Category Archives: Book Clubs

Teen Book Clubs in Your Library

Are you looking to start a book club for teens at your library? A teen book club can be challenging in the beginning but will be rewarding once it is started. New teen programs may need to wait until there is an established group of teens that regularly attend programs or a Teen Advisory Group before they start a book club. This ensures that there will be active, regular participation.

Here are some resources to help you get started creating a book club for teens:

 Types of Book Clubs:

Traditional Book Club

In traditional book clubs, participants all read the same book and discuss it at the next meeting. This type of book club works well in larger systems where programs either have the funding to purchase books for members or an ILL system capacity to lend the materials out to every participant.

One of the challenges of a traditional book club is finding books that most of your readers will enjoy. Especially at the beginning, it’s important to talk to your readers about what genres and types of books they want. Consider crafting a ballot with 6 options and having everyone vote for their top three. Select the next 3 months’ books based on the tallied votes.

When choosing books, remember that some books are easier to discuss in a group than others. To encourage a more productive discussion, consider choosing character-driven novels with unique plot elements. Let students lead the discussion by focusing on what elements they think are interesting and relevant to their lives.

It’s also important to remember that teens are coming to this club willingly, and you are not assigning these books as homework. Let the teens know that it’s OK to not finish the book or to not like a book, but that you still want them to come to the book club to share those opinions.

To spice up this book club, consider adding book-related activities or snacks. These are great ice-breakers for both quieter students and new members, and it will help everyone feel included.

Genre Book Club

A genre book club has participants read different books but all of the books are from the same genre. The book club may have a different genre every month (fantasy, nonfiction, graphic novel, mystery, etc.) or maintain the same genre for the duration of the club (a mystery lover’s book club or science fiction book club, for example). Then, during the meeting, each member talks about the book that they read/are currently reading.

This book club format allows teens to read at their own pace and reading level and still be able to discuss books with their peers. As each member takes a turn talking about their book (often either recommending it to others or telling them to steer clear), they should try to avoid spoiling major plot-twists. This is a great way for peers to encourage each other to read new books rather than having an adult tell them what to read.

During the meeting, the club leader can try to direct the discussion towards common themes and elements within the certain genre as well as flaws with the genre, what is noticeably absent or taken for granted? This encourages the students to think deeper about the genres and the books they have chosen

Book Lovers Club

Come one, come all to a book lovers club. All participants are welcome to come to this book club. This simple club is more of a gathering for book enthusiasts to talk about what they’re currently reading and share recommendations. This is an easy gathering for teens to hang out and have a snack or to just attend and listen about all of the fun, wacky, or wild books their peers are reading. Discussions tend to be less structured in this type of book club, but if your goal is to keep teens reading and engaged, this may be the perfect place to start.


Tips and Tricks:

  • Make sure participants know that it’s OK to not like or finish a book; encourage them to come to book club anyways to share their opinions.
  • Combine forces with public librarians, local book store owners, and Library Media Specialists at the middle and high school levels to find interested individuals or different places to host the book club.
  • Remember that not all of your books need to be brand new. These are often expensive or have long waiting lists at the library. Choose books that are a few years older so that if you purchase them, they are more than likely available in paperback and if you request or ILL them, they probably won’t have a waiting list.
  • Give your participants buy-in by letting them vote for future titles or submit requests.
  • Supply snacks or other incentives


Book Club Questions to Get Teens Talking:

  1. What did you like best/least about this book?
  2. What characters did you like/dislike the most?
  3. Would you read another book by this author?
  4. Did you think the book was too long or short? What important elements were missing? What parts would you have cut out?
  5. What do you think of the book’s title and cover? Do they do a good job conveying what the book is about or were they misleading?
  6. Is this book or storyline unique?
  7. Did the characters and world seem believable or realistic?
  8. How did you feel about the ending? Did it wrap everything up or leave you hanging? Are you satisfied about the ending?
  9. Did the book make you think about anything differently?
  10. Would this book make a good movie? Why or why not?


