I've been asked recently about the Skype Book Club that I run at my library, so I thought I'd share it here at GreenBeanTeenQueen!
I've always wanted to have a book club with my teens, but book clubs have a hard time getting going and working at the branch I work at. I think this is because I work with a lot of teens who are already involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. My branch is also hard to get to if you don't have transportation. So to make the book club a bit more enticing, I decided to try author chats mixed in with the book club format.
Skype Book Club is easy to run and tons of fun! The teens get together and we discuss the book, what we liked, didn't like and questions we have for the author. A lot of my teens are interested in writing, so they love hearing about the writing process and the road to publishing from each author. I typically pick one book to discuss by the author's we're chatting with, but if they've written more than one, we talk about their books in general in addition to the one we're focusing on. I also am not strict on making the teens read the book to attend. I know they're busy and we still have great discussions with those of use who have read the book. I always have copies of the author's books available to check out and the teens that haven't read the book are always eager to grab these at the end of the meeting.
After we've chatted about the book (about 15-20 min.) we call our author via Skype. This is super easy to use and it's great for author visits because it gives the teens a chance to see the author. I love this because we don't often have the ability to bring authors to our library for formal visits and signings, so this gives the teens a chance to connect with authors.
How do I get authors to participate? I just ask! I send e-mails to authors my teens have mentioned or recently read. I explain what the Skype Book Club is, that I'd love to invite them in for an informal Q&A session with the teens, and some available dates of our upcoming meetings. No, I don't have any special friendships or pull with authors and no, I can't connect you and get you an "in" with authors. If you do attend a library conference, like ALA, connect with publishers and ask if they have authors who skype. Attend author signings and ask if they do virtual author visits-many authors have this information at thier signings already and are happy to tell you about it! There's also a Skype an Author website with a list of authors who Skype-great for finding authors! Don't take it bad if the author says no or it doesn't work out. It's not you, it's just sometimes library scheduling doesn't work with an author's schedule. Also, remember that even though it's a virtual visit, it's still a professional visit, so give your authors respect and treat it like they were physically there visiting your library.
Skype Book Club can also be a great way to encourage teens to try new authors and promote authors . Yes, when I ask my teens who they want to Skype with, I always hear Meg Cabot, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, Rick Riordan. That would be awesome, but these authors are very busy and are being asked for author visits all the time! So don't be afraid to start smaller and maybe someday you might get one of your dream list authors to visit! (A librarian can dream, right?:)
How do I promote the club? It gets advertised in all our library promotion. In addition to that I invite teens on Facebook, post it on the library teen page blog, send e-mails to my mailing list of teens, and spread the word to the area school librarians (these are great connections and be wonderful in helping spread the word about book clubs!) And of course, I tell the teens and they tell their friends-never underestimate word of mouth!
So far we've hosted four Skype Book Club chats and each one has been fantastic! The teens love the chance to connect with authors and the authors get a chance to hear from readers who have read their books. It's fairly easy to set up and run-and it's a blast! I love hearing from the teens how they love talking to authors and how every author we talk to is so cool (I agree!).
I'm toying with the idea of someday doing an online chat with an author so teens wouldn't have to be at one specific branch (or even at the library at all) to participate. There are so many cool options for virtual visits and it's a great way to connect teens and authors.
If you've hosted virtual author visits at your library or school, I'd love to hear about them! I'm always interested in how libraries do this!