Build a Better Book Club

How to Create an Innovative, Self-Sustaining Book Club, from Start to Finish

Three-week online course from Library Journal & School Library Journal
Live Interactive Sessions on Thursdays at 2PM ET: October 25 and November 8

Also Available On Demand!
Can’t make a live session? All sessions will be available to you ‘on demand’ following the initial broadcast.

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Libraries are a natural place for book clubs, and librarians have been facilitating book clubs for years. But not all librarians report success with the book clubs they’ve hosted, and the very idea of the book club keeps evolving, often raising more questions than answers about the best way to proceed. So how can you keep your approach fresh, exciting, and most important—successful—in a saturated landscape? Over three weeks, you’ll learn from the experts how to build a better book club, from inception through execution, including how to design the most effective survey, how to facilitate the most productive and enjoyable group dynamic, and how to measure success.

During this course, you’ll come away with answers to your most pressing questions, including:

  • What the best program for you library is: librarian-led, community generated; homegrown or tapped-into, such as PBS’s Great American Read
  • How to find out what kind of programming the community wants and what kinds of books patrons want to read
  • The best way to get patron’s involved and invested for the long haul
  • What materials work best for book discussion, and what accompanying texts are most interesting and helpful
  • The best procedures for choosing a book and conducting a meeting
  • Novel ideas for how to promote your club
  • How to manage the group dynamics of your book club successfully
  • What new approaches beyond sit-and-discuss educators and librarians nationwide are finding successful
  • How book clubs can effectively utilize audiobooks or other multimedia formats
  • And what the payoff is, not just for immediate participants, but for the library and the community as a whole

We’ll explore these ideas and more!

As a participant in the course, you will view live sessions with expert speakers who have run successful book clubs at their libraries and schools and join the conversation via live chat. (All sessions are recorded for on-demand access.) Most important, you’ll work with a dedicated advisor in an online coaching environment to gather resources and best practices and connect with peers from across North America (and beyond). Assignments will include plans for assessing past or current book clubs, surveying community interest, designing a new book club, and promoting your club effectively.

Online Course Features

  • Instructor-led online courses feature personalized interaction over 3+ weeks
  • Real-time guest speakers and conversation via live webcast (with recordings available afterward)
  • Homework assignments to help you make progress on your goals
    Individualized attention from course facilitators who work with you in a coaching environment to help sort out challenges
  • Ongoing group conversation via discussion forums
  • Articles, videos and other resources
  • Access all course content for 6 months after the course ends
  • Bonus: Register early and get immediate access to archival video recordings from related courses

Group discounts are available!

Register in groups for a unique team-building experience and get everyone working together. Contact us to learn more.

Inspiring Live Guest Speakers + Project-Based Learning

Engage with presenters via live video stream, visual presentations, and chats, and workshop practical ideas in small groups, with guidance from an advisor, to map out your own plans for creating a book club at your library.

Learning Outcomes:

Through this interactive course, you’ll learn from experienced leaders how to develop and execute a successful book club at your library or school, including how to:

  • Assess what kind of book club will work best for your audience by tapping into what your community wants
  • Create a plan for for your book club, from survey development to marketing to measurements of success
  • Discover and use available resources to build out a dynamic program that incorporates available media and tie-ins to help support your efforts
  • Choose a unique, fresh approach to your book club
  • Manage group dynamics and facilitate, rather than lead, your book club discussions

In the online classroom, you will:

  • Work with a dedicated advisor to develop and refine your ideas, with one-on-one coaching and feedback
  • Connect with a group of like-minded professionals to workshop your plans

The course features live guest speakers in interactive sessions with Q&A. You’ll work in small groups with facilitators experienced in the maker movement to complete assignments and field research in your library that will fuel your maker program ideas.

Who should take this course?

Librarians and educators interested in overseeing or developing a book club for their library. The course content will be relevant to librarians in schools or public libraries who serve various age groups and demographics.

