From ALA Journal:
I have a confession to make. I used to think that participation in public library book groups would be somewhat transient—people would drop in for a few months while they decided if they liked the concept, at which point they’d go off and join a private group, or start their own.
How wrong I was! BookBrowse.com, my online magazine for booklovers, recently released a report on the dynamics of book groups: The Inner Lives of Book Clubs. One of the significant findings of the report reflects how much people love their library book groups and how loyal they are to them.
- Statistically speaking, there is barely a difference between happiness in public groups compared to private ones: 71% of those in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) say they are very happy in their group, 24% say they are somewhat happy.
- 69% of those in public groups say their book club is “very important” to them—the exact same percentage as in private groups.
- 57% of respondents in public book clubs (most of which meet in libraries) have been with their group at least five years!
The research shows that public library book clubs are a great fit for many who are looking to join a book group. For example:
When we ask people interested in joining a book club to describe their ideal group, some say they would like an all-women group (“mansplaining” came up more than once), but most women and almost all men would prefer a diverse group with people of different ages and genders, and from a variety of backgrounds. When we look at the profile of public book clubs compared to private groups, we see that the latter tend to be more homogeneous. For example, when asked to approximate the age range in their book club, 39% of those in public groups estimated a spread of at least 20 years, compared to 17% in private groups. And when we look at gender, we find that 88% of private book clubs are all women, whereas about half of public groups have a mix of sexes.
. . . .
A Focus on Discussion
Many people who don’t have book club experience have the common misconception that book clubs are just an excuse for a night of gossip and a glass or two of wine; but, in fact, 84% of those we surveyed are in groups that spend at least 40 minutes of each meeting on book discussion. Additionally, statistically speaking, the longer the discussion, the happier the membership: 55% of respondents in groups that generally discuss the book for 20 minutes or less say they are “very happy” in their group, compared to 73% in groups that discuss for 50-60 minutes, and 81% in groups that discuss for 75 minutes or more.
Socializing is important to many—43% of those in public book clubs and 71% of those in private groups say that socializing before or after the discussion is very important to them; and most who wish to join a book group would like there to be a social element. But the great majority are clear that their primary interest is the book discussion itself. A core reason for this, as many observe, is that it is through the deep discussion of a book that one can get to know people in ways that are not always possible in a purely social setting. So, the public book group format—generally meeting for 60 to 90 minutes and spending most of that time on discussion—is an attractive proposition for many. And of course, people are free to socialize before and after the meeting if they wish.
Link to the rest at ALA Journal