Ten Reasons I Love Book Talking (And Maybe You Will, Too!)

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First, let me clarify. I love book discussion in all its varieties – one-on-one, online, group discussion about one title, panel discussion – you name it.  If it’s about books, I’m there!

My favorite format is book talking. I learned the term when I was a new librarian attending my first Oklahoma Library Association conference.  There was a session going on that seemed to be attracting a large audience.

I scanned the room and found an empty seat; it might have been the last one. I sat and waited for the speaker. When the session began and the introductions were done, I could see that there would be more than a dozen speakers.  I wondered how they would all fit themselves in during the one allotted hour.

Then it started.  Each speaker went to the center of the stage with one book (in this case, the books showcased were Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Award Nominees) and spoke about it. No, that is not quite accurate.  They sold it.

The audience around me was busy writing notes and I decided it was time to do the same. Each presenter spoke for a couple of minutes  –something about their passion for the book, for what made interesting, and just enough to draw us in and want to read it ourselves and recommend it to others. It drew us in and kept us there.

One after another, without a break in between, we heard from readers who loved books, but more importantly, loved the book he/she was holding.

I was almost out of breath when I left the session, after learning something else about what librarians do – what I would be doing for the next 25 years. I would be talking about books and telling our customers why they might like them – why the book I was holding might be their “next best book” or their favorite book of all time.

I still love to do that (even though I am retired) and I still love to listen to book talks. I especially look forward to the “Book Buzz” presentations done at the Pioneer Library System branches by the Penguin Random House representatives, when they book talk the latest and upcoming books for the season. (It doesn’t hurt that they give away advanced readers copies and book bags, or that the librarians and the Friends of the Library prepare delicious food for us.)

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What I love best, though, is “Ravenous Readers”, a group of about 20 members who meet each month at the McLoud Library to talk about the books we’ve read. It’s always fast and furious around the table because several of us bring more than one to share.

The book talks are as individual as the members who present them and each member has his/her own style of presentation. Some read passages, some talk about the author, and some tell us about their own emotional response to the book.

Someday, someone will probably put their book talk to music, as I did once during my librarian days. We also share or lend our own personal books and share items such as bookmarks and pens provided by indie book stores we visit. Again, the wonderful pot luck dinner we enjoy is “icing on the cake” (pun intended).

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What I am suggesting is that you consider the “book talk” format if you’re planning to join or begin a book group.  Here are some reasons you might enjoy book talking as much as I do:

  1. Book talk groups put very little pressure on the members. Each can choose his/her own title(s) to read and share.
  2. It isn’t necessary to gather multiple copies of one single title for discussion. (Pioneer Library System makes book discussion kits with multiple copies of the same title available to book groups, but not every library can provide this service.)
  3. Book talking doesn’t require a moderator or that discussion questions be prepared.
  4. Each meeting provides several recommended titles for each member’s “to read” list.
  5. Members can often trade books on the spot if a title sounds interesting to another member.
  6. There is a lot of flexibility for groups as far as desired number of members, locations (homes, restaurants, the library, community meeting rooms), etc.
  7. Refreshments can range from pot luck or restaurant fare, from desserts and coffee to wine and cheese, but food and drink enhances the experience!
  8. Book talking can be integrated into an existing group’s discussion format. A twice-a-year book talk session can result in multiple titles to consider for traditional book discussion sessions.
  9. Members can focus on subject areas for specific meetings. For example, Women’s History Month in March, or Christmas titles in December.
  10. Enthusiasm for book talk groups doesn’t seem to waver. Just ask the members of the Ravenous Readers – 20 years and going strong!

I hope to see you one day at a book talk group, or better yet, hear that you have begun one!

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Summer Fun at the Library

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Summer Reading Programs — Still Going Strong!

For many of my working years, summer was the busiest season, with preparations beginning months ahead.  As a librarian for the Pioneer Library System, I understood that the months when school wasn’t in session were a wonderful time to bring children into the library and nourish the “reading seed” that would be so important to their success in school and in life.

We knew and appreciated all of the hard work that school teachers did during the other nine months, but we also knew that some of what was gained in reading skills would be lost if the vacation months were spent without books and reading.

So it was our task to plan a summer reading program with activities that would draw children into the library and would result in the children checking books out to take home. We were supported by materials and planning assistance by the state department of libraries and and supplemented their resources with local and state financial contributions, sponsorships and volunteers.

Those plans often included driving to other locations where there were children who couldn’t get to libraries, such as very rural towns in our service area, or taking the programs to places where children congregate, such as swimming pools or community centers.

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And we succeeded! The libraries were overflowing with children during those months. (Some older and more sedate customers spread the word about the best times for their own library visits.) We challenged ourselves to entertain the children while we expanded their curiosity and helped develop their minds.

We met other challenges too, of the “if something can go wrong, it will” variety. (One of my most vivid memories includes several thousand “dormant” ladybugs waking up early and escaping the film containers that we had packed them in to give to the children.)

We also managed long lines of children with books to be checked out before and after the programs, plus the occasional child who needed to go to restroom during the activity.  It was always a team effort and everybody pitched in to make things go smoothly.

It’s still happening in libraries across the country and today, I would like to congratulate my fellow librarians who are in the middle of their summer reading programs. It will soon be over for another year, but you will have the opportunity to do it again next summer. (I know that you’ll need a little breather before you begin thinking about that!) Then when you are retired, as I am, you can look back and remember all that you did, all the fun you had doing it, and how important it was for the children of your community. Hooray for summer reading at the library and those who make it possible!