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Sunday, October 18, 2015

OUTREACH: Lunchtime Book Club

Outreach Challenges

Let's face it. Outreach isn't always a walk in the park.  We're busy. Schools are busy. So how can we come together to make such a community partnership work?  I know I feel like I'm pulled in too many directions sometimes. It is often challenging connecting with the right person, be it school media specialist, administrators or that one teacher that makes a difference.

School outreach for me has been hit or miss.  I've been lucky to find a strong ally in the librarian at one of the local private schools.  She has previously worked in a public library setting and understands the importance of building these community partnerships AND that I'm available as a support system to her and the students without trying to create extra work for her.

Lunch Book Club -Year One

We've just entered the third year of monthly book club meetings.  It all started in the spring of 2013. We mulled over the idea of getting such a group started. She emailed all students and waited to see if we got any interested nibbles.  Turns out we did!  Ten high schoolers ranging from 9th-12th grade expressed interest.  Since it was late in the year, we started with 3 accessible and popular titles: Cinder, Seraphina and Divergent.  All were well received and luckily my library had access to enough book club copies.

Lunch Book Club -Year Two

After the obligatory summer hiatus, all teens returned for the second year.  Since this is a book club at a private Christian school, I do have to work with the school librarian to pick appropriate reading choices which won't be challenged by parents or administrators.  I make the distinction that we aren't censoring just being mindful.

You'll see below that we chose a wide range of titles. One original choice was Ashfall by Mike Mullin; however, we changed to Ender's Game after the librarian felt that the language, violence and sexuality present in Mullin's book wasn't appropriate four our group. Last school year we read: The Maze Runner, The Raven Boys, Ender's Game, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, A Christmas Carol, Feed, Code Name Verity, Midwinter Blood and The Book Thief. Attendance and interest remained consistent.

Lunch Book Club -Year Three

Now we're back for a new school year.  Apparently word has gotten out that we're the cool group to eat lunch with or the junior high students who haven't been able to participate are now old enough! Enrollment is up to 26 students!  That it amazing but such a large group comes with a new set of challenges--Namely that finding enough copies of each book title is difficult or next to impossible. Therefore, as facilitators, we've come up with the plan of themed months to a) provide enough books for the number of interested students b) expose students to more titles in the specified genre.

Our tentative schedule is as follows:

September: Open book discussion - choose your own to share - summer catch-up

October :  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis AND The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

November:  Steampunk theme - Clockwork Scarab, Girl in the Steel Corset, Leviathan, Friday Society, Etiquette & Espionage, Inventor’s Secret, Incarceron...

December: Dystopian theme - Legend, Starters, Gone, Matched, etc...

January Mythology theme Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan; Runemarks by Joanne Harris, and more.

February: Winter by Marissa Meyer (other adaptations of a twisted fairy tale--Splintered by A.G. Howard; anything by Alex Flynn, Jackson Pearce, Sarah Cross)

March: Bomb: the race to build--and steal--the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin OR another non-fiction of their choice--(Hidden Like Anne Frank)

April : Heist Society by Ali Carter; Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones, White Cat by Holly Black; Also Known As by Robin Benway

May:  a classic or twisted classic (Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, Dracula, Sense and Sensibility, etc. )

Another Lunchtime Approach

I have a co-worker at a different branch who has had great success with book clubs. Each month she visits 4 school and has 3 concurrent book discussions at each school.  How does this work?

  1. She works with the librarian at each school to advertise the initial meeting.
  2. At the first meeting, she shows the students a list of possible titles and lets them vote on which they'd like to read this year.
  3. She tallies the votes and then puzzles together a rotating schedule. No one group is ever reading the same book at the same time. One downside is that she has to make sure to have read all the multiple book titles. 

Money, Money, Money

Where do all these books come from? How do you buy extra copies on a limited budget?  Let's face it, all budgets are tight, especially teen services.  How do we swing having all these extra copies available? Since some titles are so popular and are crossover hits with adults, we often have extra system copies, especially through our contract with McNaughton. This is particularly helpful with popular new releases or those with spiked interest based on major film releases. 

A teen services predecessor in our system wrote a grant proposal to our local community foundation. When approved, this gave her funds to purchase the initial start up of titles. Before she left, the grant was extended and more titles and copies were purchased as well. We share these book club copies among three branches. A certain amount of damage and loss is expected. We replace or phase out copies/titles as needed.

The Wrap Up

My Advice - any way you decide to organize your own lunchtime book club and outreach, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start small - its perfectly okay if only a few students are interested at first. 
  • Find an ally in the school - be it school media specialist, administrator or a teacher who wants to help or at least be your voice at the school when you aren't there.
  • Set a plan for books in advance (make sure to pick titles you know you can feasibly get copies of for a set number of readers)
  • If you have more than one group, make sure to have a rotating schedule so that groups don't want to read books all at the same time. 
  • Bring a set of discussion questions to each meeting, but use them only to jump start the discussion - usually the participants will jump in and run things themselves.
  • Investigate grant options - if you can't afford to purchase additional copies, learn if a grant is the solution whether if be through a local organization or YALSA. Another suggestion would be to approach the Friends of the Library. 

Your Thoughts?

I'm really curious to see what you do or don't do for your own book clubs? Have you tried one at school? What works? What doesn't? What titles have you chosen? 

#YAlit #bookclub #outreach #library #teenservices #teen #school