For centuries writers and readers have used books to process their experience, unburden themselves, and connect with one another. For any given reader and any given distress, there is almost certainly a book that can offer support — in fact, the greatest difficulty lies in helping readers navigate the tremendous numbers of books available to them. It was a desire to create a tool that would do just that, which led the Center of Alcohol Studies Library to undertake our Reading for Recovery project, and we hope the result will help librarians, counselors, and readers alike find the tools they need to realize the transformative potential of reading. Funded through a Carnegie Whitney grant from the American Library Association, this pilot project gathers material available online or through Rutgers University Libraries that might be relevant for those grappling with their own addiction or the addiction of a loved one.
The therapeutic use of reading is known as bibliotherapy. Many librarians wind up acting as accidental bibliotherapists when patrons ask for reading recommendations, and we hope this tool can help them better serve such patrons without laying claim to psychiatric expertise. This project envisions reading and/or group discussion as a supplement to recovery programs and more traditional forms of therapeutic support, not a substitute.
The Carnegie-Whitney Grant is awarded by the American Library Association and is based on a fund first established by Andrew Carnegie in 1902, “to be applied to the preparation and publication of such reading lists, indexes, and other bibliographical and library aids as will be especially useful in the circulating libraries of this country.” In 1910, the fund was expanded through a merger with another fund established by James Lyman Whitney.
It was another Carnegie grant, awarded in 1938 by the Carnegie Corporation, that funded the Center of Alcohol Studies' own E. M. Jellinek and Mark Keller in their work reviewing the literature on the effects of alcohol on the individual. The results of this work would eventually be published as the Classified Abstract Archive of the Alcohol Literature (CAAAL). While the CAAAL abstracted scholarly and scientific literature relating to alcohol, Reading for Recovery aims to draw attention to popular works that deal with issues relating to alcohol and substance abuse, be they fiction or non-fiction. In a way, however, we see the projects as two sides of the same coin, with both dedicated to increasing the visibility and use of literature relating to addiction. We are thrilled to be following in the footsteps of Jellinek and Keller by creating our own collection of addiction literature, and we are grateful that a Carnegie grant has once again made this possible.
Before closing in December 2016, the CAS Library maintained one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections of books, media and other documents pertaining to the biomedical and psychosocial aspects of alcohol use and abuse. The collection is currently part of Rutgers University Libraries.
This LibGuide was developed at the Center of Alcohol Studies Library by librarians Judit H. Ward, William Bejarano, Molly Stewart, Will Haggis, Maria Ortiz-Myers, Nicholas Allred, and Rebecca Berkowitz as part of the project R4R: Reading for Recovery, sponsored by a Carnegie-Whitney Grant of the American Library Association (2015-2016). Sketches by Aylin Guillen.
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