Eager Readers: New Page Turns in Parent and Staff Initiative

"It was the last thing I said." 

Caroline Freibauer recalls her first presentation to the St. Michael's College School Parents' Association (SMCSPA) during a meeting earlier this year. 

SMCS Head Librarian Caroline Freibauer

Caroline Freibauer, Odette Library Head Librarian

The school's Head Librarian, now finishing her first full year in the role, was outlining some of activities and initiatives being undertaken at the Odette Library, ending with an invitation. 

"If you want to start a book club, I'll help you," Freibauer told those gathered. Those ‘famous last words’ spread like wildfire, ultimately yielding the SMCSPA Book Club. 

It's a first for the Parents' Association and for Freibauer herself, whose professional resume includes journalist, teacher, and librarian. 

"Having a book club at St. Mike’s for our parents was always an interest for the PA," says Tanya Giaquinto, recently installed Vice President of the SMCSPA. "When Caroline Freibauer offered to assist, we jumped on the opportunity to work with someone with her expertise." 

The first chapter of the SMCSPA Book Club was held in May with more than a dozen attendees. 

"It was so much fun to organize and run our first meeting and I am so happy that we jumped on the opportunity to bring parents together in a safe and fun environment," says Giaquinto.  

The SMCS Odette Library with fiberglass safety barriers due to COVID-19

Inside the Odette Library at St. Michael’s College School

Each meeting features three facilitators with specific roles. "Two people are co-hosting and one person whose job is chat captain," says Freibauer. "They keep track of the conversation in the chat and also to look at who has their hands up, things like that." 

For the inaugural meeting, Freibauer, who leads at least four other newly-formed book clubs at SMCS, selected Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. 

"It is a hugely successful book," continues Freibauer. "Very well-written. It touches on a number of themes that are important, like identity, who we are, but also racism, discrimination, bias. And it's a great read. The conversation just did not stop."  

Giaquinto adds, "The participation and feedback from the participants was very positive and they are excited to read and participate in our next meeting." 

SMCSPA Book Club Zoom meeting

The newly-formed SMCS Parents’ Association Book Club.

The SMCSPA Book Club will run meetings six times a year from October to June. All current SMCS parents are welcome to attend. And, for now, the meetings are held virtually.

The global pandemic has had a helping hand in bolstering and igniting interest in reading in many countries around the world, including Canada, according to industry experts.

From her vantage point, Freibauer --- who reads four to five books on average per month and says she wants to read more --- agrees. 

"It has had an impact," she says. "I think some people who were big readers, they fell off the wagon because they were too distracted to read. Other people who weren't readers started reading a lot. It's not consistent. We want to celebrate whatever reading is happening."

Louis Odette bust in the SMCS Odette Library

A bust of Louis Odette, benefactor, sits inside the library that bears his family’s name.

The newest addition to the SMCS book club fold joins other recent additions, namely: 

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Book Club for staff and the Library Leaders Book Club for students. Freibauer hints, the Odette Library may not be done yet. 

"That's a big goal for us in the Odette Library is to get people to read," she says. "We still have to keep working at it." 

Famous last words that, by all accounts, could lead to writing other, new chapters. 

Related links:

On Your Bookmark: Get Set: Odette Library Opens New Chapters 

A Closer Look: Odette Library

St. Michael’s College School Parents’ Association

Why I Chose Teaching as a New Career: Caroline Freibauer

Louis Odette