Library Book Clubs Go Virtual During Pandemic

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With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread, in-person gatherings are off the table—but library book clubs have found ways to keep the conversation going while maintaining social distancing. Virtual gatherings held over video chat or phone calls have allowed readers to stay connected and engaged during these unprecedented times.

California’s Santa Maria Public Library has hosted monthly in-person book clubs for years, and they aren’t letting quarantine stop them from continuing the tradition: their new Book Club Over the Phone program lets local bibliophiles dial into a teleconference to chat about their favorite reads. Rochester Public Library in Minnesota has been hosting video book discussions over Zoom and WebEx, and staff are working hard to make sure everyone in the community feels welcome. “I am a big proponent of people coming to book discussions even if they haven’t read the book,” librarian Allison Girres told The Post Bulletin. “If you’re interested, come here what people have to say!”

Some libraries have also sought community partnerships to expand the reach of virtual book club offerings. The University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries peer coaches—students who mentor their classmates in research skills and technology—are collaborating with local literacy organization Gemini Ink to promote the Big Texas Read online book club. The peer coaches are tasked with getting the word out about the book club to UTSA community members as well as providing technology support to Texas authors.

School librarians have also created virtual book clubs to keep students engaged and excited about reading while distance learning. Kristen Mogavero, a library media specialist at New York’s John F. Kennedy High School, has been hosting regular Zoom meetings to discuss books with students and teachers; community members can vote for future book selections on the school’s social media channel. “During this isolating time, I wanted to start up a virtual book club to provide students and faculty an opportunity to connect socially,” said Mogavero told The LI Herald. “Books have always served as an escape for readers, and I felt that this is a time when we could all use the opportunity for a mental break.”

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