Thursday, September 23, 2010

And I Thought I Was Just Seeking Intellectual Stimulation!

Booking time in IRL (In Real Life)
By Katie Anderson Sep 22, 2010 09:36PM

Taking a cue from the popularity of websites such as Facebook, several area libraries have started their own social networking groups targeted at 20- and 30-somethings.

Like online social networking, these groups offer a third-party venue where youngish-adult patrons can meet for information sharing, socializing, community building, career networking and just plain old fun.

The groups are casual, do not require a regular commitment or joining fees, and don’t involve some of the dating-related expectations associated with going out to a bar. Organizers say despite a propensity for online communication, 20- and 30-somethings still crave face-to-face interaction — the kind with no user name or password required.

“I know at least some of our regular attendees use online social networking, but when I’ve suggested we offer more through a Facebook page, they’re like ‘Nah,’ ” said Marlise Schiltz, librarian and leader of St. Charles Public Library’s 20s and 30s group called TnT (Twenties and Thirties).

While providing IRL interaction (“In Real Life,” for those not up on Internet slang), these groups also help libraries reach what many consider an underserved demographic.

“I guess just in general it’s a hard demographic to serve,” said Rachel Bloomberg, co-leader the 20s and 30s Book Club sponsored by Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin. “We’re not children, and many are not parents with children.”

Bloomberg’s club has been meeting monthly since 2007 and discusses a new book each month. Its members live in Elgin, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Pingree Grove and as far away as Carol Stream.

With 20-somethings especially, Bloomberg and Schiltz say, their most recent memory of a library is connected to a horrible college assignment.

TnT launched in 2005 and has inspired several other libraries to start similar groups. It draws members from St. Charles and South Elgin, and unlike the Elgin group, its focus is not on books but rather social and educational outings.

The Dundee Township Public Library started its own group last week, finding that despite a love of Facebook and Twitter, many of its young professional patrons also would rather meet up than “tweet up.”

The Dundee library’s group is called the Young and Restless. At its first meeting Sept. 14, members watched the movie “The Big Lebowski” and chowed down on pizza.

“Our motivation for starting the group was to involve as many people as possibly within our demographic,” said Jason Katsion, an information services specialist at the library. Katsion, 32, is one of three 20- and 30-somethings who founded the group.

“We felt that group (20- and 30-year-olds) was maybe being underserved,” he said. “The library offers considerable programming for pretty much everyone in the community, but a lot is geared to early readers and older adults.”

Katsion said Young and Restless will feature workshops and gatherings relevant to “our demographic” and that meetings will be held either at the library or locations such as coffeehouses, restaurants and pubs.

Although not present yet, a 20s and 30s group may start soon at the Algonquin Area Public Library, too.

“We’ve talked about looking to perhaps start something up, but nothing is in place right now,” said Vicky Tobias, head of Adult Services at the library. Several staff members have brought it up recently, she said, and the library is more than willing to talk about it.

Although not a library-based group, the Young Professionals of Sycamore also has latched on to the idea that 20- and 30-somethings still like to meet IRL. The group meets monthly and has more than 40 members from Sycamore, DeKalb, Genoa and the surrounding communities.

(From today's Courier News)

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