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#bookclubshare: Steve’s book club and one-book-one-school solution


The problem:

When I left Springfield, I had at least 15 copies each of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Soloist and Unbroken lying around.  A few copies of each were on the shelves. Many more were crowded on the bottom shelves in our workroom, several copies deep. In planning our community-building, reading events we face two problems:

1. When you are planning an event, how can you gather enough copies to ensure that your community can participate in these reading culture-building activities without worrying about gathering enough copies? (We were lucky to able to get grants from our PTO and Foundation and we also used paperback trading sites and interlibrary loan to avoid waste and to facilitate access–but it was work!)

2. What do we do with those very sad leftover books after our One-Book-One-School/One-Book-One-Community or major book club events have passed?

There’s gotta be a better way.

A solution: BookClubSwap

Enter Steve Tetreault, a student in my Rutgers MI Leadership course.  (Did I mention how proud I am of my students?)  Steve shares the backstory and his proposed solution in this video and the reflection below.

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Steve’s reflection:

“I Made A Thing!”: Translating Librarian Thoughts Into Practical Library Tools

While in a workshop session to discuss building a culture of reading in schools, the gathered librarians started to discuss their work with book clubs. Several discussed how they had large collections of book club materials sitting in storage rooms; they wished there was a way to exchange with other schools and librarians, but their experiences trying to utilize the interlibrary loan system was mostly not great for this particular project.

It seemed to me that the basic idea was pretty straight-forward – what was needed was a shared document where people could list what they had, and look to see what other people were offering. While the discussion went on, I threw together a Google Spreadsheet, set the permissions so anyone who visited it could add information to it, and made a shortened link so it would be easy for people to find online. I dubbed it the Interschool Library Loan Sheet, threw a short explanation of what it was and how it worked at the top and made sure the bit-link was on there.

As the conversation about the problems with the ILL wrapped up, I threw my spreadsheet up on the projection screen. “Would something like this work?” I asked as I pointed out the features. People seemed pretty responsive to the idea.

I was glad I was able to take the general concept expressed by my future colleagues and turn it into a usable tool. The beauty of this kind of open resource is that it’s open to iteration and improvement as people try it out and learn what’s helpful and what’s not in doing this kind of exchange.

In the perfect world, I’d have the time and resources to put together a larger scale and more responsive resource exchange – a craigslist for educational materials that librarians and teachers could use to get rid of the things they no longer need and find new items that they can utilize.

Note: A project like this needs to develop a bit of steam, or critical mass before it can fly. Please help us get started by loading your lists of titles that have been lying around waiting to find readers and new homes.

Rember to visit or

Remember to use the hashtag #bookclubshare to get the ball rolling and to get the books moving!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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