Talk about my first book discussion unaccustomed earth by jhumpalahiriBook discussions are a great way to get to talk about what you love- BOOKS.The hardest part is choosing the book and getting people to come, the rest of it is getting paid to talk with other people who love books.
Much like the choosy moms who choose Jiff. Librarians also have to be very careful when it comes to book selection.
Anytime you are doing any program it is important to be aware of who your patrons are. No where is this more evident than when doing a book discussion.If your patrons are a gang of wild bikers, choosing a chick lit book might not be the best idea. Luckily for most of our patrons are NOT in a motorcycle gang so when you make a bad choice it’s not the end of the world.
On your handouts we have listed a few websites that are helpful for choosing a good book discussion. You want to choose a book that is going to spark conversation. Everyone sitting around a table saying oh man this book was great is ok, but it is better when there are opposing viewpoints. Choose something controversial, something dealing with a current event, choose a book that takes a stand or tells an interesting story.
But it’s not just content you have to think about. Something as simple as the size of the book can make a big difference. A large book can be very intimidating and is an immediate turn off to some people. The longest book we have done is the Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafon which clocks in at nearly 500 pages in paperback form. Our suggestion is to generally try and keep the books under 400 pages, but this is flexible some books are a quick read some you have to slog through.
Books cost money. It’s easy for librarians to supply the passion and the knowledge but how can you afford to buy 8+ books for a book discussion. Luckily one other thing librarians are good at is working together. In your handout you can find a web address and a list of book discussion sets that are available from other libraries throughout our state. You can have 10 books with just a phone call and paying some postage, it’s even cheaper if you are both on the courier! (Good time to show one of our book sets and the packet we send)If you absolutely have to do a book discussion on something and no other library has it, then try and find it in paperback.
You’ve found an absolutely amazing book, maybe it’s a heartwarming story about a dog who saves cats, or an adventure story full of daring deeds and mystery, or a sad story about a dyslexic book shelver. Whatever it is it’s time to go back to PATRONS, PATRONS, PATRONS. The next step is advertising; and for that I will turn you over to Kriztina Smith the Public Services Manager at the Independence Public Library.
While it is important to choose a good book, advertising is the single biggest impact on the success of your book discussion. The bottom line is if no one shows up to your book discussion you can’t have one.
Libraries are incredibly lucky when it comes to book discussions. One of our primary targets for advertising is people who read books. But where in the world can you find a place where people who read congregate, the library of course! Of course it’s also a good idea to put posters up in area businesses and just about anywhere they will let you put them. When it comes to making a poster there are three basic questions it must answer: WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE. In addition to those three Ws I want you to keep in mind another three W’s: WORDS, WORDS, WORDS. When people see a poster if all they see is words scattered everywhere over it chances are they won’t stop to even look at it. In your handout you can find an example of a good poster and one example of a bad poster. Once you have a poster made put it up in your library, talk to local businesses and put up your poster there too, you can even resize your poster and print handouts to give to people as they check out their books. If you are enthusiastic about it then they will be too!
Many of the people who would be interested in a book discussion also read the paper every single day. We send out a weekly press release with all of our programs and have developed a good working relationship with our local paper. The absolute best thing you can do is give them a call talk to them and find out when is the best day for them to receive a press release. This is basically free advertising for your library. While you are sending that press release to the paper, why not send one to a local radio station. You can see a template for one of our press releases in your handout packet.
Do you have a Facebook page for your library? If you do this is a great place to post about upcoming library events including book discussions. If you don’t have one, why not? Facebook is a great place for free advertising and to receive feedback from your patrons. Post on your facebook when you set the books out, then remind them when you are about to have the discussion. If you really want to get social, consider a library twitter account, more and more people are relying on social networking to find out what is going on locally.
Talk to people! Find out when local groups are having meetings and see if you can do a presentation on your new book discussion series or just library programs in general. These groups are always looking for someone to do a short presentation and will be glad to have you present. Encourage people who come to the book discussions to tell their friends, see if one of them will write a letter to the editor. People are more likely to do something if a good friend tells them about it, instead of just seeing it in the paper.
Even if you do everything perfect you still might not have a good turn out. Don’t give up! It might take a while to develop a following, maybe the weather was bad or you forgot there was a football game that night. Whatever the reason you absolutely can not let it get to you. Be positive, enthusiasm is contagious!
If you keep at it and choose good books, then advertise well you will succeed there is no doubt about it. But what then? For more on leading the actual book discussion I am going to turn you back over to John Long.
