Learning and saloons are not usually associated with one another but the programming staff at Evanston Public Library does not think it always has to be that way. The idea is to provide a forum where people can thoughtfully talk about books, movies, TV and podcasts in a relaxed atmosphere.
Occasionally that means gathering in the Celtic Knot, a charming, dark-paneled Irish restaurant right across from the main branch on Church Street.
Ben Remsen, Evanston Public Library’s adult service librarian and events organizer, who has been promoting this effort, said “for various reasons, not everyone is inclined to come into the library, but we want to find ways to be a hub and serve the whole community.”
To that end, Mr. Remsen has helped develop a series of events to turn what people might be talking about in chat rooms into a more direct and interpersonal experience.
For some, it does not hurt that topics can be discussed, gently argued about and laughed over in venues where they can order a drink.
One of the most popular off-site ideas has been the “Book Report” nights. This is a variation on the usual book group where everyone reads and analyzes the same book each session. Instead, attendees give brief descriptions of books they have read and wish to recommend.
This provides a unique opportunity to pitch a book one feels passionately about, and perhaps enable it to reach a wider audience. It also avoids the sometimes difficult task of getting a consensus on one book and fosters an awareness of a range of good books that might be out there.
Most recently, people drifted into the Celtic Knot, with its wall dedicated to great Irish writers, a prominent shelf of vintage books and castle-like back room, to dissect the latest season of the TV show “Community.” The sitcom, about a set of rather odd characters connected to a community college, was broadcast nationally for five years and later picked up for streaming by Yahoo.
In part, Mr. Remsen came up with the notion of organizing events around media phenomena when he saw that a podcast like “Serial” (a kind of spinoff of “This American Life” on National Public Radio) could generate hundreds of comments on his Facebook page.
Other evenings have involved a tour of Temperance Beer Company and Few Spirits, both local establishments which have sprung up amid the boom for local, unique brands of beer and liquor. Another event held at Prairie Moon explored the Netflix sensation “House of Cards.” The last one analyzed the history/fantasy hit “Game of Thrones.”
Mr. Remsen emphasized that the groups were very informal and without any pressure to speak or know the topic particularly well, with anyone welcome just to sit back and listen. He added that while it helps the organizers if people register in advance, there’s no requirement to do so and each event is separate.
So for those who might want to get their popular culture fix, have a beer and move their insights and opinions away from the keyboard out into the summer air, one can check in with EPL to see what they’re talking about next.