Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bookmen DC reading list and other thoughts


I have been giving some thought recently to Bookmen DC. I want to share my suggestions and ideas with you, in order to stimulate an open exchange of ideas about the future direction of our group.  I am concerned that some may take my ideas, suggestions, or thoughts personally.  This is not my intention.  Bookmen DC has evolved over time incorporating the suggestions of members. My ideas are made in the spirit of continually improving and evolving the group.  The goal is to attract new members. As a potential AARP member, I really believe that we also can learn from the perspectives of new, younger members who might want to join our groupThe challenge is how to attract different age groups to join our group.  Younger readers are more comfortable materials that are available online, including periodicals, journals and blogs. The advantage of these online reading materials is that they are often available at no cost.  

Steve have been doing a wonderful job facilitating.  I, myself, remember the early growing pains of our group: the difficulty  of trying to please everyone and yet still make sure the list included a variety of books.  Over the past few years, your dedication and persistence is extraordinary.  I am constantly amazed that a group with no formal structure or by-laws has managed to last do so long.  I am concerned, though, about the declining attendance at our meetings.  At many meetings the same 4 or 5 people show up on a regular basis.

We have been considering ways to attract new members.  We started using Facebook as an additional venue to attract new members.  The recent technical difficulties with facebook interrupted this process, but the Bookmen DC Facebook Group is up and running again.  In an attempt to attract new members, I have made the upcoming  Bookmen DC Facebook events “public” so that non Bookmen DC members will be able to see them and might attend meetings.  I hope this will catch the attention some potential members who might bring the perspective of a younger generation.  It is possible to make the Facebook Bookmen DC Group an “open” group, but I am not totally comfortable with this yet and welcome the views of others on this topic.

I have also set up a test Group in order to experiment with the features of the “New Facebook Groups”(I posted a blog on our website discussion the pros and cons).  I welcome any members who may want to join the test group to see how it works.  The new Facebook groups have many features that enhance  the group experience.  I have seen some flaws and I have sent suggested to facebook to try to modify or improve them.  I hope is that the new members will bring the perspective of a younger generation.  There is a possibly for making the Facebook Bookmen DC Group an “open” group, but I am not totally comfortable with this yet.

I like Steve’s idea of having guest facilitators, i.e., the one who actually recommended a book – of course guest facilitator must commit to actually show up.  This might help to vary the format of the discussion.   Our group has never been static.  Bookmen DC has evolved over time, and we have all learned from the opinions of old and new members

I think at our last meeting we briefly discussed the next reading list and how long it should run.  My preference is that 6 months should be the maximum. My reasons are as follows:

1.      The length of the list  may discourage people considering joining the group.  They may feel that they have no opportunity to contribute to a reading list that runs for many months.

2.      Having a more frequent selection process may give old and new members a greater sense of inclusion in the selection process, even though their choices may not be selected.

3.      We would be able to select more topical books if our list ran for a shorter period.

4.      It would be interesting to add reading suggestions from younger prospective members for us to hear the perspective of younger readers, which views are rather lacking in our current meetings.

5.      I propose adding topical, gay-themed articles from quality journals, articles, and blogs by prominent GLTB authors, perhaps as a “wild-card” selection on some kind of periodic basis.


I hope this will stimulate a civil discussion on the future direction of out group.  As for myself, I always seen the group as an opportunity to read books I would never have read on my own, and to meet people with similar interests to mine.  Some readings I like and sometimes not.  I look forward to seeing you at future meetings.




Tim said...

Thanks for posting your comments, Tom. It was courteous of you to express a wish not to offend anyone but I doubt any of your comments will, and in my case at any rate they haven't.

I think the attendance problem is twofold: churn & youth. Churn, first. Half a dozen people attending isn't necessarily too small a number. Even four or three. Our numbers could generally be up, but I'm more concerned with our having fewer new faces. Some might attend only once, some only once every quarter, some even only once every four years. But I would like to see a new face at least every other month if not every other meeting. How to achieve that!? One thing to consider is encouraging every member, especially every regular member, to invite friends—or even people they just happen to find out are interested in books ("acquaintances" as Blanche might put it)—to meetings. Publicity is another approach (the Blade, Metroweekly). Outreach to other groups, too, particularly to those to which members already belong. This is definitely a topic for long-term brainstorming.

Now, the younger demographic. It is sad, or at any rate true, that our median age has run up faster in this decade than the calendar. I enjoy hearing how other people react to books—I'm always amazed—and would enjoy even more learning how younger people react to our books, or to books of their choosing. I'm grateful that you've set up a Facebook group for us and encourage you to open it as much as you deem wise. (Facebook, so I'm told, is all about being public and sharing.) I'm hopeful that your efforts will yield great results. I'm particularly taken with your suggestion of using online resources for discussion, both for their inexpensiveness and their topicality. They might be folded into a shorter reading list via the "wild card" method you suggest, but I will be suggesting below and in a follow-up post an even more flexible scheduling suggestion.

Finally, I entirely agree with your opinion for a reading list no longer than six months and the reasons for that. Four months would be better. Longer lists are easier for the facilitator—I speak from experience—partly because putting out a well-edited list of candidates takes a long time. Let me repeat that, a long time. I have come to believe, and I'm proposing now, that we do away with lists and formal voting altogether! But that is clearly a radical enough proposal to merit its own posting, which I will soon do.

Tom Wischer said...

Tim, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I have taken the liberty of copying it to the Facebook discussion Board.