by A'ndrea J. Wilson
Originally published in 2012 Book Club 101 Magazine Summer Edition
For those of us who reside in “the country,” the above scenario might ring true as a daily reality. Life in rural areas can appear vastly different from the hustle and bustle of urban living, and many things, including book club participation can be impacted by this great divide. From a lack of technology to fewer retail resources, book clubs in the country may be a bit more complicated to establish. While it is true that rural reading groups face challenges that urban organizations may not, creating and maintaining a book club in the country is not only possible, it is well worth it.
Barriers and Solutions
Barrier: Lack of Technology. In an era where Google has replaced the traditional phonebook, urbanites have turned to technology to help them easily connect with others. Facebook and other social media outlets have become the primary way that book clubs attract new membership and keep current members informed. But in the country, many homes do not have internet access, most people do not utilize smart phones, and Wi-Fi hotspots are rare or nonexistent. Many rural residents may not have an email account or even know how to use the computer.
Solution: Word-of-Mouth. Book clubs in rural areas often gain and retain members through word-of-mouth. Telephone and face-to-face communication helps these book clubs to invite potential members to meetings and stay connected with current ones. In addition, having a member who is technologically savvy can also be extremely helpful. Even if all members are not able to participate in building a web presence, one or two willing souls can help keep the book club visible through creating a website or maintaining a page on Facebook.
Barrier: Lack of People. Due to the decreased general population of rural areas, it may seem that there are fewer people available to promote your book club to or that you have a more difficult time finding readers.
Solution: Expand Outreach. To find readers, your book club may have to promote beyond your town or even county. People who are avid readers often love to discuss books, and are likely to be willing to travel a small distance to attend book club meetings. If you have family,
A'ndrea Wilson is the vice president of the Candler County Book Club and a member of the Treutlen County Book Club. A'ndrea is the author of the Wife 101 series and writes Christian Fiction thrillers and mysteries under the pen name Janelle.
Barrier: Lack of Booksellers. If you live in the country, visiting a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million might not be convenient or feasible. So where can you go to get that next book-of-the-month?
Solution: Think Outside the Box. Online book shopping is great tool for rural book clubs. Sites like Amazon, B&N, and Half.com offer the convenience of fast and/or free shipping and the option to buy new or used books in larger quantities. If online shopping is not your thing, stores like Wal-Mart (which is everywhere) often have a books section which carries newer releases. If you have a used bookstore nearby, the owner may be willing to order copies of the book you desire for you. If all else fails, most counties have a public library where you can reserve multiple copies of the book your club needs.
Barrier: Distance. Let’s face it; the country is “spread out.” There can be quite a bit of distance from one location to another. Book club members may feel discouraged from attending regularly by the amount of travel required to get to meetings.
Solution: Collaborate. If all members of your book club do not reside in the same town, consider having the meeting at a different member’s home each month. Moving the meeting from house-to-house will reduce the disadvantage of some members being forced to commute farther than others every month. Also, try arranging carpools to meetings or events with members that live in a close proximity. Finally, allow members who cannot physically be there due to distance, to participate via phone or Skype.
Despite challenges, book clubs in rural America do exist and are a wonderful way to make new friends, enjoy amazing meals, and escape from life in one of the best ways, through books!
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