Ideas From My Kind-Of Book Club

Several years ago, I started working with the Romance and Erotica books in our library’s collection. Almost as soon as patrons saw me surveying the titles, they wanted to talk in the stacks away from the Reference Desk. And since Romance and Erotica have wide breadths within their sub-genres, these ladies (plus two gents) had been looking for someone to discuss all the things. Eventually, as I got to know their tastes and what could appeal to them, there was much “fangirling” to be had.

This was the perfect opportunity to establish a book club (or attempt to, anyway). My director was all for it, but suggested we meet outside of library due to our already tight programming schedule and a pending renovation. And since we would not be a library-based group, I could really play around with ideas (like, beyond cocktails and wine).

I’ve been assembling different combinations of the same ladies (plus two gents) for about two years. What once started off as structured meetings did not last long. All they were looking for was a shared connection. Everyone bonded over Romance and what the sub-genres within means to them.

Since then, some ideas have stuck, some have not. So, I’ll share some of them with you, direct from our kind-of book club…

Some questions to keep in mind: Are your patrons twitchy over new, bestsellers, or next-in-series books? How do you stoke the conversation? Are your members more structured? Or are they more go-with-the-flow?

If you’re stuck when getting started, ask your library if they offer something called “Book-Club-In-A-Bag.” They are prepared book kits, which circulate multiple copies of the same title, just like any other library material. Your group could even create some together. A few copies of a book, discussion questions…and you’re all set!

For us, sticking to one particular book didn’t fit the direction we were going in. So, we came up with reading:

· Anything by the same author

· Clean reads

· By sub-genre

· By trope

· By theme

· By era

· By location

· Anything by the same publisher/imprint

Ask if your group is comfortable with using computers, devices, eBooks, and/or digital audiobooks.

Set up a Goodreads Group, which is a great way to keep a running list of titles, discussion questions, etc. to keep track of what’s been done

Ask if your group is comfortable with using their images across social media (our group does not use Facebook or SnapChat).

My Twitter and Instagram accounts were always meant to be just me, discussing Romance, libraries, occasionally cocktails, and everything in between. But your club might have fun “taking over” group accounts.

Thread emails to keep track of discussions and attachments if you cannot meet and for those who may have to miss.

Craft handouts featuring author/characters/things/places in the book, like worldbuilding, cities, or family trees.

We created Pinterest boards off of our discussions. Some of our favorites have been our “Book Boyfriend” and “Book Bestie” inspirations.

Try Google Hangouts. They are SO much fun…and your authors/guests can even join in!

Other tech ideas include:

· Audio clips

· Book trailers

· YouTube

· Skype

· FaceTime/AppleTV/Mirroring

· Overhead/screen

· PowerPoint

· Make sure your meeting place has Wi-Fi and outlets

· Bring extra cables/external batteries for devices if needed

Ask if your group is comfortable paying their own way around local establishments for meetings (In our case, we alleviated the pressure to prep our houses for the group. And we totally love the idea that we are also supporting our local businesses).

Some cafes, like Panera, offer rooms set aside in the back that can be used for group meetings.

Other ideas for “meetings”:

· Coffee/Tea shop

· Wine bar

· Local tavern

· Brunch (in our case it’s pancakes)

· Local day spa/Nail salon (this was our best attended yet and I called our meeting “Spa Pedicures and Scoundrel Protagonists”)

Try to find themed appetizers or drinks at these places to tie-in with the story or the author. And if you go with a nail salon, companies like OPI has really cute polish with bookish names to them.

If you are looking to join already established groups, is a great resource.

You can also look into popular reading series, like Lady Jane’s Salon in Manhattan (or any of their satellites around the U.S.).

There are a ton of book club resources out there from traditional and non-traditional sources. And if Romance or Erotica appeals to you, the level of generosity and support within Romance Community is astounding.

Which of these ideas do you think might work for you or your own group? Try everything and have fun book clubbing!

I’m just one librarian, among many, who is here to help. So, tap into as many of us out there who can help. Continue your dialog with your librarian. And I can’t wait to discussing more with you in the very near future.

Frannie Strober Cassano first stumbled into the romance section of her local drugstore as a teen, and then found herself back there during the Fifty Shades of Grey “phenomenon”. You can find her discussing book boyfriends, tropes, and Happily Ever Afters over at her Reference Desk or on Twitter.