25 Ways for Libraries to Support Book Groups

I’m just back from Book Expo America as well. There were exciting ideas for book groups there, but I need to let them percolate a bit before I’m ready to write on them. In the meanwhile, I’m go to reprise an entry from just over a year ago, because I think it bears repeating. If few of the services below are available from your library, consider printing out this list and passing it along to the director of your local system.

Libraries need to recognize book group readers as one of their core audiences, a population that deserves “extra-mile” service. Here’s my list of 25 ways that a library can support book groups.

  1. Organize groups, provide staff leaders for those groups, or train community volunteers to lead the groups.
  2. Provide book databases and training in how to use these databases to prepare discussion materials.
  3. Collect discussion materials for groups on demand–reviews, author biographies, and other related material.
  4. Link to web sites that support book groups prominently on the library web site.
  5. Offer meeting rooms in the library for book group use. Consider designing at least one meeting space specifically to be inviting to groups (comfortable chairs in a circle, allow refreshments, etc.)
  6. Develop a handout with advice for successful book group practice that you can distribute to local groups.
  7. Build a directory of local book groups with contact information, subject specialties, meeting dates and frequency, membership limitations, past reading lists, and an indication of whether the group is willing to consider new members.
  8. Promote new groups in a centralized location. Provide a matchmaking service to help new readers find appropriate groups and groups find new readers.
  9. Circulate book group bags or kits: collections of 10 to 15 copies of a title with discussion materials that can be checked out for two months for use by book groups.
  10. Offer staff members as guest leaders for various reading specialties.
  11. Design plenty of book lists and bookmarks on different reading themes and encourage book groups to take copies and distribute them to their members.
  12. Compile and distribute  list of books in the collection that contain discussion questions; Make this notation part of the online catalog.
  13. Become aware of book group picks from Oprah, Book Sense, and other major media outlets. Make sure that enough copies of these books are available to support groups.
  14. Conduct a training day with advice on how to lead a discussion, how to select titles, how to add a touch of fun or creativity, and how to advertise your group.
  15. Build “reading maps” or readalike lists for popular book group titles.
  16. Devote a display space to books about book groups and good books for discussion at least one month every year.
  17. Organize a day of book talks about good book group selections. Invite book group members to participate, not just listen.
  18. Take special notice of subject or reading interests that are popular in your community. Design book groups to fit these interests or create book lists in these subjects and distribute them to existing groups.
  19. Collect lists of links to websites that would enhance the discussion of various popular book group titles.
  20. Provide readers’ advisory for groups: Given a list of what the group has discussed and enjoyed (or not enjoyed) in the past, a librarian would provide a list of other suggested titles.
  21. Ask book groups to notify the library of upcoming titles. The library can then buy new or extra copies of these titles as appropriate.
  22. Compile a list of local establishments and locations that are “book group friendly”: good places for groups to meet.
  23. Invite a successful local book group to design and select titles for a library display.
  24. Schedule one-on-one or small group consultations with local group leaders to discuss methods, provide advice, or just exchange information about the library and the group.
  25. Encourage librarians and book group leaders to read Book Group Buzz!

Libraries can potentially do much more to support groups. If you’re a librarian, considering adding one or two of the practices from this list to your repertoire. If you are in a book group, talk to your local library about which of these services they can support.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On... Fantasy Fiction and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups.

2 Comments on "25 Ways for Libraries to Support Book Groups"

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  1. seh4@cornell.edu' s says:

    book group support ideas

  2. Your list makes no reference to authors. Why not invite authors to meet with groups and discuss their books. This can be a tremendous help to readers who want to understand better what the author aimed to convey through the characters and and their problems, failures and triumphs.
    Gwynne Forster
    Author of
    A Different Kind of Blues

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