Course Speakers

Course Schedule

WEEK 1: Thursday, October 25, 2018

SESSION 1: Keynote: An Author’s Guide to Book Talks, Reading Groups, and More

2:00-2:30 PM ET

Join us for a riveting opening session with New York Times bestselling author of 20 books, Chris Bohjalian. Chris will share his insights on how to inspire great conversations about books, what makes an outstanding book talk, and how to create a club that appeals to many.


Chris Bohjalian, New York Times Bestselling Author

SESSION 2: Setting Your Book Club Up for Success: Questions, Possibilities, and Pitfalls

2:30-3:00 PM ET

In this foundational session, you’ll learn how to plan for a successful, sustainable book club. Hear from a longtime book club expert as she shares her deep knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, the questions you should consider as you set out, the diverse approaches you can take to your club, and pitfalls to watch out for along the way.


Jackie Parker, Lead Librarian, Readers’ Services, Sno-Isle Libraries (WA)


3:00-3:15 PM ET

SESSION 3: Designing a Survey to Get Your Book Club Off on the Right Foot

3:15-3:30 PM ET

Common sense might imply that a successful book club hinges on choosing the right kind of club for your community, but with so many options out there, how do you know what’s best? In this session, we’ll cover how you can find out what you audience wants, what their needs are, and what approaches you might want to try out through crafting a good survey. We’ll discuss what topics to include, what to leave off, and how to interpret the results. This session will equip you with all the information you need to approach the art of writing a great book club survey.


Lindsay Hanson
Lindsay Hanson
, Data Analysis Librarian, Sno-Isle Libraries (WA)

SESSION 4: Choosing the Right Book: A Panel Discussion

3:30-4:00 PM ET

If it feels like a lot is riding on choosing the right book, you’d be correct! Learn how to choose the right book at the right time for the right group and get all the pieces aligned to ensure the success of your new book club. This discussion will feature two veteran book club facilitators who will share what works and what doesn’t when it comes to picking a book for your book club.


Brian Kenney, Director, White Plains Public Library (NY)
Jo Anne Willis, Branch Manager, Chicago Public Library

WEEK 2: Thursday, November 8, 2018

SESSION 1: Novel Approaches to Book Clubs: Lightning Rounds!

2:00-2:45 PM ET

In this information-packed, fast-paced series of sessions, you’ll learn about unique and original ideas for book club themes, including “The Short Attention Span Reading Club,” “The Read Aloud Book Club,” and “Intergeneration Book Groups.” Learn what goes into planning, marketing, and executing these innovative themed clubs at your library!


headshot_circle_0_placeholder Kathleen Longacre headshot_circle_0_placeholder
Cynthia Berk
, Short Attention Span Reading Club Founder, Patagonia Public Library (AZ)
Kathleen Longacre, Adult and Teen Services Librarian, Naperville Library (IL)
Holly Turner, Youth Services, Lucius Beebe Memorial Library (MA)


2:45-3:00 PM ET

SESSION 2: Managing Group Dynamics

3:00-3:30 PM ET

No matter the form your book club takes, group dynamics are key in running a successful group. Learn the top tips for managing your group, including establishing your role (facilitation vs hand-on participation), tips for driving involvement, and ideas for engaging all group members in the journey, from leaders to observers, and everything in between.


Headshot_Circle_MariannePaterniti headshot_circle_0_placeholder
Marianne Paterniti
, Book Group Team, Darien Library (CT)
Pat Sheary, Book Group Team, Darien Library (CT)

SESSION 3: Measuring Your Success

3:30-4:00 PM ET

When evaluating your book club, it’s important to assess both how the particular book club format works (single groups or community reads, homegrown or online, librarian-led ot patron-led), and what the book club does for the library and the community. In this session, you’ll hear all about how to approach measuring your success, from collecting feedback to analyzing it, and how to turn your findings around and launch and even better book club.


Ted Kavich, Program and Educational Services Manager, Fairfax County Library (VA)