For the last 90 years, the women of the Village Book Club in Scotia have been sharing two things: books and a love of reading.
But the Village Book Club is not your average hometown book club.
“The book club is actually very different than the book clubs that are run today,” said its president, Kathy Reynolds. “Every time I tell people about this book club they are surprised at the format.”
The club runs on a passing schedule. Every two weeks, members rotate their books. As Reynolds describes it: you get a book, you have two weeks to read it, you pass it on to the next person on the schedule and then you start the cycle all over again. By the end of the year, each member will have read all 26 books. The club only takes 26 members a year because of the structure of the passing schedule.
The basic structure has stayed the same over the last 90 years, and club members like it that way.
“It seems to work,” said Lois Seyse, the book club's treasurer. “It is unique. It is a really nice group of people, too.”
Club members meet three times a year. Instead of discussing the books on a monthly or weekly basis, they leave index cards in the back of their books that include notes and comments.
One meeting is in the fall, which usually includes a presenter and a discussion about the books. In April, members pick out 26 new books for the next year. And there’s a June picnic at Seyse’s family camp on Galway Lake. According to Reynolds, the picnic at Galway dates back to at least 1938.
Years ago, the Village Book Club met more often. Minutes from a meeting in 1973 reveal that members would meet about twice a month. In later years, busy lives and women joining the workforce caused the members to reconsider.
“We are too busy reading,” joked Seyse, who has been a member since 2001.
Dates to 1923
The club was founded in February 1923 at the home of Martha Bowman, according to Reynolds. At that time, there was no library in Scotia. At the end of club year, which is in May, members would donate their used books to local drug stores so people in the village could read them. The club was instrumental in helping the Scotia Library obtain a charter in 1929, according to village records. The Scotia Library was officially established on Oct. 2, 1930, in the Abraham Glen House, where it remains to this day.
The book club continued to donate their books to the library for decades and now donates to Scotia-Glenville High School every year.
Since the 1960s, the process of selecting the 26 books has remained basically the same. The women come to the spring meeting having picked their top three book choices. Each woman will be able to read at least one book they selected.
In the earlier years of the book club, they had strict rules on what types of books must be read — poetry, biographies and histories. Now the club is more flexible.
“Now it ends up quite a variety,” Seyse said.
“A lot of people end up reading things they would not normally read.”
Reynolds agrees. “Many of the books are books I would have never read otherwise,” she said.
The book club also has a family history. Many club members are recommended by family. Reynolds was recommended by her mother-in-law. And in turn, Reynolds recommended her daughter.
“At one point, there were three generations of us in the book club,” she said.
The longest-standing club member is Cele Martinec. She joined in 1956 and at age 93, she is still reading.
“I am very fond of the book club,” Martinec said. “I enjoy getting a book every two weeks and I wouldn’t give it up.”
While most of the members are retired, about eight others are still working, including Reynolds’ daughter, who is in her 30s. Traditionally the club has had mostly retired members in it because there is so much reading involved.
Seyse, who is still working, joked, “I read them while I’m cooking. While I am brushing my teeth,” she said.
Many of the old meeting minutes that Reynolds has gives insight to what the club used to be like. In the 1930s, club members would put on musicals and plays for their husbands during meetings. They also wore evening gowns to each meeting.
It was a very social club, “as it still is,” Reynolds said. “But not as much.”
The women pay annual membership dues. In the ’30s, dues were just $2. But books became more expensive and the dues had to be raised. Recently the dues were raised again, from $20 to $25 a year. This was done to help pay for a new annual scholarship that the club implemented. Meqala MacDonald, a senior at Scotia-Glenville High School, was the first-ever recipient of the award. Club members said they were simply looking for a student who loves to read and MacDonald fit that. Like the women in the Village Book Club, MacDonald said she reads about three books a month.
“I read all the time,” she said. “I am always in the library.”
The dues also pay for the 26 books, which are ordered from Amazon.com. Reynolds said members are trying to stay with the times, including corresponding over email, and are discussing making the transition to e-books. But Seyse notes that there is nothing like a hard copy of a book.
“I love the printed copy,” she said. “I don’t care for the e-book thing.”
For the last 90 years, the Village Book Club has been dedicated to reading and they plan on doing the same for decades to come.
“I think it is just so neat that it was started so long ago,” Reynolds said. “And continued this long.”