A full college course load may prohibit students from reading for pleasure as they once did in their childhoods. However, as TikTok has become more popular, especially among college-aged students, increased interest in reading for enjoyment has been re-ignited by trends on “BookTok.” Those enthusiastic about literature likewise have a new Registered Student Organization (RSO) to help spark their love for reading: Lovers of the Library.
Lovers of the Library meets once a month to discuss a chosen book for the month in a classic book-club-style. The RSO’s purpose is to provide a space to discuss books and connect people who share an interest in literature. To be as accommodating as possible to members’ schedules, the RSO requires lower levels of commitment. Future meetings will be themed with snacks, playlists and decor centering around the previous book.
Sofia Pennia, a freshman political science major and one of the founders and co-presidents of the Lovers of the Library, explained that they wanted to make the RSO “just to get a whole bunch of book lovers together and to converse about different genres of books.”
Abby Dua, a freshman criminal justice and political science double major, as well as co-founder and co-president of the RSO, emphasized that she enjoys the culture and having a community centered around reading.
“The reason I really wanted to make [the RSO] with them and everything was because I have never met a book-person I didn’t like, so I have a feeling that everyone who reads books or is like a heavy reader type of thing would feel the same way,” Dua said.
Lovers of the Library facilitates the monthly selection of books based off of what literature is trending on social media sites like TikTok. The subsection of the online reader community on TikTok has been deemed “BookTok.” Dua described how BookTok functions.
“The reason the books go trending is because one person suggested it, of the top creators or whatever, and then everyone’s like, ‘Wait a minute, let me read it,’ and then that [book] just becomes so big, and eventually everyone knows about it, at least like in that genre of people,” Dua said.
The third founder and co-president of the RSO, Emma Mather, a freshman criminal justice and English major, disclosed that BookTok was the main reason that she began to read in college.
“I started getting into reading because of BookTok, and I feel like a lot of other people, like, if they know it’s like a popular book, a lot of people like it, it’s not just like a boring school book, I feel like more people would be more interested,” Mather said.
As social media develops further, it continues to have a significant impact on literature and the culture surrounding reading. Laura Helton, assistant professor of English and history at the university, argues that the digital age has not hindered reading, but has instead expanded it to new mediums.
“The book has always come in many forms, and literature has always had an intimate relationship to new media as has the social practice of reading, which is what a book club is,” Helton said.
Helton also emphasized that young people are “at the forefront of experimenting with reading in new technologies,” something that Lovers of the Library is doing with their focus on BookTok. Their Instagram page, which not only features information about the RSO, but also infographics with book recommendations, has been popular online as well.
Helton explained the way in which the pandemic has affected how people learn about new literature.
“Physical spaces, like being able to go into a library or a bookstore or kind of being with people, you know, gathering in coffee shops, all of that has been not possible during the pandemic,” Helton said. “And so I think that online spaces and social media have played an important role.”
Lovers of the Library had its first meeting of the semester on Feb. 17, with over 40 people in attendance. Many students who attended said that they were excited to get the chance to meet people with a similar interest as well as get back into reading books for pleasure.
Maddi Merson, a freshman English education major, expressed why she came to the RSO meeting.
“I decided to come to this club tonight because I read a lot, and I wanted to meet other people who read and talk about books, and it just sounded like a fun, awesome time,” Merson said.
Above all else, the co-presidents of the RSO emphasized that anyone can join regardless of whether one feels it’s right for them.
“If you’re not much of a reader, please join,” Dua said. “We can bring that into your life.”