problem is a lack of understanding about what libraries actually do and why it’s so important to our communities. Someone should write a book about that.
Title: The Cherry Cola Book Club
Author: Ashton Lee
Publication: Kensington, March 2013