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Distance Programming for Adults: Wolfner Library’s Experiment in Book Clubs by Conference Call


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In May, 2016, Wolfner Talking Book and Braille Library began offering book clubs by conference call to its patrons
statewide. A great deal of thought and planning went into the process of creating a workable program that consists
of three different monthly book clubs. Learn about the challenges Wolfner Library staff faced to create this successful
program, ranging from the methods for conducting the book clubs to determining criteria for book selection, and how
the process could be applied to create programming and bridge a gap in service for your library’s homebound patrons.

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Distance Programming for Adults: Wolfner Library’s Experiment in Book Clubs by Conference Call

  1. 1. Distance Programming for Adults: Wolfner Library’s Experiment in Book Clubs by Conference Call Amy Nickless & Meghan McCormack 10/6/2017
  2. 2. Previous Programming for Adults
  3. 3. Adult Winter Reading Program • Began in 2006 • Originally ran by one reader advisor • Later expanded to an being ran by a committee
  4. 4. Adult Winter Reading Program • Runs January-March • Patrons vote on the theme • 2018 theme: Read-A-Likes • Customized recommended reading list • Prizes to top three readers • Drawing for participation prizes
  5. 5. Creating an Accessible Book Club
  6. 6. Methods for Hosting • Skype • Google Hangouts • Go To Meeting • Conference Call
  7. 7. How the Themes were Selected • Patrons had different interests in multiple topics – Some prefer fiction, others nonfiction – Some patrons do no want content with strong language, violence, or sexual content • To have the broadest appeal, three clubs were formed: – Novel Reads (general fiction) – Big Ideas (general nonfiction) – Good Books (mild reads)
  8. 8. Criteria for Fiction & Nonfiction Titles • Books be a general, literary category – Try to avoid genre fiction • Books shall be well reviewed and have ample discussion material – Books should not be a one- sided discussion of an issue • There should be ready sources of discussion questions available for the moderator’s consideration
  9. 9. Criteria for Mild Read Titles • Books shall have little-to-no sex, violence, or strong language • Books may be fiction or nonfiction • Books shall be well reviewed and have ample material for discussion – Books should not be a one- sided discussion of an issue • There should be ready sources of book club discussion questions for the moderator’s consideration – When none are available, the moderator will write questions • Content not limited to Christian/Inspirational books
  10. 10. Defining Mild Reads Content • Content is defined as: – Sex: No sexually-explicit content or descriptions of sex. Sex may be mentioned or inferred – Violence: Scenes involving aggressive conflict – Strong Language: Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity • Guidelines borrowed from ESRB Video Game Ratings
  11. 11. Selecting Books for Discussion – Book Movement ( Places for looking for potential titles:
  12. 12. Selecting Books for Discussion – Book Club Central ( Places for looking for potential titles:
  13. 13. Selecting Books for Discussion – Goodreads ( Places for looking for potential titles:
  14. 14. Selecting Books for Discussion – Book Club Girl (www.bookclubgi Places for looking for potential titles:
  15. 15. Selecting Books for Discussion – Book Reporter ( Places for looking for potential titles:
  16. 16. Selecting Books for Discussion – LitLovers ( Places for looking for potential titles:
  17. 17. Selecting Books for Discussion – Reading Group Guides (www.readinggroupgu Places for looking for potential titles:
  18. 18. Selecting Books for Discussion – NoveList – Bookmarks Magazine – Publisher’s Weekly – Booklist – Mentions in newsletters – Patron Recommendations – Patron Interests – Availability in accessible format Places for looking for potential titles:
  19. 19. Announcing Book Club Selections • Announced in quarterly newsletter • Announce schedule monthly on social media • Upcoming titles posted on website
  20. 20. Debuting the Book Clubs • First occurred in May, 2016 • Conducted via conference call • Each club meets once a month • Patrons register by contacting Wolfner Library
  21. 21. Running an Accessible Book Club
  22. 22. Discussion Questions • Places to locate questions: – Back of the paperback edition – Publisher’s website – Book Movement ( – LitLovers ( – Reading Group Guides (
  23. 23. Discussion Questions • Tips for Writing Questions Yourself – Do not write overly academic questions – Discuss broad themes within the books – Look for thought-provoking passages to base questions on – Ask about character motivations – Ask about changes within characters over the book’s course – Compare to other books read by the club – Draw connections from the book to current events
  24. 24. Hosting Duties • Prior to the meeting, the moderator shall: – Reserve the conference call line – Book a conference room – Call into the conference line 10 minutes early • During the meeting, the moderator shall: – Bring discussion questions – Ensure all participants are respectful to each other – Ensure all rules of etiquette are followed
  25. 25. Book Club Etiquette • All opinions are valuable • Everyone deserves to be heard • Do not speak over others • Listen to your moderator • Please be on time to the meeting • Be respectful to the work you are discussing • Try to stay on topic • Try to have fun; this is a social and educational outlet • Please do not make us write more rules!
