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BookBrowse interviews Pam Dittner is a librarian at the Brown Memorial Library in Lewisburg, Ohio, and the organizer of the Rowdy Readers Book Club about all aspects of their book club.

Book Club Interview (see full list)

Pam Dittner is a librarian at the Brown Memorial Library in Lewisburg, Ohio, and the organizer of the Rowdy Readers Book Club

Hi Pam, thanks for chatting with us! How did the group get started?

Marge enjoys her new cookbookBrown Memorial Library had not had a book club for several years; so after researching successful groups for two years, we introduced our ideas to a small group of energetic readers, and we now meet every other month from September to May. Then midsummer we have a "book chat" where we talk about books in general that we want to read or have read.

How long has it been since the group started and does your group have a particular focus?

About a dozen years. We don't have a particular focus, and at least once a year I remind the members that a book club is not about reading your favorite book, although you may find one, but about exposing yourself to different genres.

We sometimes read nonfiction but mostly fiction across a lot of genres: new and old, bestsellers and classics; also mysteries and romance; and we discuss current topics such as abortion, the main topic in A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult. We've also discussed movie-book combos like Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

You have me intrigued, what's the connection between The Little Stranger and Murder on the Orient Express?

visiting Bloom MarketFor a little variety, we show the movie and then discuss; at the time, both were current movies based on books by well-known authors. Also, we take lots of outings. Most of these come about because members of the group suggest an activity such as a movie or dinner; once we visited a local florist, Bloom Market.

What was the literary connection for the visit?

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. We were also celebrating spring and the opening of Bloom Market.

I thought you might say The Language of Flowers!

And sometimes it just fits; for example, in May we'll be reading The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel, and one of our members happens to have a vineyard and has offered to host us.

It certainly sounds like you have a lot of fun together! How are events organized, and do you have a limit on membership?

No one is ever turned away from the group. Meeting dates are on the library's website and Facebook page, but word of mouth is our best recruitment tool. Events that take place outside the library are sometimes announced through the library, sometimes not.

Are there aspects of the group that you particularly like?

enjoying mock moonshine after reading The Widows by Jess MontgomeryIt's very "bubbly," open to new ideas, and multi-generational, including a 99-year-old great-grandmother, her daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter! We also now have some mother-daughter combos, sisters, several library board members and our mayor. And we now have a "slightly" younger book club that has asked to join us.

Why did the other group want to join you?

They approached us as they liked our book choices, our activities and our energy.

I can understand why! How many are there now in total and how many generally attend a meeting?

We started with 10 people and we now have 25 to 30 with an average of about 18 at a meeting. Chris and I are both outgoing, live locally and promote the book club in other places, such as at the golf course and gym.

Who is Chris?

She is a great friend and a long-time coworker of 10 years.

Eighteen sounds a lot of people to have at one meeting; do you ever split the group in two when it comes to discussions?

We keep the group together but Chris and I always sit on opposite sides of the room and try to sit with different people each time.

Do you feel that everyone gets a chance to express themselves?

We do have a few quiet people but I believe they are quiet by choice; and they continue to come back every time.

Could you share your meeting logistics?

Our primary meeting place is the library. We meet in-person at 6:30 on the first Tuesday of the month. Chris and I usually moderate, although other members have led; the discussion lasts at least the first 30 minutes. We have a snack sign up list and food choices revolve around the book, the season, or anything they choose. Baggies are provided for take food home.

30 minutes of discussion time is on the short side, particularly for a public group – how long would you say the discussions typically run?

Typically from about 6:30-8:00, which is when the library closes, but sometimes we stay later. In March we had a Zoom meeting with Patti Callahan Henry from 6:30-7:00 about her book, The Secret Book of Flora Lea, and then we discussed it afterwards; that meeting ran a bit longer.

How do you pick your books?

We only pick books where there are enough copies in the library consortium for all the membership. Chris and I shortlist 10 to 20 titles, then sometimes she and I pick, sometimes others choose, and sometimes we form a committee of three to four people.

How big is your library consortium?

300 individual libraries. If possible, we order the book a month in advance of our next meeting. If we run into a problem, Dayton Metro Libraries has also helped out.

That's a big consortium! What do you look for in your book club picks?

I invest a lot of time into the preparation and choosing of books. I look at about 50 to 75 books with suggestions coming from BookPage, BookBrowse, magazines and other book clubs. I'm always looking for that one unusual book—perhaps a debut novel; one past example is Sarah Penner's debut, The Lost Apothecary—a New York Times bestseller.

What aspect of The Lost Apothecary caught your eye?

I wasn't the first one to be drawn to the book. But when several people mentioned it, Chris and I thought it was time to take a look. Any book that is mentioned, I order and peruse. You just never know!

Are there any tips that you'd like to pass on to other librarians looking to either start a library book club or reinvigorate an existing one?

Promote! Promote! Promote! In the library and everywhere.

Wise words! I'm sure I speak for all reading this in wishing the Rowdy Readers many more years of literary adventures. Thank you Pam!

Interview by BookBrowse founder, Davina Morgan-Witts

© April 2024.

If you feel that your book group has something unique to offer, and you would like to tell others about it, please contact us with brief details, and maybe we can feature you in the future.

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