Running a Skype reading group event

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In November 2011, Poole Library hosted a Skype reading group event, Jennifer Oliver from Poole Library tells us how it happened:

In a unique experiment, a Poole Library reading group ‘met’ American author, Rebecca Makkai, and a reading group from the United States via a Skype internet link. The four thousand mile link-up connected Hamworthy Library, Poole, with Vernon Area Public Library, Chicago, across six hours’ time difference.

Both groups were meeting to discuss Rebecca’s novel, The Borrower, the story of a children’s librarian, Lucy Hull, who embarks upon an unplanned flight with one of her customers, 10-year-old Ian Drake. Like all the best road trips, this turns into a journey of self-discovery.

Rebecca talked about her writing and read a short extract from the book before answering questions from her audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Each library projected images from the link-up on to a big screen so that everyone could follow the proceedings and the technology worked well with only a slight delay in the sound transmission.

Although the Skype technology has been around for quite a long time, a book group meeting of this kind is probably a first. It certainly paves the way for all sorts of interesting ventures in the future.

The Hamworthy Library reading group’s review

The Hamworthy Library reading group won the opportunity to speak to Rebecca and be twinned with an American reading group. They had to write a 200-word review of The Borrower. Here’s Hamworthy Library reading group’s winning review:

Can you drift into kidnapping someone by accident? When Lucy Hull, children’s librarian, and 10-year-old Ian Drake embark on their unplanned flight, who is the abductor and who is the victim? What is the difference between education and brain-washing? Is it OK to tell lies? Can people change their fundamental natures? Rebecca Makkai’s story is full of moral and human questions which will provide endless scope for discussion.

It’s also told in a style which keeps you enthralled and laughing, with lots of spoofs and jokes, word games and borrowings from children’s stories. The main characters are appealing in spite of Lucy indecisiveness and Ian’s naughtiness. Like all proper road trips, this is a journey of self-discovery, particularly for Lucy as she struggles with revelations about her father’s life and the truth behind the myths he has always told her. She also has to face up to the fact that she is not the action heroine of the story who makes everything come out right in the end.

I think that the ambivalent ending of the story is appropriate. Lucy’s banishment is a fitting sort of punishment for her actions. We do not know how Ian’s life develops but can hope that with his resourceful nature and through Lucy’s parting legacy of booklists that he will find a way to be himself.

In my opinion, this is a remarkable book with so much in it to enjoy, laugh at, argue with, admire and celebrate. It is also a brilliant advertisement for the power of books and libraries.

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Interested in joining a reading group or starting one of your own? Download our quick guide to getting started.

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