I was happy to see Nancy Pearl quoted in the Beth Dempsey Library Journal article. Nancy Pearl is one of my heroes and was a big influence in my decision to go to library school. I feel very strongly about reading and the power and magic of stories and storytelling. Plus, she’s a Detroit native and an UMSI graduate (back when it was the School of Library Science)!
Reading about the success of the Not Your Ordinary Book Club at a public library in Maine gave me warm fuzzies, especially this: “Older members have taken classes to learn how to blog, because they wanted to be included…. It has been wonderful!” (from this article). The librarian used a hybrid form, where the club met monthly in the physical library, but also had an online blog component where members could interact online. She had nothing but positive reviews of the set-up, discussing the way it allowed both the traditional in-person book clubbers and new patrons who wanted to participate anonymously online to join the same group. This article went on to describe other new models of book clubs and book groups, ranging from taking the meetings outside of the library and after hours to accommodate young professionals to book groups in prisons. Everything Dempsey described sounded great to me. Book clubs are a fantastic way for users to experience and discover new material in the library; they are at the very least a fun experience, and at best a life-enriching and community-building one.
Other libraries are shaking up the old book club model by switching out a single book for a theme, meaning that participants can choose from a variety of books and discuss them in a single meeting. Another Library Journal article detailed this, and other new changes and trends in library book clubs. One issue that they just barely touched on was the gender divide: most book club participants are women. The author mentioned the fact that some library book clubs are trying to cast off the image of a book club only reading Oprah’s picks, and instead choosing some non-fiction titles to read–however, non-fiction is apparently a hard sell. I’m curious to see what, if anything, librarians are doing to create more gender diversity in book clubs.
This article also mentioned the growing number of teens who are participating in online book clubs via a blog or something similar. Again–I think that’s so great. While some may lament that the newer generations are hiding behind the computer screen and becoming less social, creating the opportunity for an online book club will still 1) accomplish the goal of fostering a sense of community (no matter that it’s from a keyboard), and 2) perhaps spark someone’s curiosity about an author or genre and entice them to read even more.
A social discussion forum similar to book clubs is the Socratic seminar. The premise is that the class/group forms an inner and outer circle; the inner circle discusses the text while the outer observes and then gives feedback. Then the two groups switch. Before this class, I was unfamiliar with this concept–but it seems to be a great tool for teaching reading comprehensions, as well as scholarly discussion. I enjoyed reading Margaret Metzger’s account of her high school freshman class and their experience with the Socratic seminar. She emphasized the increase not only in her students’ enthusiasm for discussion, but also an increase in their reading comprehension skills. The Tredway article took a slightly different tact and stressed what I liked most about this format: as a result, the school prepares thoughtful citizens capable of intelligent discussion, and are able to participate in a democratic society (Tredway). Socratic seminars are an intriguing concept and seem, anecdotally, to be highly effective with K-12 students. Because of the skills the seminars teach, they are a perfect tool for middle and high-school students to prepare for college. Perhaps they would transition well into discussion groups for teens, but as of right now I feel wary of them in an academic library setting. Don’t students “get enough” of that in class? How would academic librarians use a Socratic seminar effectively?