Virtual Book Club Program Addresses Key Needs for Librarians

Innovative turnkey service from Sourcebooks and Baker & Taylor includes access to
high-quality ebooks and programming

Innovative turnkey service from Sourcebooks and Baker & Taylor includes access to high-quality ebooks and programming

Libraries often struggle to provide high-quality programming for their constituents, especially as many librarians are spread thin working on multiple tasks. “Libraries have been asking us for a seamless online book club experience, and as the leading provider of library solutions, we combined our expertise with Sourcebooks to deliver this innovative program in support of literacy based community outcomes,” says Amandeep Kochar, executive vice president and general manager for Baker & Taylor.

Now, a new virtual book club program from independent publisher Sourcebooks and book distributor Baker & Taylor helps librarians address both of these key hurdles — access and programming — at the same time.

The program, called Book Clubs at the Library, includes unlimited access to a select ebook title each month, along with a virtual conversation with the book’s author. The program requires very little effort on the part of librarians to participate; Sourcebooks and Baker & Taylor provide all of the content, including a book discussion guide and even promotional materials to help spread the word to patrons.

“Libraries have always been very central to our thinking,” says Sourcebooks Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah. “We really want to make sure that readers have access to great books and programming, especially in these tough times.”

How the program works

There are two versions of the program. Murder at the Library features a different mystery book each month, and the Teen Book Club features a different young adult title.

Each program allows libraries to purchase a select amount of electronic copies of the month’s featured title for a promotional price. The ebooks come with unlimited, simultaneous access during the month the book is featured, and they revert to single-use copies that live on perpetually thereafter.

At the end of the month, a chosen moderator, like Rebecca Vnuk, executive director of LibraryReads, moderates an online discussion with the featured books’ authors. These book club events are also recorded and archived on the program’s website.

Murder at the Library kicked off in July 2020 featuring the instant New York Times bestseller, The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Subsequent authors have included Caroline B. Cooney, Stuart Turton, and Greer Macallister, and future titles will include One Day You’ll Burn by Joseph Schneider, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, and Black Widows by Cate Quinn.

The first Teen Book Club was held in August 2020 with I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal. Other authors have included Marieke Nijkamp (This is Where it Ends) and Kate Moore (The Radium Girls: Young Reader Edition); books scheduled for the future include Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala and Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson.

“We’ve gone from 12 libraries that signed up for the initial event to over 100 libraries in January,” says Valerie Pierce, director of retail marketing and creative service for Sourcebooks. “And we’re choosing authors who will connect with readers. For instance, when Caroline B. Cooney spoke, I think it was a dream come true for a lot of people, because they’ve grown up reading her books. We had more than 30 questions during the Q&A portion of the event.”

Forging connections

Connecting with readers is what Lisa Taylor, director of the Sumter County Library System in Florida, sees as the program’s biggest benefit — and this has never been more critical than during the pandemic.

“There is a pent-up demand for services and connections right now,” says Taylor. “It’s vitally important for libraries to continue to reach out to their customers. No one knows what COVID is going to bring in the next 12 months, but our customers still need us. They still want to connect with us and with other library users. This program is a great way to allow that.”

Taylor’s library system, which includes five branches reaching more than 120,000 people, was an early adopter of the virtual book club programs. Although Sumter County libraries have been open since May, in-person programming has been suspended. Book Clubs at the Library helps meet a key programming need.

Taylor says the adult titles have averaged more than 100 downloads during the month they’ve been featured, and the live author events have averaged up to 60 attendees. “The program has proven to be so popular,” she says.

An innovative model

While Taylor considers the live author events to be the program’s biggest draw, she also appreciates the innovative licensing model that makes ebooks more accessible for her patrons.

Ebook pricing and licensing can sometimes be a source of contention between publishers and libraries, she says, adding: “Sourcebooks and Baker & Taylor were willing to step out of the box and offer not only a great add-on with the authors, but a way for customers to get access to those books without restricting the library budget for future books.”

The goal in developing the program was “to create something that really works for people,” Raccah says. “We have been fierce advocates on behalf of equitable pricing that actually works for libraries.”

Although the program is designed with ebooks in mind, libraries can substitute hard copies if they’d like, or they can take advantage of the unlimited ebook usage during the month that a book is featured and then request physical copies instead of electronic ones after that.

“The program is flexible,” says Amandeep Kochar. “We’re in this to make libraries successful and to ensure that content is consumed and enjoyed. All it takes is one engaging book, or one anecdote from an author — and you’ve developed a lifelong love of reading.”


Sponsored by

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing