Tuesday, October 19, 2010


One of the things I like about our group is that we waste no time (no meeting time) debating/arguing/deciding about what to read. I've belonged to groups—I'm sure we all have—where a good quarter of every hour was engaged in that activity, and although the liveliest, it could also be the most vituperative and aggrieved as well. It was early recognized that an open and public book group such as ours could not function along the lines of private and closed ones. In those, typically, the members—limited and known—vote at some meeting what book(s) they will read in the future. We have had as many as a hundred "members" on our mailing list: some regular, some irregular, some never seen. How, where, and when would we get together and vote?

What we have done instead is publish a list of proposals and ask people, all and sundry, to designate the books they'd like to read. But it should be understood that those "votes" are entirely advisory. The Facilitator, otherwise known as the "benevolent despot," takes the information from those "votes" and tries to come up with a balanced list that will please most of people who attend or might attend. If he fails, he facilitates an empty room.

(An example of this balancing might be instructive. When I was facilitator, I offered people the option of voting "NO". This was something of a veto, particularly coming from members who attended regularly. Of course if many members, especially frequently attending members, voted "Yes", they could override a veto. Once, I got a "vote" from someone on the mailing list who had never attended a meeting. It was sprinkled with NO's. I of course ignored it.)

All of this is a somewhat long-winded way of saying that the voting list is for the benefit of the facilitator. If he can use a Ouija board to divine what people might like to read, well and good. The voting list has tended to be long and cumbersome—one reason for votes to be seldom and for lists to be long. But a consensus is forming I think for shorter lists and along with that should be other means for the facilitator to be informed of what members—present, past, and future—might like to read. I'm unsure what those other means might be (informal consultation?). Whatever they are should obviously be useful and agreeable to the presiding facilitator. This is something for us think about.

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