Ingredients: 6 books Many enthusiastic readers 2 librarians Some authors A cooperation with the Danish National Radio
Mix all ingredients on the Internet and let the concept run for half a year. Hereafter, enjoy the success of the digital book club.
The digital book club, the DR-Novel Club, has become a unique gathering point for authors and readers in Denmark. Here readers all over the country have the opportunity to write and communicate with their favourite authors about the six books that is up for debate during the winter season.
A unique concept
The club is located at Litteratursiden.dk – the largest website in Denmark when it comes to fiction. The site is produced by The Public Libraries of Denmark, and as I am writing, 100 Danish librarians are actively providing content for the site. Litteratursiden.dk hosts 25 digital book clubs. One of these is the DR-Novel Club, in cooperation with the Danish National Radio.
What is the concept? Each year the Danish National Radio and Litteratursiden.dk select six novels that are up for discussion across the country at more than 50 physical book clubs – and one digital book club, The DRNovel Club. At the end of the year, a jury is appointed among the national book clubs, and the jury gathers for a weekend in Copenhagen to select the Danish novel of the year. This makes the prize unique as it is the readers, who have read and discussed the nominated books, who select the winning novel. And whether they have participated in the discussion in real or virtual communities really does not matter.
Last year four Danish authors participated in the discus-sions as well – discussing their own books in virtual space. Thus the common reader had the opportunity to discuss books with some of Denmark’s best known authors – books by the authors themselves. At the same time, the readers had the opportunity to discuss the reading experience in itself with each other. Something both the readers and the authors gained a lot from.
In the book club the analytical aspect is not necessarily the most important part. It is just as important to share and exchange points of view on the books in question. The librarian, who is present at the virtual tables, is not the chief referee, and does not have all the right answers. However, the librarian is obligated to help the debate along. This is done through an appreciative approach to the contributions posted in the virtual debate. And with a lot of contributions, the reading experience becomes so much better.
The personal librarian
The underlying idea of the digital book club is to create attention around the role of the librarian as moderator in the book club. Results show that to get good literary discussions going on the Internet, it is necessary for the librarian to use his or her personality and enter the discussion as a private individual. Thus it is also a necessity to show ones own picture at the website. It is not enough to be committed if you appear to be a bit laid-back in the literary debate. To gain activity in the digital discussions, it is necessary to be active, active and even more active. The librarian must use both his/her profes-sional knowledge, but also find a personal style in the club. The goal is not to enter into a thorough analytic discussion, but to exchange reading experiences.
A cooperating library system
At the moment, the club has two moderators: Inger Bressendorff from Vigerslev Library in Copenhagen and Michael Linde Larsen from Odense Central Library on Funen. The Internet is not concerned about geographical boundaries, and as a participant on the Internet, your physical location does not matter. Thereby, the club also represents an example of cooperation within the Danish library system.Why not help each other create a shared site instead of each library creating its own individual site?
Always room for one more
The DR-Novel Club is now a permanent tradition and it gains more and more recognition among library users. Each autumn Danish libraries experience an increase in readers who want to join a physical book club. Unfortu-nately, many people will walk away with a no, as there are only a few seats available. But in the digital club there is always room for one more.Whoever wants to join the club, can do so. Of course it is preferable if all readers are active writers, but experience has also shown that many people are ‘merely’ viewers. They get inspired by the discussion and find great experiences in reading new Danish literature.
Resurrection of the book clubs
The DR-Novel Club is jet another example of the fact that book clubs in Denmark face a renaissance these years. From having an old-fashioned sound to it, the book clubs experience an increase in the number of people, who seek the social aspect of reading. And the Danish libraries have actively entered the work in the book clubs. The libraries still provide the book clubs with lots of books, but many librarians now also sit at the end of the table and guide the discussions. Thus, to run a book club is also an opportunity to generate library ambassadors. Contrary to the physical book clubs, in the digital book clubs the members have to get the books themselves – in the book-stores or at the library. But from the libraries’ point of view focus has been moved from delivering books to the book clubs to the literary discussion itself between the readers. The library is not merely a book centre, but an active voice in the literary debate. And of course the debate takes place on the Internet, where the librarians make an effort to be a central part and take responsibility.
The successful story of the DR-Novel Club has given rise to three digital book clubs, which are run as a cooperation between Litteratursiden.dk and Denmark’s Radio, – a crime novel club, an experimenting club and a classics club. Furthermore, the cooperation has developed into shared literary newsletters, which over time have gained a thou- sand customers. The newsletters are sent by the website Dr.dk, and this means massive exposure and marketing. Now the DR-Novel Club is a permanent part of the Danish public libraries’ activities and Denmark’s Radio’s profile, and hopefully it will continue growing in the future – to the benefit of readers, authors and libraries.
The DR-Novel Club receives financial support from the Danish Agency for Libraries and Media.
DR Romanklubben (Danish Radio– The Novel Club) is a cooperation between Litteratursiden (Literature site), Danish Radio, Danish Agency for Libraries and Media and Danish public libraries.
- The books are nominated by Danish Radio and Litteartursiden
- 50 libraries participate with more than 100 book clubs in the libraries
- Litteratursiden also runs a virtual book club
- Season: Novel of the month from December to May
Michael Linde Larsen
Editor, The DR-Novel Club