Popular Reading

Gordon Library sees summertime rise in popular fiction
August 08, 2014

With WPI’s reputation for intense academic studies and research, Gordon Library is a hallowed place to pore over the latest scientific journals and books thick with statistics and theories. But did you know Nora Roberts is also a popular read at WPI?

From left, Karen Bohrer, Tressa Santillo and Joan Dickert, along with Rebecca Ziino (not pictured), select the books for the library’s popular collection.

From left, Karen Bohrer, Tressa Santillo and Joan Dickert, along with Rebecca Ziino (not pictured), select the books for the library’s popular collection.Students, faculty, and staff might be familiar with the endless stacks of academic journals and books, but Gordon Library is just as serious about its leisure reading. “It’s summertime, and that’s a good time to catch up on all the reading people haven’t had time to do,” says Karen Bohrer, collections assessment and development librarian.“The library is here to support the research and educational needs of the WPI community, but we also pay attention to leisure reading,” says Bohrer. People become focused on academics and tend to forget about the other reading genres the library might offer.

Bestsellers, mysteries, crime fiction, romances, and science fiction volumes share shelf space with nonfiction selections that cover everything from history, sports, and art to political science and music. Readers, says Bohrer, might want to read a volume in a series they missed or even try out an author they have never read before.


A committee of librarians at WPI meets monthly to select a dozen or so additions to what is known as the “popular collection,” or what Bohrer simply calls leisure reading. They consider the New York Times bestseller list, reviews in library literature and on the Amazon online bookstore, as well as suggestions from staff, faculty, and students.

Summertime sees an increase in popular fiction library activity, but the library has plenty of other offerings to fill summer hours. Along with the popular collection on the third floor, patrons will find not only the latest bestsellers, but also DVDs, board games, and video games (Wii, Xbox360, etc.).

“I’m probably the library’s best customer,” says Pam Weathers, professor of biology and biotechnology, who takes out two or three books (usually thrillers or mysteries) every couple of weeks. “I use it mainly for popular literature,” says Weathers, “because I am in science and I get academic information online.”  But Weathers likes to hold the book when she is escaping in a novel, so she makes a point to stop in frequently and look at the latest offerings.


Ellen Mackin, administrative assistant in the Mathematical Sciences Department agrees. “It is very convenient to pop over there on my lunch hour and pick up a few books,” she says, noting that she can easily search for or renew books with library’s online service, too. “And, it saves me money by not having to buy books.”

Even WPI’s “potpourri” email list sometimes includes requests for copies of popular books. The librarians, says Bohrer, respond right away – reminding everyone of all the resources just steps away.

And while academic collections at WPI might differ from other universities and colleges, leisure reading preferences aren’t all that different, says Bohrer. The Harry Potter series remains popular. Bohrer likes to make sure the latest volumes by authors like John Sanford and Jodi Picoult are available to the WPI community. Lately, she says, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, and Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs have been popular. Romance author Nora Roberts enjoys a steady takeout at Gordon Library as well. “It’s beach reading,” Bohrer says. “You can put it down and then easily remember where you left off.”

With any extra free time during the dog days of summer, a visit to the Gordon Library can help pass the time, says Bohrer. “You can chill out with a good book.”