Book Club Meeting Locations
One of the first decisions you must make when starting a book club, is where your book club will meet. This can not only set the tone of the meetings but can also facilitate or hinder discussion. For example meeting in too noisy or cramped a space means that members may not be comfortable or willing to engage in much discussion. On the other hand, having somewhere too cosy and informal may be detrimental to a serious literary discussion.
TraditionallyThe traditional place for book club meetings has always been the living room and members usually take turns to host the meetings in their own homes. This is still the format for many reading groups and it generally works well, although no-one should feel obliged to host a meeting in their own home if they do not wish to.
One factor about meeting in living rooms is that this can limit the number of members that can attend, as most living rooms can only comfortably accommodate 8-10 people – so this is something to keep in mind. Having said that, for discussions to work well, the ideal group size is 8-12 members in a reading group so a larger space may not be necessary. It can also depend on the kind of gathering you envisage for your group – if you like something small, intimate and cosy, then the living room is the ideal meeting place with the type of furniture more inclined to put people at ease than a big community hall or similar.
Other placesIn some cases, due to personal circumstances, it could be difficult for members to host meetings in their homes or they may simply not want to. In these instances, you can hold meetings in various public places, such as libraries, cafes, restaurants, churches, community halls, YMCA’s and even some hotels. Remember to check if these places charge a fee before committing to the booking. In the warmer months, if the weather is good, it may be nice to hold some meetings outdoors – whether in someone’s garden, at the local park or some other outdoor public place.
Book ShopsBook shops are another popular option and many large book shop chains encourage book club meetings, particularly if an arrangement with the bookstore can be made for the supply of books. Borders was one of the first to adopt the modern trend of including a café and comfortable seating in the book shop and many other book shops are following suit. (In fact, book shops often will host or sponsor their own book club discussions which are led by professionals and open to the public. The employees can often put you in touch with other local book clubs or interested readers if they are not running any of their own events).
Online MeetingsFor the modern version of the reading group – i.e. online book clubs – physical location is less of an issue and in many ways, it can have its advantages – there is no need to book anywhere and no need to clean up afterwards. Travelling distance and time is also not an issue which means members from anywhere in the world can join in the meetings. However, having members in different time zones can still present some problems such as finding a “time” that suits everyone. However, online book clubs mean that the discussion does not have to be “live” and members can post responses several hours later. Nevertheless, having some kind of official time frame for a “discussion” even if there is no direct communication, is good for keeping the momentum up and the discussion moving forward. Make it clear that although this is an online community, you still expect the same level of commitment and “attendance” from members.
Obviously, you will have to have a location in cyberspace and this usually means applying for a group or forum account with one of the online community providers. You can decide to make these exclusive to members vetted by the moderator of the group or open to the public, where anyone can contribute to discussions. One way to making this virtual “meeting place” more meaningful is to encourage members to fill out their profiles and to personalise their posts by uploading a picture or signature.