Information resources librarian Pam Jacobs

Feel like reading a graphic novel? Crime fiction? Maybe a little non-fiction about something other than what you are studying?

Come on over to the library, invites information resources librarian Pam Jacobs. The new Gryph Reads leisure reading collection may be just what you’re looking for.

Gryph Reads opens July 18 with an informal reception from 10 to 11 a.m. and unveiling of the first books chosen. Everyone in the Guelph campus community is welcome to attend and check out the books.

If you’re worried that reading something light and fluffy might detract from your academic development, you can relax. According to Jacobs, research shows that reading for pleasure – no matter what you choose to read – will increase your reading skills, vocabulary, literacy and writing skills. In fact, broadening your reading horizons can also improve your cultural literacy.

The Gryph Reads bookshelves are on the library’s main floor, surrounded by comfortable chairs in case you want to browse for a while, but they do not impinge on any of the study areas. To borrow one of the books, you simply use the regular check-out; all the usual check-out and return rules apply.

The entire campus community as well as tri-university users from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier are eligible to borrow these books. “Our goal is to make it simple and straightforward,” says Jacobs.

Those shelves full of books are the visible aspect of Gryph Reads, but there will also be a website with more information about the program plus links to sources for free e-books people can download. “This is a new area for many people,” says Jacobs. “The possibilities in e-books have expanded so much, and not everyone is aware of what they can find.”

Indeed, many old and rare books are getting a new lease on life and are reaching a wider audience as libraries digitize their special collections and make them freely accessible over the internet. The Gryph Reads website will also launch on July 18.

Gryph Reads is based on a concept Jacobs has seen in other academic libraries. “We have such a community feeling here, and I think this idea fits. We buy or pull books from the general collection for leisure reading. We know that reading for pleasure helps people succeed academically and sets them up for life-long learning.”

Book selections were based on suggestions from library users and the work of a small group of U of G librarians. Jacobs selected literary fiction, Helen Salmon chose the other fiction books and Robin Bergart selected the non-fiction titles.

“We intend to have others on the committee next time so that we get different ideas and approaches,” Jacobs says. “We also see lots of possibilities for expansions or spin-offs, such as book clubs.”

The Gryph Reads name was chosen by library users. Jacob posted a list of possible names on a large bulletin board and invited visitors to use an adhesive dot to indicate their choices. Online voting also took place.

“Someone added a Post-it note with ‘Batman comics’ written on it, and the Post-it note was soon covered in dots,” she says. “Yes, there will be Batman comics in the collection.”

When the bookshelves are opened later this week, Jacobs says they will offer up to 300 volumes, with hundreds more that avid electronic readers can access through the website. That number will grow over time, she adds, so if your favourite genre isn’t there, it may be soon. “We will assess as we go along and determine which books and genres are most popular.”

A more formal Gryph Reads launch will take place in September.