  26. 26. How a Typical Meeting is Run • Open with an introduction to the book – Include information about the author – Include historical context, if applicable • Discussing the book – Ask for overall thoughts about the book – Have questions ready, but be prepared to deviate based on conversation
  27. 27. How a Typical Meeting is Run • Wrap-Up – Ask for final thoughts – Reminders about future dates and titles – Have a list of read-a-likes ready • Follow-up after meeting as needed
  28. 28. Lessons Learned from Running an Accessible Book Club
  29. 29. Reflections and Outcomes • Patrons consistently report: – They are very happy to have their reading horizons expanded – They are excited to speak with other patrons • Some patrons now regularly talk outside of book club meetings
  30. 30. 2016 Book Club Survey • Conducted in November, 2016 – Provides for 6 months of data • The survey was set-up on Survey Gizmo • Method for data collection: – Phone calls – E-mail
  31. 31. 2016 Book Club Survey • Question: What do you like most about the club(s) you have attended? – “Enjoys the discussions and hearing the different perspectives.” – “When discussing books, one learns a lot from the other people's ideas in addition to the book.” – “Likes everyone's input and excitement. Makes me look at the books in a different way.”
  32. 32. 2016 Book Club Survey • Are there books or genres you would like to suggest we read as a group? – “Books with cultural learning” – “Books with character depth” – “Books about people overcoming challenges” – “Informative fiction and nonfiction” – Most Requested Genres: Biographies, Autobiographies, True Crime, Classics, Mysteries – Selected requested titles: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Aviators by Winston Groom, and A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Aldrich Streeter
  33. 33. 2016 Book Club Survey • Do you have any suggestions for how we could make our clubs even better? – “Sometimes an hour was not long enough!” – Add about five minutes per call for other pertinent topics, like assistive technologies – Encourage people to not call while riding in cars or in a noisy room
  34. 34. 2016 Book Club Survey • Are there any other comments about the clubs you would like to make at this time? – “Started with just the mild reads club and expanded to all three clubs!” – “Thinks clubs are a wonderful way for people to get together and share ideas.” – “Very happy that February titles overlap AWRP and Book Club!” – “Likes how the moderators provide [historical] context.”
  35. 35. Key Outcome
  36. 36. Applying Lessons Learned within Wolfner Library
  37. 37. Applications to Book Club • Book Clubs are now scheduled for 1.5 hours • Patron recommendations were utilized for 2017 – 6 title recommendations – 9 books chosen from suggested genres • Selected some 2017 titles based on popular themes and authors from 2016 • Incorporated time at the end for discussion of accessible technologies and other common issues
  38. 38. BARD Workshop • Occurred on September 19th, 2017 • Workshop by conference call • Conducted by Adult Services Librarian and BARD Specialist Reader Advisor • Answered questions about BARD, BARD Mobile, and BARD Express • 7 patrons called in with questions
  39. 39. Future Ideas • Book Club Kits for care facilities • Author Talks by Conference Call • Monthly “Ask Amy” Reference Hour • Writing Contest – Either poetry or flash fiction – Poetry contest is offered for teens – Multiple patrons have requested an adult version
  40. 40. Applying Lessons Learned to Other Libraries
  41. 41. Know Your Patrons • All libraries have homebound people within their library district – May be due to age or disability – For academic libraries, also could be distance students
  42. 42. Example Programs for Libraries • Offer programming via conference call or webinar – Author Talks – Book Clubs – Workshops • Take programming to where individuals live – Book clubs in nursing homes – Storytimes at preschools – Workshops at regional campuses Image credit: Missouri School for the Blind
  43. 43. Example Programs for Libraries • Create programming kits to lend to care facilities – Kits can be centered on books, movies, or experiences • Collaborate with local caregivers or other organizations to create programming unique to needs in your area – Host a game night with a local game shop – Invite medical professionals to host an informational session on a common ailment – Partner with DAR for a genealogy workshop – Work with a local bookstore to host an author event
  44. 44. Collaborate with Wolfner Library • Bookworms Book Club – Offered by the St. Louis Society of the Blind and Visually impaired – Wolfner Library provides titles to be discussed • One Reads Programs – University City Public Library’s Big Book Challenge – Wolfner Library makes extra cartridges of title being read
  45. 45. Collaborate with Wolfner Library • Independent Living Resource Center – Partnered with Jefferson City location to do an accessible cooking class • Missouri School for the Blind – Annual Summer Reading Kickoff – Provide accessible activities and games – Sign up students for summer reading
  46. 46. Final Notes
  47. 47. Connect with Wolfner Library E-mail
  48. 48. Connect with Wolfner Library Address: 600 West Main Street P.O. Box 387 Jefferson City, Missouri 65101 Toll Free: (800) 392-2614 Phone: (573) 751-8720 Fax: (573) 751-3612
  49. 49. Presenter Contact Information Meghan McCormack, Reader Advisor  • Amy Nickless, Adult Services Librarian
  50. 50. Questions?