The Book Doctor is In

All of us who contribute to this blog have heard war stories about book groups with problem members, bad reading selections, and loosey-goosey discussions. When we get together to commiserate we sometimes compare our experiences to those of therapists. Or bartenders.

Since the RUSA CODES Readers’ Advisory Committee didn’t have a liquor license, they dubbed their 2008 ALA Annual Conference program “Book Group Therapy: How to Repair, Revamp, and Revitalize Your Book Group” which packed them in just as surely if they’d announced a librarian’s happy hour special.

In the most recent issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly, outgoing chair of the committee, Megan McArdle, summarizes some of the most frequently heard problems from book group members and facilitators. This information was gathered in a survey early last year and the results support what many of us have suspected.

Book group members want to discuss the book. They want some ground rules so a couple of chatty members aren’t taking over each discussion. Book groups appreciate how loyal some of their current members are but would like fresh readers to join them and offer new insights. And better books. Readers want books that challenge their intellect but don’t make them demand Prozac on the way out of the discussion.

McArdle offers suggestions for solving all of the issues above and points readers to the full results of the book group survey at She also presents a list of 20 books that have worked well in discussions. These are not necessarily books everyone will love, but they are books that will have everyone forming an opinion.

Look for all the details in the Winter 2009 issue of Reference and User Services Quarterly, volume 49, number 2, page 122. Unless a coworker has buried it on his or her desk. Then you’ll have to wait until it’s uploaded to the RUSQ website.



About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

1 Comment on "The Book Doctor is In"

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  1.' rebecca says:

    This was a GREAT article. Not only was it really interesting and informative, but it was a nice change from some of the really academic articles in RUSQ. I’d love to see them continue to include some more informal, practical articles.

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