By October 24, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Questions: One Book, One City

I have never planned or coordinated a “One Book, One City” discussion program, although I have participated in such an event as a discussion leader.  Now that these programs have been around for a while, I’m wondering if any research and reporting have been done in regard to the experiences of participants — both leaders and readers.  Do the planners typically ask for feedback from those who come to discuss the book, and what happens to this information after it’s been gathered?  Is the data ever shared with others who are interested in mounting similar events?

Here are some of the questions that have been buzzing around in my head.

1) Why do people decide to sign up for these discussions — as opposed to other programs that are not designed to involve participants city-wide? 

2) If the program is offered annually, what percentage of participants return for another go-round?  Is there evidence to show why they decide to come back?

3) Do the participants ever share why they choose one venue over another — library setting over church hall, book store over coffee house, etc., — or is it just a consequence of where they are when they decide to sign up?  Is the setting for the discussion important in the minds of the participants — and does it in any way affect the quality of the discussion?

4) How much planning and effort goes into training the discussion leaders — is everyone given the same set of questions and background material, and are they encouraged to add their own questions, or shape the ones that are given to them?  Is there an attempt made to try to insure that all the discussions follow the same format — or are the leaders given considerable latitude to form the programs according to their own preferences?

5) What goes into choosing a book that will be offered to an entire community for reading, reflection and discussion?  Is there a set of characteristics developed at the outset to help determine which titles will possibly fill the bill, while others will be quickly ruled out?  When there are several books that could be chosen as “The One,” what qualities are pinpointed to establish the winner?

I’m sure there are other issues that bystanders like myself have been curious about.  I think it would be jolly good fun (and helpful, too) if some of our blog readers who have had experience with these programs could respond to this post with comments about what they’ve learned — and perhaps, add some questions of their own.

It’s clear that the “One Book, One City” concept is a success and will undoubtedly be utilized again and again in communities throughout our country.  Knowing more about the actual experience of providing these programs will only help to make them stronger and more effective when newcomers to the field decide to become involved. 



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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