On Oct. 12, 2023, the Student Center Programs Council’s (SCPC) Media Committee hosted a free, in-person book fair with a unique twist: they wrapped the books, concealing their titles.
“Reading can be seen as a daunting or tedious task when it comes to academia, but getting people excited about books in a way where we can approach things from different perspectives is a really cool thing to get to do,” said James Connor, third-year CS/PUBP. Attracting readers interested in all different genres, the book fair accomplished just that and helped bring together a flourishing community of readers on campus.
According to SCPC Media Committee member Tyler Wallace, second-year CM, they collected books from an SCPC Media Committee book drive that accepted donations, and to add to the supply, the SCPC used its funds to buy extra books in bulk. They sorted the wrapped books by genre and then provided a general description as a “preview” to help readers with their personal selections and provide some guidance.
The genres provided include education, history, biographies, fiction, philosophy, self-help and more. “There’s something for everybody here,” said Wallace.
The organizers expressed a personal sense of joy in setting up the event. “It’s kind of like wrapping a gift for somebody,” Wallace said.
The event placed an emphasis on the importance of books as a form of media. Referencing his personal experience as a member of the Media Committee, Wallace explained, “we’ve done events in the past with movies and video games and things like that, but we’ve kind of neglected books, which are still a very important [form of] media … we wanted to host an event that centered around books and would encourage people to read more.”
At a school focused on technology, promoting reading with paper books encourages an outlet for outdoor relaxation for students during the fall season.
“I really love events like this, where I can take a physical, tangible book rather than reading on an electronic device,” said Caroline Krause, 4th-year CE.
Lily Tyagi, second-year BA agreed, with Krause adding, “it’s so much more convenient. You can’t really read outside on a Kindle, because of the glare.”
Promotion of reading paperback books can be relaxing for practical reasons, but can also contribute to a sense of nostalgia. “A good physical book warms the soul,” Krause explained.
This feeling was a key intention of the event. SCPC member and organizer Arya Kirpekar, third-year ID, further explained the nostalgic inspiration.
“We were kind of inspired by the idea of when you were in elementary school, when you go to a scholastic book fair and how exciting that was, so we wanted to bring that into an equivalent for college students,” said Kirpekar.
While the Mystery Date With a Book event was able to recreate the excitement of a book fair, it was also able to adapt the intention to college life and help alleviate the financial stress that can accompany avid readership. Romance reader Henry Wu, third-year CS, explained, “books can be like $10 or $20, which is pretty expensive. If I hear about free books, I will go and pick them up.”
This was a sentiment shared between almost all the other students interviewed. “I always love a free book,” Krause said.
She also appreciated how easy the event made it to find new reads, citing its low time investment as a positive element. “It takes five minutes to come to this event and pick up a book in your own time,” Krause added.
Students expressed excitement that their mystery dates helped them read books outside their personal comfort zones.
“It’s also a little bit spontaneous because you don’t know technically what you’re getting. It kind of breaks that fear of ‘what if I hate it?’ You’re not doing too much research, you’re just like, ‘okay, I want that one,’ and take it and go,” Tyagi said.
This includes new genres as well, “I came here to look for romance novels, but I might see if there are some philosophical books I can read,” Wu said. Krause agreed, explaining, “I didn’t think I was going to pick up a self-improvement book, but I think it’s going to be a fun read.”
Providing a low-commitment opportunity for readers to expand their horizons and pick up free books, SCPC was able to effectively promote and encourage student relaxation and recreational reading with this event. For more information on the organization and future events, visit their website at studentcenter.gatech.edu/scpc or Instagram, @gtscpc.