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Friday, August 19, 2016

Where Becky Begins Her Quest to Create Book Discussion Leader Networking/Support Groups One Region At A Time

I am asked to help lead book discussions all the time; seriously, like once a week. Although leading book discussions is one of my most favorite professional activities, the nature of my work as a library consultant means I cannot commit to a regular, monthly book club.

Never one to simply say no and walk away though, I have come up with a solution--training as many leaders as possible.

You have probably already looked at the work I have done with ARRT revamping our long standing Quarterly Literary Book Discussion program to include a conscious leadership training component, but just in case:
We give library book discussion leaders the chance to sit back and enjoy being discussion participants while also offering a forum for sharing questions and practical solutions to the problems and concerns of book group leaders. This “nuts and bolts” training session is offered at the end of each discussion.
You can go to the website and see what we are up to, including full access to our notes from past discussions and information about our final discussion of 2016 in a few weeks.

Besides training leaders, the ARRT program has had another useful outcome-- it has provided a networking opportunity for book discussion leaders in our area to support each other. You can read more about that in this article I wrote in Booklist's Spotlight on Book Clubs Issues from December 2015.

It is this outcome, the support group result of leading book discussion training, that has me excited these days, but the ARRT meetings are only in Chicagoland and for members only. In order to help create more localized networking groups, in more far flung locales, I turned to our library system for all of Northern IL, RAILS to help. Together, myself and a RAILS representative, will be appearing in three areas in Northern Illinois a bit further away from the city next month. Here are the details with signup information:
RAILS will offer three identical “Book Discussion Leadership Training” workshops with Becky Spratford in September at the Galena Public Library (September 13), Peotone Public Library (September 15) and DeKalb Public Library (September 20). 
In this workshop, Becky Spratford will offer a shortened version of her "Recharge Your Book Club" training and then Becky will lead a discussion of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Please arrange a copy of the book for your own use. There will also be time to address questions and concerns about your book clubs. 
Please click the links below for more information and to register.
Galena Public Library District
Tuesday, September 13, 2016 (9:00 AM - 12:00 PM)
Peotone Public Library District
Thursday, September 15, 2016 (9:30 AM - 12:30 PM)
DeKalb Public Library
Tuesday, September 20, 2016 (9:30 AM - 12:30 PM)

I love being able to do the recharge training AND then have a book discussion all together. We can discuss things in theory and then watch them unfold in practice.  It is always hilarious how some of the “problem patron” issues we just discussed as a group then pop up in the discussion itself.  It is very instructive for the book discussion leaders to see that even they aren’t immune to getting a little carried away in the heat of the discussion.

But most importantly, I believe in what I am doing here. Leading a book discussion group is both rewarding and challenging. Often the work is done by only 1 or 2 people at a specific library meaning sometimes you feel like you are doing it in a vacuum. We need to rely on each other. We need our colleagues to bounce ideas and problems off of. And sometimes, we just need to be a participant in a book club ourselves, to see things from the other side and rekindle our love for the activity.

A representative from RAILS will be there to help keep the networking going after I leave. This is their strength, helping all of our libraries work together to serve all of our residents better. I will bring you together and inspire you, but it is RAILS who will gather your names and contact info and encourage you to keep meeting without me there.

So, I begin closer to home, but in the coming months I already have plans to replicate this program in Indiana and Kansas. Slowly but surely, I will make my way across the country, helping book club leaders everywhere to connect and work together.

If you work near one of the libraries above, click on the link to register. There is still plenty of time to read the book. And if you live somewhere else, contact me and let's see what I can do to help the library workers in your area recharge their book groups.

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