Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So You Want To Start A Book Club, Part 3 - That First Meeting

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group

Let's say that you've amassed enough people to start a group and now it is time to get things started!

Now, you can just say that you are the leader and decide exactly how the group is going to work.  I know of clubs that work that way, but I would strongly, strongly recommend that you start with an "organizational" meeting with members to iron out the details of how your club will work.

Unless you know everyone in the group, I would recommend that you hold this meeting at some sort of public place.  You know, it is a safety thing.

Below are a list of items you'll want to discuss at this meeting.  Every group works differently, so I'll include my suggestions for what has worked well (or not) in groups I've belonged to in the past.  Again, these are just suggestions to get you thinking.

How Often and When Will You Meet?
This is actually a two-part deal.  Not only do you want to decide how often to meet, but when.  Most, but not all, clubs meet monthly and some decide to take summers off (one of my club meets every month of the year and one only during the school year).  My tips:

  • I would decide, not on a specific date, but rather the same time of each month, quarter, etc.  For example, the second Wednesday.  However, you will need to be flexible if you start running into holidays and such.
  • Also, try to keep your meeting time the same for each meeting.  Trust me, this will cut down on A LOT of confusion.  This is also where you are going to want input from your other members to find the best time.
Where Will You Meet?
There is really no right answer here as it really depends on the group.  Some groups like to meet at each other's houses and maybe incorporate a potluck, others like to meet in public places.  I think a good place to start is to look at the geography of the members of your group.  If you all live relatively close, maybe meeting at someone's house will work better.  However, if you are more spread out, you might want to pick a central location or locations, such as a coffee shop or a library, that is approximately equidistant for everyone.  

You may also want to keep factors such as kids and pets (and allergies) in mind.  If you have a cat and you have members who allergic to cats, maybe meeting at someone's home is not a good idea.

What Types of Books Will You Read?
This one is pretty obvious, but it is pretty good to get this out in the open.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but there are right and wrong ways to handle it. It is best to decide up front what the club will be reading, but don't get too detailed so that you can't be flexible.  Here are some other things to consider:
  • Do you want to try to stick to shorter (say, less than 400 pages) books?  
  • Do you want to stick to books that are in paperback?
  • Will you include young adult and/or children's literature?
  • What about fiction and/or nonfiction?
When Will Decide on What Books to Read?
This is one of those topics that a lot of book clubs don't deal with up front and then have to "clean up the mess" later.  Some groups decide each month what they will read next month while others will decide once a year what they will read.  Personally, I hate choosing the books each month.  This can cause problems when you don't have time to read the books or, if people gets books from the library (because many people do!), they can't get the books in time.  Both of my groups have one meeting each year where we don't discuss a book, but rather decide on the books for the coming year and that works very well.  I've also been in groups where we've done it on a quarterly basis, which also works.

How Will You Decide on What Books to Read?
This is an essential, but essentially easy, issue to figure out.  Do you vote on books or does each member choose a book for a month and then lead the discussion that month?  Again, the only big thing about this is that you decide, as a group, up front how to deal with it.

How Will You Administer the Group?
With smaller groups, just emailing each other may work.  However, I think using some kind of group or scheduling tool really, really makes things easier.  
  • If you set up your group through Meetup, you already have those tools at your disposal as part of your membership.
  • Facebook Groups work well, although they don't have a very good calendar tool.
  • I think that some groups have worked through GoodReads, although I have no experience with that.
  • One of my book groups uses BookMovement, which is free and really gives us exactly what we need.
Who Will Lead the Group?
So, if you started this...guess what!  You are most likely the leader!  The good news is that book groups don't really need that much leadership.  However, I would recommend that you have a helper or vice-reader to help with things.  

If you take the time to work through these issues at the genesis of your group, you will definitely have smoother seas to sail!

Tomorrow, I'll give you some book suggestions to kick off your group!

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