Book club members have been in my library en masse this week. It’s the time of year when groups are making new selections for the upcoming reading year, and the readers are coming in to place books on hold. Here’s a bit of advice as your group makes its selections: Think twice before you pick the hottest book group of the moment.
Three or four times a year we’re overrun at the library when every book group in town decides to do the same book at once. The worst current backlog is for Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, but we’ve seen this many times before. Overselected books of the last few years include The Glass Castle, Water for Elephants, Three Cups of Tea, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, and Eat, Pray, Love.
Balance your group’s need to read the latest thing with practical concerns. If you join the groups rushing to read what’s hot, library users will not be able to get the book in time. Instead, they’ll further clog request lists with holds that won’t materialize until well after your meeting has been held. Your meeting will be damaged because many readers will either not have read the book or will only have read the first few pages of a copy they bought at the last minute. If you must read the hot book, warn your readers that they will need to buy a copy.
A rash of book group requests will also aggravate problems at the local library. Book group readers sometimes hold onto overdue copies until their meeting occurs, further backing up the hold lists.
If you’re a book group leader, call your library and ask about the hold list and availability before you pick THE book group book du jour. If you’re a member, by all means take advantage of your library, but don’t wait to put the book on hold once your group announces it. If a computer catalog is available, go home and put it on hold that night. If it isn’t, call the library the next morning and make the request or you will become one of the readers left out in the cold. Tell the library your book group is reading the book. It might cue them to order new copies.
Finally, when your group does read the latest and greatest, do a kindness to other local readers: donate copies to the library after the meeting to help them meet the backlogged hold list. What goes around comes around, and if you want to get The Help in the future, you might have to give the help today.