Bridgeport Public Library
Dawn Webb of Saginaw, MI is a librarian at the Bridgeport Public Library. As a member of two book clubs, she has many stories and experiences to share with ReadingGroupGuides.com. In this interview, Dawn recalls feeding her group "hard tack" after they read a Civil War novel, and she expresses her excitement and enthusiasm over having a published author as a fellow member. She also credits the clubs with helping her form strong friendships and to become a more discerning reader.
Q: Does your library host any book clubs? If so, are they based on a certain theme or genre (i.e., mystery)? How often do the groups meet?
A: Since 1999, we've had a monthly meeting each 3rd Thursday of the month. We read a little bit of everything.
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: We have between 12-15 members depending on the season (living in Michigan, we have a few "snowbirds"). All the members are women between the ages of 45 to 81. It makes for wonderful discussions. We welcome everyone who's interested.
Q: Who leads the book discussions? Are reading group discussion guides used?
A: I usually keep things in line, but truthfully, this group of women doesn't need leading. We find the discussion guides helpful.
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: We choose the books one month in advance so that I can try to borrow enough copies for the entire group.
Q: What were some of the best discussions or favorite books the groups have read?
A: We have so many. Recently we read The Kite Runner and that was wonderful. We just finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Wow, what a powerful book. There are so many we've loved and hated through the six years we've been together. The list is long to put in here but I have it available if you want it :)
Q: How are book club meetings kept interesting and fun?
A: I always try to have the snack go along with the theme of the book. Sometimes it's quite a stretch, but the ladies get a kick out of it. Once after reading a novel of the Civil War, I looked up the recipe for "hard tack" and made it so the ladies could see what kind of rations the soldiers had to live on. We've also had several author chats via speakerphone, which were informative and interesting. We've read books and had the author speak to the group. This month we have a newly published author who is part of our group so we're having a public book signing for Reflections on Sage Lake by Joy Ricks Atkins. We're excited for her.
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: Don't try to read really intellectual books right away. Read something that has a topic that you can discuss. If everyone just loves the book, what is there to talk about? Jodi Picoult's books are always a good choice. She's enjoyable to read and her books always seem to have a moral dilemma.
The nice thing about having it at the library is that no one actually has to host the meeting. We have a nice community room with plenty of chairs. No one needs to cook or clean or worry about anything. They know it's always the 3rd Thursday of the month.
Q: What general advice would you give to book club members? Any specific ideas for making reading selections?
A: Try to read the book and have an open mind. Many times the books you think you don't like will seem better after you've listened to the discussion. Many of the ladies have told me that they never would have read a particular kind of book if it hadn't been for the group. It forces us out of our comfort zone.
Q: How can book clubs better utilize resources at their local libraries?
A: Ask about interloan capabilities, and the use of their meeting space.
Q: Does your library offer anything special for book clubs?
A: Just our monthly meetings. We've discussed offering "A Bookclub in a Bag," which is multiple copies of the same title, discussion guides, and hints on starting a book group. It's hasn't gotten off the ground yet.
Q: Do you have any horror stories, amusing anecdotes, or other tales to tell that you have heard from book clubs?
A: I know there are funny things that have happened but I'm drawing a blank right now. Not many horror stories.
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: I just think they are a wonderful way for women or men to get together and share ideas about all kinds of subjects.
Q: Are you a member of a book club? If so, what do you enjoy most about the experience from a reader's perspective? Does being in a book club enable you to better suggest both titles and discussion ideas to reading groups?
A: I'm a member of two reading groups. I coordinate the meeting at the library and I also belong to a group that meets once a month on Sundays. I read books differently now, even when I'm reading for fun. I think I'm a more discerning reader now. I'm not a "literature snob" LOL but I can tell good writing from bad. The friendships that I've made through both clubs are wonderful.
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