Our Town: Connecting Your Book Group to Your Community

In this cyber age, we often forget how much more centered we can feel if we develop a sense of place. When you ground your group in its local setting, then participants will develop that strong sense of community. What may have been mere meetings have a better chance of becoming life events. In that spirit, here are twenty ideas for connecting an upcoming book group to the community:

  1. Be aware of your local demographics. Read books that highlight the experiences of prominent ethnic groups in your area.
  2. Participate in a big read or one book, one community event.
  3. Read books with local or regional settings.
  4. Spend a month reading local history. Invite a local historian to participate as a guest speaker or collect oral histories from long-time residents.
  5. If there is a museum in your town, read works that connect to current exhibits.
  6. Read a book that will be featured in an upcoming talk or lecture and then attend the talk as a group.
  7. Invite local authors to your group and read from their works.
  8. Read plays that will be produced by area theater groups or the books that may have inspired those plays.
  9. Read biographies of people who have lived in your community.
  10. Give back to the community by participating as a group in a charity event or working once a year to stage a reading or a book sale.
  11. Hold your group at a local retirement home once a year and invite the residents to participate.
  12. Take your next meeting out on the town. Hold the group in a favorite local restaurant, an attractive public space, or a beautiful local park.
  13. Find a work connected to a local landmark and arrange to hold your meeting at or near the landmark.
  14. Invite a local bookseller to lead a discussion or give a book talk to your group. Reward them by buying your books from their shop that month.
  15. Make a regular habit of donating gently used copies of popular book group selections to your local library under the group’s name.
  16. Invite community leaders to participate in a meeting focused on a book that is somehow connected to an important local political issue or historic event.
  17. Invite a professor from a local university to lead a discussion.
  18. Spend a month reading to patients in a local hospital.
  19. Read portions of a group favorite aloud as a staged public event, then hold an open discussion of the work.
  20. Tour a local workplace, then read a book set in a similar workplace.

For more inspiration, take a look through your local newspaper or look at upcoming events on any well used bulletin board. With just a little creativity, you can add welcome variety to your group’s activities and create memorable meetings that make the book group a part of each reader’s home.

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

1 Comment on "Our Town: Connecting Your Book Group to Your Community"

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  1. djleenieman@yahoo.com' Dan Nieman says:

    The ideas for connecting with community really work. I have facilitated the same group for about eight years and I can attest to their effectiveness.

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