Starting Your Own Book Club

By Kylie Widseth

For years, I’ve dreamed of what it must be like to be in a book club. Talking about books we loved, arguing over books we couldn’t stand, reading the next bestseller, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Heading off to college, I had imagined that there MUST be a book club at my college because I had always been told that there were hundreds of clubs, and if the club we wanted didn’t exist, we could create one.

I remember perusing the site that lists all the clubs and being shocked that I didn’t find a book club. I searched multiple times thinking that I surely must have missed something. It just couldn’t be possible. How had no one created a book club?

I had some book friends of my own, but they weren’t two bookshelves in a small apartment-obsessed like me. In the words of Ariel, I had book friends, but I wanted more.shutterstock_260692607

I finally ended up deciding that I couldn’t wait any longer; I just had to be in a book club and have more book friends. This meant I had to create one of my own. Unfortunately, I decided to do this my junior year of college because I couldn’t deal with disappointment of no one wanting to join my club as a freshman or sophomore. I knew I had a couple of friends who were interested so no matter what, so at least I wouldn’t be the only one showing up to meetings.

At my school, each class (basically grade level) has their own Facebook group page so there is a class of 2017 page, class of 2018 page, etc. I posted in each of the pages that I was thinking of making a book club, and I wanted to see the interest level before I made it official with the university.

I felt like I had just told the internet my deepest, darkest secret because I was so afraid that either no one would want to join or people would say “wow, you’re such a nerd.”

To my utter surprise, neither of those things happened.

There was an astounding (in my opinion) reaction. Hundreds of people were eager to know more about this potential club and to be a part of it. So many people messaged me to say how grateful they were that I was creating a club like this because they had also been eager to be in a book club. It was incredibly humbling to see this kind of a reaction.

The tricky part was next: figuring out how to pick board members. It was a tough decision between either picking my friends or having people submit applications and choosing based on those.

I decided that I wanted to have a blind application process. I think my friends were upset at first that I didn’t just go with the easy choice and pick them, but I didn’t think it was fair to just pick my friends. God forbid we disagreed on something, and it got between our friendship, I didn’t want to end my friendship over a book club. It was also scary just to pick complete random strangers for the board, so we compromised, and I ended up making what I called an advisory board for them. Basically, my two friends would serve as my wing women when I needed help deciding something and would overall just be there as I went through the process of making the club.

Besides the advisory board, I chose people to serve as vice president, secretary, treasurer, group liaison, and public relations chair.

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Today, we have over 175 members in the book club, and I am still amazed. As with any club, not all 175 people are actually active, but I would say we have about 20-30 people who actively attend events, and honestly, that’s the way I like it. I would love for 175 people to be active, but it would also take away from the intimacy of a book club.

I would say the hardest thing about any club is just getting people to show up. The best way to get people to keep coming back is to make them feel like they belong. With that I mean really get to know the members of the club. Even if I don’t get to talk to every member at the club meetings, I make sure to personally message them on Facebook after the meeting to thank them for coming and let them know that if they ever want to grab coffee and talk about books, I would be happy to get to know them on a more personal level. One of my friends said that she was so genuinely excited that the president of the club wanted to get to know her. (To this day, it’s still awkward and weird to call myself the president and founder of a club.) This can be really helpful because sometimes members will even give you tips and advice on how to improve the club. Letting members know you care about them and making them feel like they have a friend at meetings will encourage them to continue to go to club events. I would argue that one of the biggest reasons people don’t join clubs or go to events is because they are afraid of not knowing anyone and not fitting in (speaking from experience).

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Maybe it’s not necessarily a book club, but if you are interested creating a club at your school, as Nike would say, just do it. You might be amazed that there are other people who like the same things as you and have been waiting for this kind of club to be created. So what if only one person joins, that’s still one more person than you knew before!

I hope this post gives you some inspiration to make a club of your own! If you decide to create a book club of your own, feel free to reach out to me for advice.

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