Flock of Readers


Lynette Perry, an adult program coordinator at the Rochester Public Library, meets me in a conference room on the second floor of the library. It seems a large space for a book group, but it is the perfect size for the Night Owl book group. “I currently have 24 people in it,” says Perry. “My max was 27 at one point.” 


While members of the Night Owl book group read the same book, other groups pick a theme instead of a specific book. The Mystery book group is one of these.

 “They might all read a cozy mystery set in a bed and breakfast,” says Perry. “They can all find one that they want and read it and then talk about the ones that they read.” There is even a cookbook group where members find a recipe and bring the food to the meeting.

“It’s a great way for people to share their interests and their time with the library and with other people,” she says. There are currently eight different book groups run by the library.



For the library groups, participants don’t need to buy each book. “That is one thing that’s unique about our library,” says Perry. “We provide copies of the books to everybody who is part of those book groups.” The books come from the Rochester library or from interlibrary loan. “We can always order them from somewhere else in the state,” says Perry.


On the library’s website, there is a page that lists the groups. Clicking on each link takes you to the calendar of the meeting times, as well as the books to be discussed. The book groups are not just for local residents; anyone can join. 

“All that’s required is a library card,” says Perry. “We have gotten people over the years who’ve been in town for a long-term visit. They enjoy the diversion—something other than sitting in doctor’s offices and hospital rooms.”


The library offers another service called Book Group in a Bag. The bag includes 10 copies of the book and a packet specific to the title with discussion questions. “You can check out and reserve up to a year in advance,” says Perry. The bags are available for both the library book groups or for patrons to check out for their private book groups.

“You can pick a date to pick up the book,” says Perry, “and then you have (it for) six weeks.” This period gives you time to pick up and distribute books, for participants to read the book and to collect the books and return the bag to the library.

“People will reserve a whole year’s worth in advance,” says Perry. “There’s some book groups that (only use) our book group bags.” 

A complete list of the bags can be found on the library’s website. “You can find it by just doing a general catalog search,” says Perry, “but you can also go to the Book Group in a Bag page.” There are more than 200 titles available.


You can host a book group at the Rochester Public Library, but all groups hosted at the library must be open to the general public. The library also helps people manage a book group. “There’s a ‘book group basics’ handout with information about how to start or conduct a book group,” says Perry. 

If you find yourself in charge of a book group, don’t worry if people like the book you choose. Perry says with a smile, “I found that the best discussions come from the books that everybody hates.”

Book Group Tips

  • Pick three or four books to start.
  • Start out with different types of books.
  • After a few meetings, let the group vote on their favorites.
  • For book groups around a theme, make sure the theme is not too narrow.

Anna Matetic is a local writer and just started her own book group. Her group is currently reading Ya Gyasi’s book, “Homecoming.”