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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is 2017 a Comeback Year for the Book Discussion?

One of my passions and areas of expertise is in leading book discussions and training others to be better book discussion leaders. And as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am seeing a trend toward a resurgence in library’s facilitating book discussions. This is a huge change from the previous five years when all I saw was a decline-- decline in the number of people who went to the library for book discussions, decline in the number of staff willing to lead book discussions, and decline in support for hosting book discussions among library administrators. In fact, the biggest trend in those years was libraries halting their physical discussions in their buildings and moving more toward a role of assistant for their community’s book discussions which met outside the library.

However, one of the side effects of the difficult year that 2016 was is that people want to make more sense of the world we live in. They want to understand what is going on around them. And, they want to be part of the discussion to make things better. 

Working out the huge issues staring us all in the face right now is not an easy task. True conversation and discussion, which allows all voices to be heard is something that has been in short supply. Starting with the most volatile issues head on is not not productive; however, using books as a catalyst to begin connecting ideas to the real world is a wonderful starting point.

I saw this in action last year myself when I led a series of discussions on The Sympathizer with adult library workers all over Northern Illinois and Echo with a group of fifth grade students and 2 other adults.

These books tackle serious issues where people had strong feelings which did not always stand in agreement with others in the room, yet in all cases, these discussions were useful and enlightening. You can use the linked titles in the previous paragraph to read notes on those discussions if you are interested. Also as I mentioned here, those 2 books made it to my list of the best books I read in 2016 because of the experiences I had discussing them.

The other reason I think 2017 is a comeback year for the book discussion is because I am seeing it in the programs I am being asked to lead. Along with my coordination of the ARRT Book Club Study [which begins its 2017 four discussion schedule today at 2pm. All the details here.], I have 6 more book discussions confirmed in the first 6 months of the year. That’s at least 8 with a few more in the works.

People are hungry to improve their discussions and, more importantly, their discussion facilitation skills because these skills are imperative right now. Time will tell, but I am hopeful that this trend toward a renewed interest in book discussions, will help to move libraries back to the forefront of the larger discussions that will be going on in our communities.

The book discussions is a place where opinions and counter opinions can be shared respectfully. It is a place where people can be heard. As library workers we need to give people a place to be heard and listen to their neighbors.

So in 2017, I will be here offering training, advice , tools, resources, and examples to encourage you to be a discussion facilitator.

But today, right now, I am going to participate in a discussion on Snow, Boy, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and facilitate the leadership discussion on how to better manage the group dynamic in our book discussions. The notes will be up next week for all to learn from.

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