March 23, 2020

Converting your book club from in-person to online

Written by:
Jessica Lin

Tags: ,

Just like many of you, I am preparing to switch my book club from one that meets in-person to one that will be meeting online. Here are some steps to consider when making the switch.

Consider your online platform
Whether you will be using Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, or another platform, think about what your participants might be most familiar with and what is already available to you through your library. 

Ask participants to register ahead of time to keep numbers manageable. If demand is high, think about scheduling a second online meeting on a different date. I am considering holding an additional discussion or two next month to give people another virtual space for community and conversation. 

Think about extra facilitation needs
In addition to preparing discussion questions like you do regularly, think about adding guidelines to help with online facilitation. For larger groups, it might make sense to play a more active role in directing the discussion. You could request that participants raise their hands to be called on to prevent interruptions or people talking over one another—a throwback to our classroom days!

Encourage participants to turn on their cameras if they are comfortable doing so; it helps to see each other’s body language and know if someone is about to speak. Let the group know that for those who feel more comfortable using the chat function, that you will pause periodically to read those questions and comments out loud. 

At the beginning of each book club discussion, I go over just a handful of discussion guidelines, including reminders for those who are very enthusiastic to give space for those who are more reserved. I encourage participants to “move up/move back” for those who haven’t contributed as much to share their thoughts and for those who have already shared many times to step back. 

I also start each meeting with a quick round of introductions as we often have new members. We go around and share our names, preferred gender pronouns, and how we are doing. I know that people will have a lot more anxiety and worry that they will want to share so I will give a little more time for that at the beginning. During the discussion, I make a point to more actively and gently steer conversation back to the topic of the book at hand.

Picking your next books
For future book club picks, check that the book and audiobook are readily available for digital lending at your library and that the e-book provider offers simultaneous checkout. 

Create an online survey to let participants vote on what they would like to read next. Consider switching up the format of your book club picks and try short stories, magazine articles, poetry, or graphic novels that are available for digital borrowing. 

For more tips, check out our NoveList book club articles and book discussion guides. You can find them both under Quick Links and by clicking on the Book Club Resources link.


Jessica Lin is an Engagement Specialist at NoveList. She is reading Tempest by Beverly Jenkins. 





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