Book Group Got You Down? Here’s Help!

The December 15, 2015 issue of Booklist was our Spotlight on Book Discussions issue, and we were fortunate to have Becky Spratford contribute her thoughts in “Support Groups for Book Discussion Leaders.” She candidly expresses the need to address burnout and book group fatigue, while offering solid tips on how to get your book-club-leader mojo back.


A librarian walks into a bar, sits down, and puts her head in her hands. The bartender strolls over and asks, “Tough day at work? Your relationship headed south?” “Both!” answers the librarian. “Book club did not go well today; it did not go well at all . . .”

Time to admit it—even if you have never headed right from book club to a bar, there have been days when it’s been tempting. Everyone hated the book and did nothing but complain about having to read it for two hours straight. Maybe one person hijacked the discussion and turned it into a diatribe about her political beliefs. Or, even worse, a heated argument broke out, you lost control, and participants started screaming at each other . . . over a book!

At their best, book discussion groups are the epitome of why we became librarians in the first place. We get paid to read a book and talk about it with fellow book lovers. Sounds perfect, but then reality sets in. Book clubs are actually a complicated dance, where we have to balance the content of the book, the act of leading and planning a discussion, and the realities of an ever-changing group dynamic of patrons dragging their own personal baggage to the discussion. And we generally do all of this alone, without the benefit of another coworker in the room to help us manage it all.

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About the Author:

Rebecca Vnuk is the editor for Collection Management and Library Outreach at Booklist. She is also the author of 3 reader’s-advisory nonfiction books: Read On…Women’s Fiction (2009), Women’s Fiction: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (2014), and Women’s Fiction Authors: A Research Guide (2009). Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_RVnuk.

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