The success of a book club depends on the book, the discussion leader and the participants.
The success of a book club depends on a trio of factors: the popularity of the book, the capability, charisma and social cognizance of the discussion leader and the energy, interest and motivation of the participants.
Recently, I attended a very interesting and quite successful book club meeting at a Broward County Florida library. Our main library back home in Canada should take a page from this Florida library book club meeting.
Arguably, Michelle Obama has a lot going for her, brains, beauty, a full and happy family life, fame and adulation…and deservedly so. Now she can add a bestselling book to her list of accomplishments. This woman has done much in her life starting from a very young age and continuing into her midlife.
Her book only consolidates the reasons for admiring her as it is a self-portrait exposing her to criticism and critique about her life. She was no silver spooned child prodigy but earned her spurs by living her life with drive, dedication and determination.
It is a good book which probably will convince you to become a Michelle Obama supporter if you are not one now.
Good leadership is crucial
Success for a book club is dependent on good leadership as well as the book and the participants.
Arlene Walters moderated this Broward County Library book club meeting. An astute woman of intelligence and social cognizance., she worked the group of 14 participants like a circus huckster leading a crowd into the big top without any bombastic volume or unnecessary bawling. She gently prodded us with leading questions, encouraged each speaker to add a bit more to their opening comment and moved to a new topic once the wind blew out of the sails of the first one. A gentlewoman whose empathy and manner encouraged everyone’s involvement.
The unpredictability of patrons
The unpredictability of patrons is a universal problem for any entity dependent on patron attraction and participation. A restaurant can only guess if customers will choose the hash. If they don’t, the staff ens up eating a lot of hash. A library is no different. If the book club participants choose to sit on their hands, withholding commentary and opinion, then the meeting becomes a dud. If the participants are lively, dynamic and participatory, the meeting takes off like a resurrected Phoenix.
This meeting was a Phoenix in flight, not soaring like eagles, just gentle wing flapping of small sparrows, quietly opinionated birds. Every one of the women who attended contributed with an astute comment, an enlightening opinion or a sharp observation relating to Obama’s book. Moderator Walter’s encouragement to go beyond the initial comments opened the door to discussion about people’s differing interaction with books, movies and audio tapes. The women’s discussion led to the conclusion that women are more emotionally involved with their subject matter, whereas men are less so when they read. Men read books at face value, women with empathetic involvement, reacting to almost every word.
My home main library, Pickering Public Library, has undertaken a new public book club model where publication of the genre and meeting time is intended as the attraction for the possible book club patrons. To this point, it has not reached notable heights of success, one or two participants suggests less than success. Perhaps the PPL should reconsider changing the bait. Select better books, Obama’s book is a perfect example. A very popular book invites people who want to voice their views about the book. The genre is less important than the popularity of the book. Choose a book that is well liked and selling well may be the most important factor to improving attendance at the book club meetings.