Hosting a virtual book club

With stage 4 restrictions in place here in Melbourne, we’re all staying home more than most of us are used to. Group events are no longer allowed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still take place… online! Now is the perfect time to consider hosting a virtual book club. Here are some tips to get you started.

Pick a platform

To host a virtual book club, you’ll need to choose an online platform. Most of the options below are free, easy to use apps that have video, voice, and chat features. They do require a reasonably consistent internet connection, but voice chat rather than video can be used if there are problems with the connection or you need to limit data usage.

Microsoft Teams:, opens a new window Threaded conversations, ability to upload documents for your group to access at any time. Up to 20 people can be in a Teams meeting, but only four on video will show up on the screen at a time.
Google Hangouts:, opens a new window Limited to 10 people at a time if on video.
Zoom:, opens a new window 49 on-screen for video chat simultaneously. The free version has a meeting time limit of 40 minutes maximum.
Skype:, opens a new window Up to 50 people at a time. You can also select which participant’s video cameras will be on your screen, or just leave it as the default which detects who is speaking.

If you have never used any of the above meeting services before, we do have some short courses available on Lynda.com which you can use to develop a better understanding of these options: Microsoft Teams, opens a new window, Google Hangouts, opens a new window, Zoom, opens a new window, and Skype, opens a new window.

Be aware that if you are having your group facilitated by YPRL, our organisation is primarily using Microsoft Teams, unless something else has been prearranged with existing members of our book clubs.

Also, set aside a little extra time at your first meeting in case of technical issues. This may include things like: Why can’t I hear anyone? Can everyone mute themselves when not speaking? Or I’m worried people will talk over me — decide how do you want to handle these issues as a group.

Invite your group

If your group already exists, make sure all members are aware of how the meetings will be continuing online. If you’d like to join a group, click here, opens a new window.

Pick your book

Remember that our eLibrary and movie/TV streaming services, opens a new window are still available. As as a group, choose what you want to read. Are you happy to read/watch anything? Do you only want to read classics? Are you happy to read and watch, but having a true crime theme would make your day? Maybe you’d like to have everyone read a different book by the same author?

We also have plenty of what we call ‘Champion Titles, opens a new window’ available from BorrowBox. This means that for some books 500 copies can be read at one time!

Having problems?

Need a book recommendation, forgotten your YPRL password, or want advice about how to stream films? Ask us! Each weekday from 10 am–12 pm on Twitter, opens a new window and 10 am–12 pm on Facebook, opens a new window, one of our librarians will be ready and waiting to take your questions. Learn more, opens a new window.

Call Tech Help on 03 9408 7888, leave a voicemail and we’ll call you back to help. Find out more about the Tech Helpline, opens a new window.

Carlia Cairns, Yarra Plenty Regional Library

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