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September 27, 2019

Readers Share Their “Books in a Bag” Experiences

Posted by tom

A number of readers wrote to us about “Books in a Bag” programs at their local library after Carol Fitzgerald mentioned that a member of her Long Hill Book Group discovered this service, where a library supplies multiple copies of a book and discussion materials. So many good ideas came from you that we decided to turn your comments and feedback into a blog piece.


Cheryle: “While reading your latest newsletter, I read of the discovery of ‘Books in a Bag’ that the local library has. The Billings Public Library in Billings, Montana, has utilized these book kits for quite a few years, and it is very successful. Our Senior Outreach librarian uses them for book clubs in some of our senior citizen facilities, which is a tremendous outreach for our library. I attend one of the two library-sponsored book clubs. Not all of the titles that we have read are book club kits, but the majority are. Also, I have only been attending The Turning Page book club for about eight years, and they have read more through the years.

“I serve on the Board of Trustees for the library, as well as the board for our Friends of Billings Public Library and am passionate as to the services and programs we offer. Our library building is just five years old, replacing the old warehouse building that housed the library for many years. We have been awarded many prestigious awards and recognition. Feel free to look at the website maintained by our library. For a relatively small city (120,000 people), we offer many innovative and fun programs, along with a great collection of books.

“I love getting the book club newsletter, along with the weekly newsletter and the many other contests and services you provide on The Book Report Network. Keep up the excellent work you are doing keeping us readers informed and anticipating future reading.”

Deb: “I facilitate a book group at a Senior Center using 'book club kits' provided by the Mentor Public Library in Ohio. It is more convenient for the seniors to have me pick up the brief bag --- which contains multiple books, discussion questions, author info, reviews and any other relevant info --- sign the books out to the members, who have a month to read the book, and return it to me when the discussion is finished. If someone does not return their book at that time, they are responsible for paying the overdue fines on ALL the books in the kit --- a great motivator for returning them on time!”

Bobbie: “I am in a long-standing book club in Bellingham, Washington. For quite a few years now, we have been taking advantage of a program at the Bellingham Public Library that they call Book Kits. This is a service they have for book clubs, and they put sets of 10 books into a plastic box (with a handle!). They allow you to check them out for six weeks, which is wonderful. One person can pick them up and distribute them at our book club meeting. Since we meet once a month, everyone then has one month to read the book before the meeting where we discuss that particular book. Additionally, the library includes a list of discussion questions for the book.

“The catalog of the book kits they have is all online, so it is easy to see what they have. You can reserve a book kit months in advance of when you want it. Traditionally we set up our reading list in the fall and reserve all of our kits for the year at that time. The library has been wonderful about responding to requests to add certain books, and they have a good selection.

“One year, my book club was lucky enough to win a year of books from Book Club Girl. They sent us nine copies of a different book every month for a year! (We have nine book club members.) Since most of us have more books than we know what to do with, we initially ‘rented’ the books to other book clubs and then donated the ‘rental fees’ to our local literacy council. After that became too much of a storage and schlepping problem for me, we donated the books to the library for their book kits. The librarian we worked with was more than happy to purchase one more book to make a set of 10 and then add them to their book kit selections.

“Thank you so much for producing such a wonderful newsletter. I have read some wonderful books because of your suggestions. I also have ended up doing lots of Skype calls with authors, which has always added new life and energy to our book club meetings.”

Carol: “I love reading your messages and liked hearing that there are others making up ‘Books in a Bag’ kits as they do at the Hunterdon County Library. They get the books from donations and their yearly book sale. Recently a member of our Califon Area Readers book group was honored at a surprise birthday party given by her daughters. Members of our group started a gift idea that invited guests to give money for a gift for the celebrant, and buy copies of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING and give them to the county library to make up a book kit. This was a better use of gift money, and the recipient loved the idea. Thanks again for your messages and suggestions. They are terrific.”

Susan: “We had the largest collection of reading group collections in the State of Vermont, beginning with the multiple copies given to selected libraries by Oprah during her initial book club years. We also have many bags in the county library system where I now live in Myrtle Beach. The problem is timing with when you plan to read the book unless you pick an older selection that is no longer popular. If another group is waiting for the kit, it sometimes has to be returned before the book club meets. One of the library book clubs solves this by selecting only an available kit at each meeting.”