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Librarian tells story of Alice’s accidental book club

By Patrick Nelson

Alex Williams … “unique fly-on-the-wall opportunity” Alex Williams … “unique fly-on-the-wall opportunity”

A Charles Darwin University staffer from Alice Springs has presented the story of the “accidental book club” at one of the world’s top library conferences in Paris.

CDU Liaison Librarian Alex Williams described the informal book club’s humble beginnings in an after-school homework program established for 15-18 year olds at Alice Springs campus last year.

“We offered afternoon tea at the start of each homework session, which helped us develop a relationship with the students,” Ms Williams said.

“We soon recognised that these sessions provided a unique ‘fly-on-the-wall’ opportunity in which to find out about the students’ leisure reading preferences and habits.”

Ms Williams said most conversations and debates were started by the students and often were whimsical in nature.

“I recall one particularly animated debate about the advantages and disadvantages of being Batman, Superman or Wolverine,” she said.

“On another occasion several students speculated on what inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.”

Ms Williams said it could be a challenge engaging older teenagers with leisure reading resources in libraries.

“The homework centre provided a fantastic opportunity to get to know students and find out first-hand what kinds of things they liked to read.”

Ms Williams was the lead mentor of the study centre, established under the Into Uni Project, an Australian Government funded initiative designed to increase higher education participation rates of NT school students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

“We provided a safe place and a fluid social environment with a strong focus on fostering the social-emotional wellbeing of older teenagers,” Ms Williams said.

Ms Williams presented the paper at a satellite meeting of the International Federation of Library Associations World Library and Information Congress in Paris.

“I’ve researched and written the paper out of professional interest and will present it as an independent contributor,” she said.

“It is a personal reflection of my experiences running the study centre and the unintended consequence of that project.”