YA and Juvenile Book Club Kits from NDSL through KitKeeper (as of 4-1-2018):

  • After Ever After; Jordan Sonnenblick
  • An Abundance of Katherines; John Green
  • Dairy Queen; Catherine Gilbert Murdock
  • Don’t Tell Anyone; Peg Kehret
  • Fahrenheit 451; Ray Bradbury
  • Flygirl; Sherri L. Smith
  • Frankenstein; Mary Shelley
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Msr. Basil E. Frankweiler; E.L. Konisgsburg
  • Going Vintage; Lindsey Leavitt
  • Heist Society; Ally Carter
  • I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot by the Taliban; Malala Yousafzei
  • Maximum Ride #1: The Angel Experiment; James Patterson
  • My Name is Not Easy; Debby Dahl Edwardson
  • The Book Thief; Markus Zusak
  • The Complete Maus; Art Spiegelman
  • The Fault in Our Stars; John Green
  • The Giver; Lois Lowry
  • The Maze Runner; James Dashner
  • Thirteen Reasons Why; Jay Asher


Helpful Websites:

ALA Book Discussion Groups:

Book Riot:


Teel Librarian Toolbox:

Teen Services Underground:

YALSA: The Hub;

2016 ARSL Conference

arslOn October 26-29, I had the pleasure of attending the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) 2016 Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. This was my first national library conference, and what a conference it was! Each day was full of interesting speakers and great sessions.

Perhaps my favorite moment from the conference occurred during Will Weaver’s speech. Weaver is the author of Red Earth, White Earth, A Gravestone Made of Wheat and Other Stories, Saturday Night Dirt, and Striking Out. In his speech, Weaver talked about the importance of libraries and how they have influenced him over the years. He held up a book at one point, and confirmed with the crowd of librarians that it was indeed a library book. He admitted he has the tendency of accidentally stealing library books when he visits them for various engagements. As it turns out, a librarian from the library to which the book belonged was in attendance! As the audience roared with laughter, Weaver had the librarian come up to the front and he returned the book to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed each keynote speaker, and I don’t think there was one session I regretted attending. If anything, I regretted not being able to attend more sessions!

I attended two sessions on programming. One was on teen programs and the other was on how to utilize your community for library programs. The session on teen programs, presented by the librarians at the North Loan City Library in Utah, offered some great ideas: Nerf gun events, teens volunteering at the library to earn points, forming a teen advisory board, and creating an email list just for teens so they can stay up-to-date on what teen-related things are happening at the library.

The mining your community session, presented by the librarian of the Stanley Community Library in Idaho, was just as beneficial. Every community has its gems so utilize them! For example, if someone in your community knits as a hobby, ask this person if he/she would come to the library and host a program on kitting; or if someone is a toy collector, set up a display or have the person come in for a lecture on their history. Some of the great program topics from this session included knitting, adult coloring, lectures, writing classes, music, car maintenance, photography, and cooking.

Librarians are often seen as the people who know everything. As a result, we are likely to receive technology questions that we may not know the answer to, or perhaps the patron is not being receptive. One session on patron technology training tips addressed this. Some of the tips from this session included identify yourself as a technology trainer and do the best you can, create a plan, take deep breaths, narrate your process to the patron, focus on quality, create teachable moments, and implement a resource guide.

Another session, presented by California librarian/ trainer Crystal Schimpf, covered the basics of digital storytelling for libraries and how it can be used for advocacy. Technology is ubiquitous in today’s world so it makes sense for libraries to use it to promote themselves and reach patrons. Libraries can make videos that highlight a database, give a virtual tour, or provide a crash course on services. The sky is the limit! The session stressed that videos should be short but fun. When creating videos you will want to create goals, pick your video platform, write scripts, log your shots, and get the necessary equipment and software (which can be done at a relatively low cost). Once the videos are done, share them on social media and get them out there as much as you can.

