By August 27, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Using Book Discussions For Staff Development

Recently I was pleased to learn that the Villa Park (IL) Public Library, where I served as the administrator for over 20 years before retiring in 1999, held a Staff Development Day that featured book discussions.  The library has been offering book discussions for the public for many years and currently has three groups meeting every month — one of which focuses on mysteries.  The Staff Development Day program was, however, the first time staff members were involved as discussion participants.

The Head of the Readers Advisory Department, Candy Smith, came up with the idea and organized the event, which was only one part of the all-day development experience. (There were also segments on community recycling, water conservation, and chair yoga.)  Candy decided there were enough staff members to form four different groups.  She then encouraged the staff to help select the books to be used in the discussions by posting information about possible titles online and asking everyone to vote for their four favorites.  The books that were chosen were The Time Traveler’s Wife (Fiction) by Audrey Niffenegger; Nickel and Dimed (Nonfiction) by Barbara Ehrenreich; Greywalker (Young Adult) by Kat Richardson; and Things Not Seen (Science Fiction/Fantasy) by Andrew Clements.

The discussions were led by three members of the Readers’ Advisory Department (Candy, Jean Cooper and Marna Rundgren) and a Young Adult Librarian (Lee Rabi).  Each session ran for one hour, and the groups met simultaneously in various areas of the library.  This was possible because the library was closed for Staff Development Day.  Multiple copies of the books were obtained for the program utilizing interlibrary loan.

One of the main objectives of the program was to mix the library departments.  Thus, in the sign-up process, each group had a designated number of slots for each department (e.g., three slots for Circulation Department members, two for Adult Services members).  Surprisingly, since it was “first come, first served,” everyone got either their first or second choice of groups.

The staff seemed to enjoy the experience, Candy reports, and the discussions continued, even after the sessions were over.  Organizing the event was somewhat time consuming, according to Candy, but worth the effort because it was a great way for staff to mingle and learn more about book discussions, one of the library’s most prominently featured activities.

Looking for a new way to enliven and enrich your staff development event?  Why not try a book discussion (or several)?

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About the Author:

Ted Balcom lives in Arlington Heights, IL and conducts workshops on leading book discussions, about which he has also published a book: Book Discussions for Adults: A Leader’s Guide (American Library Association, 1992).

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