A few weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Second Annual Book Lovers and Book Clubs Conference. For this local event’s first year, founder and organizer Kim Riley held the gathering at a small community center and was overwhelmed with the positive response. This year, Kim looked to her local library for assistance, and the Kansas City Public Library was happy to oblige.
Held on Saturday, November 6, 2010, the conference brought in five popular and critically acclaimed African-American authors to meet loyal fans and readers in a casual setting. Victoria Christopher Murray , Trisha Thomas , Victor McGlothin , and Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant  gave presentations on their books, current projects, relationships with their readers, and their own favorite reading. The authors continued to connect with fans during a book signing.
In addition to the headliners, the conference carved out special time in the morning for book groups. The conference organizers called this session Book Group Roll Call, and the time was dedicated to book groups sharing experiences and titles, asking for guidance for future titles, challenging members, and offering suggestions for jazzing up book group meetings.
This lively session started off with a “roll call” of book group attendees. Everyone was surprised and delighted to find that book groups had come from as far away as St. Louis and that some groups had brought all their members. A friendly, competitive spirit infused the conference as the clubs proudly announced their home location, number of members, and number of years in existence. I was busily writing down all the extremely clever names of the book groups: Sistahs Turning Pages, And Then We Read, Circle of Wisdom, The Fabs, and Chat ‘n Chew.
The morning program started with the socializing but soon moved into the business of running a book group. Members discussed how to handle readers who don’t read the book or become too challenging during discussions. Attendees also debated the merits of collecting dues and holding formal meetings to select titles. All agreed that participating in other activities while discussing the books helps the group stay tightly knit and keeps things lively.
As soon as the issue of getting the newest titles in the necessary quantities was raised, session leader Carma Robinson-Kendall pointed to the back and said, “Miss Kaite? You take that one!” I waved, made a pitch for the Library’s many services  to community book groups, and handed out all of my business cards.
Book Lovers and Book Clubs was a success in its second year, and plans are already underway for next year’s conference. It started small, but it’s growing, and the goal for conference organizers and the Library is to gather together as many community book groups and their members as possible.
This is just another way we’re building a community of readers.
About the Author
Kaite Mediatore Stover  is the Head of Readers’ Services for the Kansas City Public Library. She is a regular guest on KCUR's Book Doctors segment and moderator of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Club. Kaite has contributed to Booklist, Public Libraries, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and Library Journal. She can tap dance, read tarot cards, and doesn’t bite.