If it could be pulled off, a social networking book club would have many advantages over traditional models. The modularity of content would allow patrons to discuss or share whichever elements of the club are of interest to them. Supplementary components such as author info, historical context, literary criticism, or comparison texts can be made available without necessarily demanding attention. This also allows for a variety of participation levels.
Social media tools can also enhance the experience. In addition to how shareable components might be, interactive elements such as surveys and tagging might gather data which could further spur discussion. The archival potentials of these discussions might contribute to a feeling that patrons are building an experience within a title, rather than just chatting about it.
The types of titles conducive to discussion also shifts with the transition to social media space. This same framework could be applied to graphic novels, films, music, video games, public lectures, and other formats which are not well suited to in-person discussion for reasons of formatting.
In light of this, might the social networking library become a place where thoughtful content is posted, to be contrasted against the general pulp of the Web?

Ultimately, social networking activities do not need to be housed entirely within social media. Some libraries use social networking tools in conjunction with in-person book groups. This model is an excellent way to extend content. Blog content could be referenced during the in-person meetings, and statements from the in-person meetings could be quoted on the blog. This format has the potential to be a dual gateway by inviting patrons to the physical library who are more comfortable online while introducing patrons to social media who are more comfortable with face-to-face interactions.
What might this hybridization of online and in-person activities look like?

Want to learn more? Check out this related link:

Dempsey, Beth. “The Evolving Book Group”. Library Journal. 136:14

Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/profile/greyman

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4 responses »

  1. Rachel Loria says:

    This was an excellent post, Richard! I completely agree with your initial statement that a social networking book club could have many advantages over the traditional sense of a book club; much similar to the operations of online classes (which I will admit, I am still getting used to), a social networking book club would provide the reader with the exact experience he/she wants. If the person is incredibly passionate about a particular chapter, s/he will be able to spend great lengths commenting on it. On the other end of the spectrum, topics of less interest would not necessarily need to be commented upon by the reader. A social networking site would make it possible to simply take whatever experience is ultimately wanted.

    • Stephanie says:

      Good point, Rachel– it’s almost like a buffet-style approach, where you take as much of what you want as you want, and leave the rest. Though I wonder if that could also be a drawback? Could it be that under this model we’re only exposing ourselves to the things which we know interest us, rather than allowing ourselves to be surprised?

      • Richard A. says:

        Stephanie,
        I think that you are right in saying that patrons who only participate as much as they are interested may shut themselves away from content which could be challenging. Yet I think that is where the value of interacting with human being comes in. Part of the goal should be to foster book-related relationships using social media to communicate. It is only after a person is seen as a person (instead of a nameless comment) that there is a relationship. It is that relationship which will be challenging for patrons. If two patrons regularly comment on each other’s posts, they might decide to join the same book group the next time. And as long as there is an extended duration of communication, there is bound to be disagreement & the potential for growth.

  2. Rebecca Ridenour says:

    I listen to a podcast who infrequently holds book clubs. They tell their listeners which book will be read and then they record the book club discussion in an audio format. Listeners can choose to listen to the live stream as the discussion takes place, or listen to the podcast at their convenience. Its fun to participate in these and comment on the site.
    It might be good when planning a web/ in person book discussion to use an array of tools to let people participate in a way of their choosing.

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