Booksmacking and the Library Book Club

Does your library book club have a hard time keeping its members? Is the reading too predictable by the end of the season? Do you need a way to inject variety and freshen up your book club?

How about considering alternating the assigned reading with a Booksmack?

At the Greater Victoria Public Library we have had great success and retention of our members at our Oak Bay Branch Book Club by alternating a month where members all participate in a Booksmack with a month of the traditional book club format (i.e. all members reading and discussing the same title). With a Booksmack, each member of the club is required to select a title, give a verbal critique of it and then answer questions from the group. Booksmacks can be as simple as free reading for that month.

You could also choose to assign a genre or theme to each Booksmack and thereby showcase your library collection to your readers. We experimented with this by assigning Nonfiction, Autobiography and Graphic Novel themes to our Booksmack months. Graphic Novels received the most pushback but produced the best meeting of the year.

Booksmacks also generated patron-driven Readers’ Advisory lists, allowed for expression of taste, reduced the onerous “I have to read it for my book club and I don’t like it” syndrome and took the pressure off the collection to supply enough titles every month, particularly if your club is a Nonfiction or genre club like Mysteries and there may not be enough copies system-wide for all members to read the same book.

By the end of the year the assigned fiction reading was, by all accounts, boring, while the Booksmack was loved. The retention for the next year was 75% and the alumni promised to come up with better titles for the assigned reading.

Alternating the monthly format in this way has kept the best of both worlds: the joy of traditional book discussion with the full expression of personal reading, along with an audience with whom to share it. This year with the injection of 25% new members, the genres we are considering  for our Booksmack months are Science Fiction, Children and Teens, and Nonfiction (specifically the 300’s this time around).

If you’re tired of doing the same-old, you might want to consider the Booksmack as a fun way to put a new spin on your library book club format.

Sharon Young is a Library Assistant at the Greater Victoria Public Library

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