One of the more entertaining sessions was presented by Harmony Higbie, director of the Underwood Public Library in Underwood, ND. The session was on Kahoot, a modern twist on trivia. Kahoot can be played for free on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Kahoot can be used in the library for trivia, book clubs, and more! For more information on Kahoot, visit their website:

In addition to the before mentioned sessions, I attended two sessions relating to digital preservation. If you would like more information on this area, review the services offered by the Internet Archive. You can also contact the State Library’s Digital Initiatives coordinator.

There were around 500 librarians from across the country at the ARSL conference, and I was lucky to meet some of them and hear their stories. One of the librarians I met was from beautiful St. George, Utah, which is where the ARSL conference will be in 2017. The librarian will be the co-chair for the 2017 conference, and he had some great things to say about the St. George area (he even showed me a picture of the view from his backyard to prove his point).

If you are interested in attending the ARSL conference, I would highly encourage you to do so. You can learn more about ARSL and the annual conference at their website:

If you have any questions or would like more information on the ideas and conference sessions I shared, feel free to contact me.

Alternative Book Clubs

booksBook clubs are popular library programs, and the North Dakota State Library offers a number of book club kits. However, if a typical book club hasn’t taken off in your library, or if you are looking to spice up or diversify your book club offerings, why not try a book club that’s a little different?

Here are some ideas that might work well at your library:

  • Cookbook Club – Book clubs often involve snacks anyway, so why not try making food the focus of your club? Emphasize your cookbook collection, learn new cooking skills, and have a selection of tasty treats at the end! Pick a theme or let members pursue their interests. A kitchen at the library is not required; everyone cooks at home and brings the end results to share. The Winnipeg Public Library has a successful cookbook club if you want to learn more about how they structure theirs.
  • Knitting Club – A knitting club gives patrons the opportunity to share patterns, progress, and projects. You may need to invest in some pattern books if your library doesn’t own any. With a knitting club, everyone chooses their own project and works at their own pace, so knitters of all abilities are welcome. The Winnipeg Public Library has helpful guidance for your getting a knitting club started at your library based on their experiences.

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Book-to-Action Book Club

booktoactionDo you have a library book club ready to break out of a reading rut and expand their horizons? Would you like to attract and engage new patrons with a different kind of book club? The California State Library and the California Center for the Book have put together a toolkit for a Book-to-Action book club model. Using this model, patrons read a book and discuss it, and then go into the community “to put their new-found knowledge into action by engaging in a community service project related to the book’s topic.”

The toolkit provides the following recommendations for choosing a book: Continue reading

Using Facebook to Connect with Teenagers: Online Book Clubs

The address bar is the first place to look for secure browsing.

With all their extracurricular activities, jobs, and homework, it can be hard to convince teenagers to participate in the programs available to them at the library. One way to get teenagers involved is by implementing a book club via Facebook. You, as the librarian, will probably have to facilitate the first couple times just to get everyone familiar with how the group works. But after that, there can be a new facilitator each month who picks a book for the group to read and leads the discussion.

A big advantage to having an online book club is that the members of the group can discuss the book whenever they have time, whether it is at 6:00pm or 3:00am.

Also, there are libraries in the state, including the North Dakota State Library, that are willing to check out book club kits (which include 10 books and a sheet of discussion questions) to other libraries and patrons.

Have you ever done an online book club? Do you have any advice or information to offer? What did you find that worked and what didn’t work?

Source: Smallwood, C. (2012). How to thrive as a solo librarian. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, Inc..

Coming soon: New Book Club Kits

The North Dakota State Library has a great and always expanding collection of book club kits. These kits, which consist of 1o copies of the book along with discussion questions, can be borrowed by any library or individual in North Dakota. These kits make it super easy (and nearly free!) to facilitate a book club meeting. There’s no need for group members to purchase the book – the only expense is the postage to return the kit to us at NDSL. We currently have 19 kits available to request through our online catalog, and we will soon have 8 new kits to add to the collection:

Book club favorites:

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleve
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Science & Technology:

  • Arctic Drift by Clive Cussler
  • When the Killing’s Done by T.C. Boyle
  • Thunderstruck by Erik Larson


  • Monuments Men by Robert Edsel
  • True Grit by Charles Portis

Summer will soon be here (though our weather here in the upper midwest feels more like March than May), and many book discussion groups will be taking a hiatus until fall. But when your group starts thinking about getting back together in September, keep the ND State Library’s book club kits on your radar – and stay tuned for more kits being added throughout the year!

