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Unisa's Partner Public Libraries: Reading Groups / Clubs

This guides provides information and resources relevant to the Unisa Public Partner Libraries who serve Unisa students as well as members in their community

Reading Groups and Public and Community Libraries

In its broadest sense a "reading group" is a collection of people who come together to discuss a variety of topics contained in books. It provides an enjoyable social experience and creates a reader-focused environment in which readers can explore the creativity of reading.

Benefits include the following:

  • reading groups build on libraries’ traditional core skills in promoting reading, informal learning and self-help.

  • reading groups deliver benefits to society and to the individual. They provide support, for instance, for adult literacy and children’s learning

  • reading group provision builds on libraries’ open, neutral and self-help culture and provides a distinctive service that, at the same time, shares common ground with private- and public-sector partners.

    Public and community libraries are central players in the reading group movement.

Most public and community libraries are ideal for reading group provision.  They can offer:

  • An inclusive community venue open to all

  • A wide and varied choice of reading material

  • Expert staff able to recommend reading matter, widen reader choice, offer advice and in some cases facilitate groups

  • Information, events and activities including links to other learning activities in the library

The benefits of reading groups to the community which the public library serves include:

  • Broadening and widening  people’s reading

  • Supporting an enjoyable and more satisfying reading experience for all readers

  • Giving exposure to new ideas

  • Supporting learning

  • Empowering the individual and support skills development

  • Giving  a sense of belonging and inclusion

  • Bringing communities together

  • Providing a lifeline in difficult life circumstances


Reading group provision enables public libraries to:

  • Serve the local community better, increase library use and develop the library audience

  • Support user consultation by bringing staff and users together and providing direct feedback on services

  • Support staff development by increasing and widening reading, developing confidence, increasing contact with users and allowing for the learning of new skills

  • Raise their profile and highlight their role as a community service delivering a quality reading experience to all readers. They also enable libraries to challenge stereotypes about libraries and increase understanding about the demographic groups they serve

  • Support the cultural economy by building audiences for literature events, author visits, writing initiatives and related arts events. In particular, reading groups form a network to underpin local, regional and national literature touring, promote new writing and less mainstream forms of literature and reinforce a vibrant publishing scene, both independent and commercial

  • Develop a powerful creative force as enthused readers discuss and recommend books and reading beyond the confines of their group. A reading group is the hub of a significant community network and its members are powerful reading activists

The IFLA Literacy and Reading Section presents some practical suggestions for library staff who would like to help their communities  become more literate. Libraries are uniquely situated to promote literacy. Libraries may develop and staff their own programs or they may support literacy projects sponsored by other organizations.

The aims of these practical pointers are:

  • To encourage libraries to become involved in literacy programs

  • To serve as an informal checklist for evaluating library-based programs that are already in place

Read more at:

The IFLA Literacy and Reading Section

The following may also be of interest:

Initiatives to get people reading

Let us take a look at the growing number of reading initiatives in South Africa and which are not necessarily restricted to public and community libraries.