I recently realized that I have never attended a book club that I was not being paid to mediate. I enjoy participating in book clubs in this capacity, but I thought I should try one out as a civilian. In the book Big Little Lies, the main characters start an “erotic” book club (which isn’t really) and all they do is hang out and drink and maybe talk about the book a little. It sounded like fun. Pretty much right after I read that, one of my neighbors invited me to join her book club, so of course I over-enthusiastically accepted.
It was pretty much exactly like Big Little Lies. Big perfect house, beautiful and intelligent women, and me, doing my best Bridget Jones impression, as per usual when I’m nervous. I was a few minutes late, yet I was still one of the first people there, I really need to work on my fashionably late entrance. I’m either too early or actually late, how have I not got this down yet? I brought cookies and a Cabernet with a twist cap, because I was not about to try to open a corked bottle with an audience. I think I made the right call.
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Once everyone was there, we all hung around and chatted for a while, which was nice. Living in the same town, with kids about the same age and just having read the same book, makes conversation a lot easier. Wine also helped. Then we actually went and sat down, all 16 of us, and had an actual mediated conversation about the book. I wasn’t sure how this part was going to go, but it ended up being, pretty much just like the book clubs I’ve hosted at the library. Unfortunately, every time I went to share my thoughts on the book, all of the words would fall out of my brain and I would just end up rambling incoherently. Maybe no-one noticed? Everyone was really awesome and I honestly can’t wait for the next one, it’s a great group.
I definitely learned a lot from the community book club and from being a participant instead of a mediator. There are a lot of similarities between the Community and Library Book Clubs, but there are definitely some differences and opportunities. Here are a few things to consider:
Advertise like a Community Book Club! A lot of libraries use the same few places to advertise, the library newsletter, the library website and the community newspaper. This just doesn’t reach everyone. It’s easy and free to advertise on the big social media platforms, it just takes a little work, take advantage of them. The Community Book Club I attended started as a Facebook group for Moms and attracted women in their early 30’s to late 40’s. This is a hard demographic to attract to library programs. There’s no reason why Librarian’s can’t form similar groups online to try to attract more diverse crowds.
If you can, allow a small, controlled amount of wine (at least to evening book club meetings). A lot of libraries will not allow any alcohol or only after hours. You might need to provide the wine or it might be required that participants bring their own. You might need to hand out drink tickets. Find out what your policy is, look for loopholes if you need to, and let people have a glass if they want. This is obviously not a requirement of a successful book club, but it is a nice treat. If the group is interested and your policy allows it, go ahead, cheers!
Allow time to mingle! Most book clubs schedule about two hours for their meetings, this seems to be about right. This allows for time to chat before and after the discussion. Plan on allowing thirty minutes to an hour for the structured discussion depending on the title. This will allow at least an hour of unstructured visiting among members.
Join a Community Book Club, it’s good to get another perspective.
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