The Librarian’s Guide to Book Programs and Author Events. By Brad Hooper. Chicago: ALA, 2016. 160 p. Paper $55 (ISBN 978-0-8389-1384-0).

The Librarian’s Guide to Book Programs and Author Events covers topics ranging from book clubs, author events, and public speaking to writer-in-residence events and “one city, one book” programs. An accomplished Booklist reviewer and active participant in ALA, author Brad Hooper draws on his own experiences to guide librarians who are planning author visits or engaging readers in book clubs.

In the beginning of the rather lengthy introduction, Hooper recounts an experience he once had as moderator of an ALA program; this leads him to discuss moderating panels and working with authors. Much of this material would be better placed in the chapters on public speaking and author events, as it goes into far more detail than is suitable for an introduction. Later in the introduction, Hooper provides a brief overview of the chapters.

Quite a bit of the book’s advice is good—tips on remaining calm and coherent when on stage, engaging with authors without placing them on a pedestal, choosing book club selections, and asking interesting and appropriate questions of authors. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to see much connection between the types of programs Hooper is accustomed to participating in and those that the typical public librarian is likely to encounter. Much of Hooper’s experience has been in large-scale programs, such as those that take place at ALA, with much larger crowds than the typical librarian will likely ever face. Additionally, his advice is often based on a questionable understanding of how public libraries tend to work. For instance, he seems to think that libraries purchase books for book club members to keep, rather than lending them items from our collections. Perhaps some library-sponsored clubs operate this way, but this has not been the case in this reviewer’s experience at libraries with limited funding.

In chapters 2 and 3, Hooper discusses how to organize and run book clubs. Here again, Hooper’s recommendations come off as misguided; he appears to lack an understanding of how libraries usually develop book groups. This is exacerbated by his condescending tone throughout much of the book. For example, he suggests that we librarians must guide discussion groups like a “sheepdog” and that tangential conversations “must not be tolerated.” These types of ideas veer far from the concept of library as community. After all, librarians do not just engage patrons in book discussions; they foster the formation of cohesive groups of people who enjoy learning about each other and who keep coming back not just for the books but also for the friendly bonds of camaraderie and community they find at their weekly or monthly meetings.

This book is recommended for librarians interested in expanding their public speaking skills to larger audiences and for those who have limited experience with book clubs and author programming. For most public librarians, however, much of the advice presented here will be either common knowledge or inapplicable to their work.—Teralee ElBasri, Librarian, North Courthouse Road Library, Richmond, Virginia


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