Library engaging with patrons one recipe at a time


Before the COVID-19 pandemic changed daily lives, the Thomas B. Norton Public Library in Gulf Shores was a happening spot in town. The computer lab was full of Snowbirds and locals, the study tables were full of high school and college students, and patrons young and old checked out books. The library calendar was always full of in-person programming.

After the pandemic closed the building for several months, the staff had to pivot and keep patrons engaged from home. The children’s story time was moved online, the monthly craft club is now a take home kit.

“Like everyone else, we are trying to come up with a lot of ideas to do things differently because of COVID. We meet regularly to discuss programming and it was suggested that we do a book club again. I was thinking of different ideas and different ways to do a book club because there are so many book clubs in the area,” said Deanne Fincher, Adult Services Librarian.

A book club is a lot of pressure for the organizer who must read the book, draft engaging questions all while keeping up with daily work responsibilities. Finding a way to hold book club meetings virtually  seemed like an impossible task.

Meanwhile, Fincher was also struggling at home each day as she figured out what to cook for dinner. Not being able to eat out as often as she had put her in a rut and she knew she was not the only one. She meshed the two struggles and concocted the cookbook club.

She was able to utilize the budget from the annual lecture series that was canceled this year due to COVID-19 concerns. The funds are used to purchase 15 to 20 cookbooks each month and prizes for a monthly drawing. Fincher chooses prizes from local business that coordinate with the theme of the cookbook.

“We tried to highlight local businesses, especially during this time, to get people to support those local businesses and give them some advertising,” Fincher said.

The cookbook for February was The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook and the prize for the monthly giveaway was a $50 gift certificate to The Chocolate Corner in Gulf Shores. The cookbook for March is The Pioneer Woman Cooks Come and Get It!

To participate in the Cookbook Club email to request a free cookbook. Participants must come into the library to pick up their copy. If all the cookbooks have been given out, people can stop by and look through the library’s copy and make a photocopy of recipes they are interested in trying. Participants are asked to post a picture of their recipe with a review in the Facebook discussion on the event page. Each month, one lucky participant wins a prize. Anyone that has an issue posting a photo or who does not have Facebook can email their pictures.

Everyone on the library staff is enjoying the cookbook club as well. One staff member has a March birthday and requested everyone make a recipe from the March cookbook for a birthday potluck lunch.

“This has gotten me excited about cooking again. My sister is doing the cookbook club with me and we talk about what recipe we want to make,” Fincher said.

The Cookbook Club has also gotten patrons back to the library and engaging with each other on the Facebook event page. Fincher said the club will continue for as long as there is interest.

For more information about upcoming events and programs at the Thomas B. Norton Public Library visit their Facebook page, visit in person or call (251) 968-1176.