Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Club Experience

Circle of Readers Book Discussion
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

Who is asking the questions, is there a leader or do people take turns?
A retired reference librarian is the leader of the book club. She selects the books several months in advance and runs the meeting. At the beginning of the book club, she will read about the author to give some type of background to the story. She then asks questions from a sheet that she hands out before the session. 

If there is a leader, does the leader answer the questions as well or let the attendees respond first?

The reference librarian lets the attendees try to answer the questions first. She will then chip into the conversation with her own remarks. She is very responsive to all of their comments and really seems like she is listening to what is said instead of trying to move on or speak. 

What type of questions are asked? Any involving just yes or no answers?
The books come from a book kit that is put together for the library. The book kit includes a list of questions to consider when doing the book club that are pulled from the author's site. The librarian simply goes down this list of questions. They are very thoughtful questions that require intellectual answers, for example, "do you think words construct meaning differently than visual images do, whether drawn or photographed?" There was a lot of back and forth discussion on this question alone. None of the questions involve just yes or no answers; they all require a discussion. If there is a question that can be answered yes or no, then there is a secondary question involved, such as "Is Lucine's mother, Mairig, a bad or negligent mother? Why or why not?"

Do all attendees actively participate?
There were ten attendees at the book club and all of them participated throughout the discussion. Not only that, but they were very quick to participate. Everyone seemed to have something to say. There were only two men in the group and while they were quiet at first, they definitely opened up and started sharing the opinion. Overall, all of the attendees were very knowledgeable and worldly. 

Do any attendees swoop in and steal all the spotlight?
I did not witness any attendees trying to steal the spotlight. Everyone was very respectful of people's turns and opinions. This surprised me because there were very touchy subjects brought up such as politics and religion. I can say that there were two or three that were clearly regulars and liked to be the first to answer.  

What is the atmosphere of the discussion, where is it taking place at?
The atmosphere was open and welcoming. When I walked in, they immediately started telling me that I should come to more of their discussions and gave me the book for the next one. The discussion is held in the large meeting room of the Merrillville Branch of the Lake County Public Library. It's a big space to fill, but they still make it feel intimate. 

Are snacks or drinks provided?
Yep! They had plenty of snacks for people. There was coffee, tea, and water for beverages. The leader brought in St. Patrick's Day themed cookies and a cheese/cracker/bagel spread to eat. Many attendees grabbed a little plate when they came in and others even showed up early to snack. 

What types of books does this book club normally discuss?
This group focuses a lot on literary fiction. They also like to throw in non-fiction titles. Next month, they are reading The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Last month, they read Deep Down Dark. At the end of each meeting, the librarian likes to go around and have everyone rate the current book from 1-10. She keeps track of the ratings and at the end of the year, totals them up and declares the best and worst books of the year. 


  1. Hi Melissa,

    I’ve always been curious about Book Kits. There were always a ton lying around and often requested by patrons last summer during my Reference Services Internship, however, I unfortunately never peeked inside of one or was able to observe a discussion utilizing one. It’s interesting to discover the book kits contain such thought-provoking questions that really make a book discussions’ members think. I just read and replied to Avery’s book club experience as well and wow! Another nice spread of food too! I’m envious! Granted, the book club I observed was a walking or Roaming Readers group, so food was acceptable, but not provided, nor encouraged as everyone walked. What a nice way for the retired reference librarian to stay involved in the library and the community. Plus, it sounds like she greatly enjoys serving as the facilitator and hearing what everyone has to say each week about the given book; which is a crucial aspect to being a good facilitator. I like her method of adding up the ratings as a way to see the most liked and disliked books at the end of each year. It sounds like you’ve found a really enjoyable book club. Do you think you’ll return again in the future?

  2. It sounds like you had a wonderful experience! I love the idea of rating the books and then at the end tallying the best and worst books of the year! That adds such a fun element to it.

  3. Fantastic observations and write up! I'm glad you had such a pleasant experience!