Saturday, November 8, 2014

Running a Library Book Club Like a Social Book Club

I have helped run book clubs at libraries for kids, teens, and adults. Some of them went better than others and I think it comes down to how the book club dynamic feels. The ones that seemed the most successful were the ones that felt the most social. What makes a book club social? A lot of factors, actually. Before we get to that, let's take a look at the different types of book clubs to choose from first.

1. Assigned Book

From: Pelham Public Library in Pelham, NY

This is where you choose a particular book for each meeting, often having the list well ahead of time. Everyone comes together having read the same book to give thoughts and interpretations. The advantage to this kind of club is that you can be more prepared with discussion topics.

2. Assigned Genre

From: Frisco Public Library in Frisco, Texas

This book club picks a genre or category and let's the participants read anything in that genre. You can have a mystery book club, young adult book club, etc. This might be a good way to attract similarly minded people to a book club, thus increasing the likelihood that friends will form within the group.

3. Open Book Club

From: Fort Worth Public Library in Fort Worth, Texas

Read all the books! Any book is fair game, although sometimes a broad theme can be nice. The advantage to this is that you won't deter anyone who doesn't like the book choice. It also circumvents the need for buying multiple copies of one book. This kind of club may be hard to moderate, though.

All of these seem to work fine. I think the trick to success is in how social a book club feels. Does your book club:

1. Come preloaded with a small group of gregarious people who know one another?

People often, though not always, come to book clubs alone to make friends. This can be intimidating. If you see people (who have arrived a little early) already at the book club talking to one another, it seems more inviting. Just make sure your starter group is friendly to strangers too, asking them questions and getting to know them.

2. Have food and/or drinks?

CC Credit: Jordan Johnson

Sometimes this is tricky in public libraries due to weird policies, but I think this is essential. I ran a teen book club called 'Books and Brownies' that was very well attended. And, before you ask, yes the teens actually talked about books. So have food or, better yet, make the event a potluck. For social adult book clubs, wine and beer are often a part of the equation. While I'm not suggesting we put an open bar in the library (that's a bad idea, right?), this might be a good opportunity for a library to team up with local businesses.

3. Encourage participation with the group online?

You could have blog posts about the book club online after each meeting, letting the different members take turns writing them. You could do an online poll for future books to read. You could have a Facebook group/event or start a Goodreads group. You could add group members as contributors to a Pinterest board.

4. Have semi-regular special events?

CC Credit: Joe Haupt

I love the idea of the book club bringing in local authors, hosting a read-in, or some other big event once or twice a year. During the summer months you could take the book club outside to a park. You could have a book club Christmas party. The picture, by the way, is from an awesome book club Christmas party I found on Flickr in which they decorated the tree with the titles of the year's book club list.

For those of you planning a library book club, I wish you luck! It can be stressful and hard to not take it personally when people don't show up for your awesome club. Hopefully some of these ideas will help. What have you done for a library book club that was super successful? I'd like to know. :)


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