You look into the room, there are 10 people sitting at the table, stirring their coffee, books clutched feverishly in their hands. Oh dear what is that…is it notes? Oh no they took notes! What in the world have you gotten yourself into?! I’m not an expert on this book what do I do?DON’T PANICYou don’t have to be an expert, think of yourself like a moderator. You are there to keep the conversation flowing, and make sure everyone has fun, that’s it. There’s no pressure to be a know it all, heck being an insufferable know it all is counter productive to a good book discussion. Just be you! Let your boundless enthusiasm and love of books show through!
Well first of all you don’t need as many tools as are in the swiss army knife. The first thing you have to do is of course read the book, I personally like to read the book the week of the book discussion so it’s all nice and fresh in my mind. And of course you should provide refreshments, everyone loves coffee and cookies! Other than that all I do to prepare is a quick google search for “Book Name: Discussion Questions” , Another quick google search for the authors name and I read maybe one or two articles about the author, simple stuff maybe an NPR interview. You just want a couple anecdotal things about the book or the author to mention if there is a lull in conversation. Then I walk into the room with a piece of paper and a pencil. That’s it!
You want to be in the room ready to greet people and make small talk before the book discussion starts. This is just a common courtesy to make people feel welcome. I almost always start my book discussions off in the same way. I introduce myself, then ask everyone else to introduce themselves and just say what they thought about the book. Remember that piece of paper and pencil? This is one of the most important parts of a book discussion to me. As people introduce themselves I write down their names if I think I’ll forget it, and just jot down notes, something as simple as a character name, an event or an underlying theme that I can use to dredge out some good conversation if needed. I guarantee you these things almost run themselves if you just get the conversation rolling!
The first thing I want to say is NEVER EVER just read the discussion questions you printed off earlier one after another. They sound like the most boring essay questions you ever had to answer in school multiplied by like a thousand. However, they can be a useful tool; for example maybe one of the discussion questions was a terribly long and boring questions about the symbolism of something in the book. I will generally just lift out the word symbolism and bring that up in a very casual manner. You could say something like. And what about the mirror do you think that was important to little jimmy’s story? Just don’t read the entire question, trust me.In your handouts you will find a list of some of my favorite questions to spark conversation. Something as simple as asking everyone who their favorite character was can start a wildfire of a discussion.
A book discussion can be very boring if everyone agrees with each other, so one of the things I like to do is listen to everyone’s opinion of the book at the very beginning and if everyone is saying the same thing then I try and take an opposing viewpoint. Ask anyone I work with and they can tell you I am naturally an obtuse kind of guy so this comes very naturally to me. Don’t go overboard of course but it’s ok to play Devil’s Advocate just to keep the conversation rolling.
A book discussion is a little like school, and it is your job to be the teacher. There are two types of people in the book discussion you need to keep an eye on. The ones who won’t stop talking and the ones that aren’t participating. Unlike school everyone who came to this discussion came with the idea of sharing their thoughts and listening to other people’s thoughts. If someone is doing too much of one and too little of another it’s your job to step in. The easiest way to to do this is wait til the loudmouth takes a breath and say that’s a really good point, what do you think quiet guy? It’s really important you do this in the nicest way possible if you do it well it’s seamless and no ones feelings are hurt!It’s not just the other people you have to worry about though, in fact the biggest detriment to the book discussion can be you!
Your attitude is important, no one wants to feel intimidated and too scared to speak up. I always hated in english class in school when the teachers stuck to the most rigid by the book interpretation of the written word. I still remember being told my thoughts on paradise lost were flat out wrong because the book said this, it made me so frustrated and if I had a choice I would never have gone back to that class. It is absolutely imperative that you have a friendly and welcoming attitude, no one is going to get ridiculed or “fired” for having a viewpoint different from the group.
Ok lets all admit we’ve all said the wrong thing at the wrong time, nobody is perfect. What are some things you should NEVER EVER say or hear in a book discussion?(audience interaction here keep it fun keep it light)Examples:You read what?!Wrong!
You lean back in your chair as the discussion winds down, it’s been a resounding success people laughed, they cried. Ok they probably didn’t cry either way though it’s been a great time but now it’s time to end it. I generally end it with a little information about what the author is working on next and I always encourage people to sign up for the other book discussions coming up. It’s very important you know, what the book is, who is leading the discussion and when it is.
Don’t Panic<br />It’s Just a Book Discussion<br />