Nora St.Laurent runs two book clubs near the Atlanta area and this year became ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Book Club Coordinator. She currently writes a Book Club Column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine. You can read her reviews and author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog located at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/ Nora also runs The Book Club Network on Facebook
Interview With Book Club Leader - Jim Ruthland
I’m very excited about this interview for a couple of reasons. First, this is a book club that meets in a public library; and second, it’s an interview with a male book-club leader.
Hi, Jim, could you please tell me a little bit about your group before we get started with the interview?
Sure. Our branch will be two years old on this Memorial Day. Al is Adult Services Manager and I work in Circulation. He started the “Early Bird Book Club,” and I am a member of it. It meets on the first Thursday of each month at 10:30 in the library. At that hour, as you can imagine, the members are retired librarians, educators, and other professionals. A very well-read, articulate, enthusiastic group. When John Updike died, we read the Rabbit books, each of us reporting a different book to the group. We read the Stieg Larrson books recently and are waiting for the third installment to come out.
What led up to your starting a book club? Had you ever been part of a book club before? What’s your club’s name?
Al and I started a morning book club, The Early Bird, and based on its success we thought a club meeting in the late afternoon would appeal to employed people. The Early Bird Book Club is my first. I had been employed in Human Resources in industry and found employment in the library just recently, which gave me an opportunity to participate. My book club is named “Late in the Day.”
What do you tell people who are interested in being a part of your book club? Please describe what they can expect. What does your typical meeting look like?
The discussion of the book of the month is our primary objective. We will not assign refreshments, but we have a coffee shop and snacks are welcome in our library. We will get to know one another and hopefully become friends, but socialization is secondary. The library is our meeting place, and since it closes at 8 o’clock, our meetings will not last more than an hour and a half. Where we sit in a semicircle in our library, there is a fireplace, stuffed chairs, and a coffee table, which lends a homey atmosphere.
Please describe how the book selection process works for your club. Do you vote with a secret ballet? Or some other method? This will be helpful to book club leaders just starting out!
Each member suggests a book on a rotating basis. That member then brings author and/or setting information to the meeting and gives a report to the group. This almost guarantees an eclectic selection of genres, topics, and fiction or nonfiction.
Does your group have guidelines? If so, what are they? How does your group handle conflict?
We have not had conflict. We may disagree at times but recognize that this is only perspective, and sharing perspectives helps us get to know one another better. Disagreements are never personal.
Jim, you mentioned in an e-mail that Al runs his book club, which you are a part of, a little different from the way you do. Do you let down your leader role and enjoy the group, or do you want to step in and help lead?
We are more hosts rather than leaders. We may stimulate discussion with questions or bring the group back from getting off subject.
How did the meeting go in which you read Rabbit? I think you said it was a little different because you had all read different books by Updike. How did that meeting operate? How much time did everyone have to talk, and did you ask questions? This sounds like fun.
Since they were sequels, we discussed them in order. Each person reported on their book and we were able to tie the characters together as they lived their lives through the books.
What have you read at a book club recently that touched everyone’s hearts and created good discussion?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett was especially good because two of us were raised in the South during the civil rights movement years. One was raised in England, two were raised in the Midwest, and one or two were too young to have personal experiences but were full of questions.
How do you get the word out about your book club? How did you get this book club started? This will be helpful for new book clubs or people wanting to take the plunge into leading book clubs.
I announced it on our library Web page and promoted it to patrons as they came to the library, especially if they checked out a book we were going to discuss.
For the complete interview with pictures of Jim’s group, go to Finding Hope Through Fiction, www.psalm516.blogspot.com. Thanks again, Jim, for sharing your group with us.