Crystal Lake Book Club writes final chapter with library donation

CRYSTAL LAKE – Mary Ann Schopen and Margaret Mayer said they will miss running a book club where reading books was optional.

Schopen and Mayer, co-organizers of the Crystal Lake Book Club, officially ended the 61-year-old organization Friday as it donated the club's remaining $776.89 to the Crystal Lake Public Library. It was a fitting end to the club that came into existence the same year the library was established at its current location on 126 Paddock Street.

"The money should stay in our own community and what better place than a library," Schopen said.

Library director Kathryn Martens said the club was a great example of the importance of life-long learning and the continuous improvement of reading skills and comprehension needed in all phases of life. But the club was never bound by books.

The roughly 40-member organization would meet about seven times a year and schedule living history demonstrations, discussions with established authors, local history presentations or even games of bridge.

Schopen recalled a presentation from well-known Chicago author Rick Kogan who was shocked when he asked what book the club was reading only to hear Schopen say we don't read books. Kogan even talked about the reading-is-optional book club on his radio show the next night.

"A lot of the things we did would make people curious and then they would read the books from that author or on whatever we were talking about," Schopen said. "It's inspiring to hear the authors. The ones who conceive and imagine [the story]."

Mayer said with most members battling distance and age, it was time to end the club and hope places such as the library will inspire new energy and ideas among young people.

Linda Price, public relations coordinator for the library, said the exisiting book clubs and special 100th anniversary events happening this year have the same mission as the Crystal Lake Book Club – inspiring life-long learning.

The library even invited Kogan to give a similar presentation during a Sept. 22 event as part of its anniversary celebration.

"This is particularly meaningful to us as it’s the library’s 100-year anniversary and 1952, the year that this book club began, was the year that the library was built on our current site," Price said. "It's an honor to be chosen."