The Douglas Library, Canaan, CT
As a member of two book clubs, Norma DeMay --- a librarian at the Douglas Library in Canaan, CT --- takes great pleasure in being able to share her adoration of books with like-minded people. In this interview, Norma talks about the benefits of sharing such a passion with others, and describes just how much fun they have during their discussions. She also outlines the advantages of congregating at a library instead of in members' homes and provides examples of how to add variety to the meetings.
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: We meet once a month, and read all sorts of genres, fiction and nonfiction. We have been going for about 3-4 years nonstop.
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: Our group is primarily made up of women and numbers about 10-15 regulars. Our youngest members are in their twenties and our oldest member is 80.
Q: Who leads the book discussions? Are reading group discussion guides used?
A: The librarian (me) usually leads the discussion or at least gets it off the ground; I use guides when they are available or try to find information on the Internet.
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 try to pick a few months in advance; that way we can secure copies from other libraries through interlibrary loans. I try to get members to suggest titles, not just myself.
Q: What were some of the best discussions or favorite books the groups have read?
A: We seem to always have lively discussions and lots of enthusiasm. Our best discussions have been on some of the classics such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, many of the Steinbeck novels we have read (Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday), The Kite Runner, Bel Canto, Crow Lake, Year of Wonders, The House on Beartown Road.
Q: How are book club meetings kept interesting and fun?
A: We have a very lively and enthusiastic group of women who love to read and are willing to try new things. A lot of laughing goes on. Also, we often watch films of some of the books (Girl with a Pearl Earring, A Month in the Country, Everything is Illuminated, The Great Gatsby, Empire Falls, etc., to name a few). The library is fortunate in that we were given a big screen TV.
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: I have been in several book groups, and I find that when we meet at the library, we are more apt to stay on topic rather than digress to other topics of conversation. That doesn't mean we DON'T digress, but we are able to get back on track. Also, we can pull various books off the shelves when we start recommending books or planning what to read next. I think a lot of library patrons see us having so much fun that they want to join!
Q: What general advice would you give to book club members? Any specific ideas for making reading selections?
A: Members have to be book lovers and especially open-minded. You can't just stick to one genre and refuse to try anything else. There are so many good books out there! Also, you should be committed to your group and do your best to at least read part of the book if you're unable to finish.
Q: How can book clubs better utilize resources at their local libraries?
A: Librarians have access to so many resources such as online book club guides, recommendations, reviews, availability, etc. Also, the interlibrary loan is invaluable in procuring books for members.
Q: Does your library offer anything special for book clubs?
A: Besides a good time, we offer the chance to get together and meet new people with similar enthusiasms. Our meetings always run over.
Q: Do you have any horror stories, amusing anecdotes, or other tales to tell that you have heard from book clubs?
A: Not really, although we have one 80-year-old member who always has us in stitches with her amusing anecdotes from real life.
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 belong to another book club where we each provide part of the meal and serve wine. These women have become invaluable friends and our meals and conversation are superb.
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: Being a member of two book clubs, one of which is the library book club, I enjoy all facets of it. I love sharing my passion for reading with others of the same, and I love to suggest book titles and have people eagerly write them down --- as I do myself. It's a great thing to share.