Book club with a twist

Dear public, school, academic and special librarians: have I got an idea for (most of) you: professional book club. As in book clubs for professional settings. Let me explain.

My friend Sarah is at a school dealing with transition across the board. Morale is bumpy, state funding is being cut and many administrative positions are empty. She decided to deal with the change by establishing a book club open to all staff, faculty and administration. They would read books on change, motivation, conflict-resolution and other issues she and her colleagues were experiencing. She started out small and informal, but word spread and more folks wanted to join.

The book club became a safe, structured space in which to discuss these issues. The books provide a framework from which to discuss and potentially solve issues. Plus, Sarah chooses books that mix theory and practical application well (a good mix for academia in which we could get lost in the theory and never find an actual solution!). She has opened the book club to interested parties outside the school. It makes for a richer conversation and gives her colleagues valuable outside perspective.

We meet every two weeks in a conference room during lunch. It’s often enough to keep momentum going, but not so often that it feels like a burden. Currently, we are reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which explores the difference between fixed and growth-oriented mindsets. In reading the book, it’s given me insight not just into my professional and personal self, but into our profession. We are a growth-oriented profession; those with a similar mindset are the ones keeping up with and enjoying change. They are the librarians embracing e-books, Facebook and Pinterest. They are the ones no one thinks Google will replace.

Choosing your audience and purpose are key to starting this up. Do students need to prepare for grad school or the job market? Is morale low at work? Is your place of worship struggling with change? And it doesn’t have to be “in your face.” Sarah casually promotes the book club as one centered around professional issues in academia. But it’s become a safe place in which to approach the stresses she and her colleagues face.

The book club: it’s not just for talking about the Oscars anymore.


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