Thursday, June 19, 2014

Five Tips to Starting Your Own Online Book Club

Five Tips to Starting Your Own Online Book Club
by APRYL FLYNN GILLISS

1. Do your research. Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library’s Amy Calhoun advises those who want to start an online book club to research what other library groups and popular non-library groups are already doing online and implement the features that generate the most interaction.

“Offering an online option allows us to cater to people who prefer the convenience of participating from home without a set schedule or who simply feel more comfortable interacting online than face to face,” she says.

2. Add an online component to an existing book club. Consider existing structures, groups, and opportunities in which you might add an online component, suggests Lauren Lampasone, a digital producer for New York Public Library.

“If you have a solid community on Facebook that is interested, use that rather than Google+ (or vice versa),” she says. “If you have patrons who complain about not being able to attend your usual discussions, ask what kind of online platform would work for them.”

3. Keep it fresh. “Posting takes only a few minutes but needs to happen often,” says Jennifer Fay, library manager at Salt Lake County (Utah) Library Services’ Kearns branch. “Get as many staff members on board as possible to keep it fresh.”

“When students post a comment, I respond to them, and I invite further discussion,” says Melanie Gibson of Bishop Dunne Catholic School in Dallas. “In my posts, I try to include something to grab their interest or provoke a comment.”

4. Decide how to handle unsavory and unrelated comments. Fay suggests posting rules, such as: “Everyone is welcome to post anything, but we reserve the right to delete,” and “Any posts marketing to our members will be deleted.”

“While I rarely need to delete posts, it’s important for someone to read all the comments on a regular—preferably daily—basis, just in case,” Fay says. “We haven’t had anyone post vulgarity or attack people, but we occasionally get spammed by authors and others trying to sell something.”

5. Understand readers’ advisory—or pretend to. “A live format is both a joy and a challenge,” says Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library’s Pam DeFino. “When someone mentions a genre I’m not familiar with—paranormal romance, for instance—I’ll look up the topic so I can add to or continue the conversation, which is the moderator’s job. I spend a lot of time flipping back and forth between sites. The discussion can go in all directions. It’s a joy when the conversation is really hopping. It helps to read fast and have a good understanding of readers’ advisory—or be comfortable enough with faking it.”

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