Close reading VII: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

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Chapter seven: Reading groups

For reasons too inexplicable and frustrating to share here, I am unable to run a reading group in our school library. However, that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about one, or reading enviously about groups that other school librarians are running. It also probably explains why I decided to start my own out-of-school-hours group with other children’s and young people librarians in our local area.

I’m a fan of the type of reading group that is encouraged in this chapter. A group where members read what they want to read and share their thoughts and feelings with others. Nothing prescriptive, snobby or on a theme; and all about the reading experience – no need for deep analysis!

The benefits of reading groups to a library service are outlined in this chapter, and there are many.

  • Reading group members are library advocates.
  • They provide a ready-made audience for consultation.
  • They are an excellent resource for reader-to-reader recommendations and promotions.
  • They can take charge of a ‘reading group choice’ display area.
  • They can take on the role of event hosts.
  • They can help make stock decisions in areas of weakness.

I particularly liked this message from page 220:

Understanding a little about group dynamics, appreciating that people read primarily for pleasure, and are coming because they want to share that pleasure with others, and simply putting the kettle on are more important skills for the reading group facilitator than a degree in literature or, indeed, librarianship!

Another interesting point to note is that some libraries have found that teen groups are more successful if they are “for a limited time”; open-ended groups did not generate the same interest as groups that were run for a set number of weeks. I can see how this would probably be the same in school settings.

Most importantly, remember that a reader-centred approach to reading groups will ensure (page 212)

that everyone in the group will have something to say, confident in the fact that they are the expert in their own reading experience.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • I can still get most of the benefits of reading groups without actually having one
  • consult my known readers more
  • ensure my student librarians are readers – get those suckers to work for me!

Reference:

Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

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