Reading Outside the Box

Librarians are people too. Maybe we’re people who, in general, spend more time reading than the average person. But, like most people, we tend to get stuck in the habit of reading the same genres and authors without exploring new books outside of our comfort zone. For all readers, it’s good to climb out of the box of what we usually read to explore new literary experiences, different genres, and new authors. I’m as guilty of this as the next person, so I was really excited to discover the article “A Year in Reading Suggestions” on Booklist Online. King County Library System readers advisory specialist Alene Moroni offers month-by-month suggestions for a year of reading outside the box. Though we’re already four months in, it’s never too late to get started.

January: Read a book published the same year you were born.
If you Google “books of [fill in the year]” you should get some decent lists from which to select.

February: Read a book recommended on a blog.
There are lots of great book blogs out there. I regularly read Booklist’s Likely Stories, and the New Yorker’s Page Turner, among others, but I will be selecting my February read from our friend at MissSusie’s Reading!

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NoveList Plus: a Great Tool for Book Discussion Groups

NoveListRunning a book discussion group may sometimes seem like a thankless, time-consuming job. Recruiting (not to mention retaining) group members, organizing meetings, selecting book titles, coming up with discussion questions and researching prior to the discussion…just thinking about all this organizational leg-work is enough to keep your head spinning for weeks before the day of the group meeting even arrives. Whether you are currently running a thriving, successful book discussion group, or you’re considering starting one up with your friends or at your local public library, knowing where to turn to choose titles and to find fodder for your actual book discussion is half the organizational battle. The NoveList Plus database, available through the North Dakota State Library and your local North Dakota public library, is a great one-stop resource to help you find what you need to choose a book and jumpstart your discussion.

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Calling All North Dakota Book Clubs

The ND State Library began lending book club kits last spring, and with the great initial success of this program, we’re looking to expand our offerings over the course of 2014. We will be focusing on adding kits featuring a North Dakota theme or North Dakota author, but we’d also like to add more kits based on what book clubs across the state are interested in reading. To this end, we’ve opened a SurveyIconsurvey to solicit suggestions for future book club kits from ND library staff members and citizens. What genres of books does your book club like to read and discuss? Are there any specific titles you’d like to see us add? Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction titles? Please take a minute to take our survey – we want to make sure we’re providing kits that will be of interest to the book clubs in our state.

 NDSL book club kits are available for loan to libraries and individuals in North Dakota. Check out our online catalog for a current list of kits available and to reserve a kit for your club (just do a search for book club kits). Contact our Reference Department with any questions or for further information on our Book Club Kit program.

October is National Reading Group Month

Book clubs and reading groups bring people together to experience great books, great discussion, and great friendships, all centered on a love of reading. They are open forums for new knowledge and ideas, building relationships, and experiencing the joy of discovering new books and authors.

book club month

Each October, the Women’s National Book Association sponsors National Reading Group Month, an event to “promote the value of books and reading,” and to “foster the values that reading groups encourage: camaraderie, enjoyment of shared reading, and appreciation of literature and reading as conduits for transmitting culture and advancing civic engagement.” As part of this initiative the WMBA presents Great Group Reads, a list of selected titles recommended for book clubs. This year’s list includes 21 titles, including recent popular titles like Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, along with a number of lesser known gems. This list is a great resource, whether you are part of a long-running book club, interested in starting a new group, or are just looking for something new to read yourself. Booklist has made its reviews of all the titles on this year’s list freely available – check them out on their Great Reads page. 

For North Dakota libraries and citizens, the North Dakota State Library has Book Club Kits available for checkout. We currently offer fourteen kits, including three that are newly available:

  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: the Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon

Check out our online catalog for more details and to reserve a kit for your book club.

Do you have any tips or hints for running a successful book club? Share your wisdom and experiences here!