Rose Barracks Library in Vilseck, Germany
Karen Beck, who dubs herself the “book club lady,” facilitates four book discussion groups at the Rose Barracks Library, which is located on an American military base in Vilseck, Germany. In this interview, Karen discusses the uniqueness of the groups she works with and offers advice on how to be an effective book club facilitator.
Q: Does your library host any book clubs? If so, are they based on a certain theme or genre (ie, mystery)? How often do the groups meet?
A: Yes, we have four of them. They are:
- A “Mystery Firsts” book club (which reads a different first in a series each month)
- A spouses' book club
- A boys' book club (ages 8-12)
- A mother/daughter book club (ages 8-12)
They each meet once a month.
Q: How many members are in each group? How many men, how many women? What ages are most of the members? Are the groups open to accepting new members?
A: Each group has about 10-15 members, but this varies month to month.
Each group is almost exclusively women, except for the boys’ book cub. Members are ages 8 to 60, depending on the club.
We are always accepting new members!
Q: Who leads the book discussions? Are reading group discussion guides used?
A: I, the “book club lady” here at our post library, lead all of the discussions.
We use reading group discussion guides when I can find them.
Q: How are books selected? Is a new one chosen at each meeting, or are they chosen for a number of meetings ahead of time?
A: A group vote is taken from nominations of the members. We vote for selections for the entire year in August.
Q: What were some of the best discussions or favorite books the groups have read?
A: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley and The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo.
Q: How are book club meetings kept interesting and fun?
A: "Good books, good friends, good food!"
Q: What advice would you give to other libraries that would like to start hosting book clubs, or provide resources for ones in the community? What are the benefits to hosting book clubs at a library?
A: You must have someone running the clubs who is passionate (and knowledgeable) about books and reading.
Being outgoing and a big mouth have helped me, too.
Any time someone mentions a good book, we can go to the shelf and get it. The kids also enjoy being able to run and yell in the library (we meet after hours).
Q: What general advice would you give to book club members? Any specific ideas for making reading selections?
A: Keep reading and share your favorites with other bookaholics.
Be sure to pick ones that someone has already read... we voted for one for our boys that turned out to be totally inappropriate for boys with dads in Iraq.
Q: How can book clubs better utilize resources at their local libraries?
A: Meet there and tap into the wonderful resources --- books and library people.
Q: Does your library offer anything special for book clubs?
A: We get donations almost every day... I save some of them that I know my book club people would like and give them out free at the meetings.
Q: Do you have any horror stories, amusing anecdotes, or other tales to tell that you have heard from book clubs?
A: Not yet...
Q: Is there anything else unique or noteworthy about book clubs (either ones that meet in your library or ones that you know of) that you would like to share?
A: Some of the ladies have formed good friendships and do things together outside the library.
Q: Are you a member of a book club? If so, what do you enjoy most about the experience from a reader's perspective?
A: Yes, I am a member of all four of our book clubs. I enjoy hearing about good books from like-minded people.
Q: Does being in a book club enable you to better suggest both titles and discussion ideas to reading groups?
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