Scotch Plains Public Library LibraryLinkNJ Next Chapter Book Club


Final Report

This project’s goal was to give participating libraries a proven, effective, economical and long-term way to serve their differently-abled populations. It will extend the role of library as community anchor and safe haven for taking risks outside the library walls. A contract award was given to the Scotch Plains Library $9,850 to fund and support up to six New Jersey libraries in setting up their own Next Chapter Book Clubs for adults and teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Scotch Plains Public Library promoted the project, offered a full-day training session in May 2013 for signees of letters of intent to participate, and began to support these libraries for setup, recruitment, local training and publicity. This phase continued through the end of 2014 and clubs launched in late 2014. The contract period ended on June 30, 2015.

Six libraries started clubs: Camden County Library, Cherry Hill Public Library, Monmouth County Library – Eastern Branch, Middletown Public Library, Wayne Public Library, Woodbridge Public Library. Each club was specifically designed to meet the needs of the community it serves. The group will continue to stay in touch, share with and mentor any libraries interested in starting their own.

Our thanks to team at the Scotch Plains Public Library for their inspiration and hard work on this project and to the staffs of the libraries that participated. In particular, a big thank you to Scotch Plains’ former Library Director, Meg Kolaya and also to Pamela Books, Head of Adult Services, Scotch Plains Public Library.

Final Report submitted by Pamela Brooks, Scotch Plains Public Library 




What is NCBC4NJL? 



NCBC4NJL (Next Chapter Book Club for New Jersey Libraries) is a project that will fund and support six New Jersey libraries in setting up their own Next Chapter Book Clubs for adults and teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through a contract awarded by LibraryLinkNJ  to Scotch Plains Public Library, support for setup, recruitment, training and publicity has begun, and will continue through the end of 2014. Clubs will launch in Fall 2014.


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What is The Next Chapter Book Club?

The Next Chapter Book Club (NCBC) offers weekly opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to read and learn together, talk about books, and make friends in a relaxed, community setting.  A program of The Ohio State University Nisonger Center, NCBC was established in June 2002 to provide adolescents and adults with IDD – regardless of reading ability – the chance to be members of a book club.  NCBC has become the preeminent program of its kind.  Today there are NCBC programs in over 100 cities across North America and Europe.

Individual Next Chapter Book Clubs usually consist of five to eight people with disabilities and two facilitators, some of whom also have disabilities.  The clubs meet in local bookstores, cafés, and similar gathering places to read aloud and discuss a book for one hour each week. 

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What is Scotch Plains Public Library’s Involvement?

Scotch Plains Public Library (SPPL) has been running two Next Chapter Book Clubs since 2008. NCBC enables us to serve underserved members of the community in a profoundly rewarding way, within a structure that is manageable for our thinly-stretched staff and budget. We will draw upon our experience to mentor your efforts with information, support and training as you plan, launch and maintain your own Next Chapter book club.


We will:

  • Host a free training session on May 7, 2014 at SPPL. This will consist of an in-person half-day workshop with Tom Fish and Jillian Ober of NCBC/Chapters Ahead. If undertaken independent of the contract, such training would cost a library over $1,000! In addition to working with Jillian and Tom, who founded NCBC, participants will have a chance to meet current Next Chapter Book Club members and their families to get the real inside scoop on what “book club” means to them. Each team member will receive a copy of Next Chapter Book Club: A Model Community Literacy Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities, by Tom Fish and Paula Rabidoux. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
  • Provide all the forms you will need, as well as recruiting and publicity advice, phone and online support and promotional materials for your library.
  • Attend your first book club meeting to assist and support you.
  • Plan two more in-person and teleconference meetings in the late fall/winter of 2014 and spring 2015 to share experiences, assist with problems, offer reinforcement and brainstorm solutions.
  • Hold a wrap-up meeting in June 2015, in-person or teleconference.
  • Offer ongoing phone and email support throughout the contract period, in partnership with the staff of NCBC.

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What would my library’s involvement entail?

  • Each library will coordinate a team consisting of at least:
    • A program coordinator
    • An administrator (Director, Department Head)
    • Invited member(s) from the community or library staff. We encourage you to seek independent partners among your local school media specialists.
  • Organization and outreach through spring and summer 2014 can take the program coordinator twenty hours or more total (not weekly), for that period. Once the club is launched, the program coordinator might expect to devote an hour per month to organizational duties, such as e-mails, book ordering and preparing optional supplementary activities the teams might want to introduce in book club.
  • Team members will commit one hour each week for the club meeting.
  • Your team will participate in the all-day training workshop on May 7, 2014, the meetings to be scheduled for the late fall/winter of 2014 and spring 2015, and the June 2015 wrap-up session.
  • Your initial sets of books will be supplied, along with Scotch Plains’ book list of successful titles. Each library can decide on how to pay for books after the first set. Book clubs deal with this in a variety of ways.
  • You will keep in touch with the Scotch Plains Public Library team as you plan and implement your club.
  • You will submit evaluations and report on progress at our scheduled meetings.
  • You will agree to assist in Next Chapter training for additional libraries in the future.
  • You will serve a vital and growing need in our communities by providing this service for an underserved population.

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Is there a cost for this program?

Training, the first set of books for your club, promotional materials and support by SPPL’s team and NCBC are all paid for by the LibraryLinkNJ contract. After that, libraries can choose to buy books from their budgets, to charge club members for the books, or find alternative funding for book purchases.  SPPL's team is comprised of volunteers, but each library is free to make its own decision as regards volunteer or paid service.

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How can libraries get on board?

File a letter of intent by March 1, 2014.   The six libraries selected will be notified by April 15.  Training is scheduled for May 7, 2014.

Your letter of intent should include the following information:

  • Name of Library
  • Street Address, Phone Contact and e-mail
  • Team structure - who will be your program coordinator, library administration team member, and invited member(s) from the community, school media specialists, or library staff
  • Any existing programs your library offers the special needs population, and/or a description of a population that you have identified that would benefit from NCBC4NJL
  • Why would your library like to participate in NCBC4NJL
  • Agreement that your team will participate in the all-day training workshop on May 7, 2014, the meetings to be scheduled for the late fall/winter of 2014 and spring 2015, and the June 2015 wrap-up session
  • Agreement to keep in touch with the Scotch Plains Public Library team as you plan and implement your club
  • Agreement to submit evaluations and report on progress at our scheduled meetings
  • Agreement to participate in Next Chapter training for additional libraries in the future

We will aim for geographic diversity as we choose the six libraries. If a county library, consortium, or school system library group wishes to adopt NCBC, and is among the six selected, we will supply only one set of books to be shared among the system libraries involved.

Beyond the six selected libraries, the May 7, 2014 training will be offered to any library group that is interested in attending. Books will not be supplied to those libraries, but the SPPL team will offer telephone support as needed.

Contact us at 908-322-5007
or email:
mkolaya [at] scotlib.orgstyle="line-height: 1.5;"
pbrooks [at] scotlib.orgstyle="line-height: 1.5;"

Scotch Plains Public Library
1927 Bartle Avenue
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

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How does this project fit into the Statewide Strategic Plan for the Future of Libraries in New Jersey?  

This project will give participating libraries a proven, effective, economical and long-term way to serve their differently-abled populations. NCBC4NJL will extend the role of library as community anchor and safe haven for taking risks outside the library walls.

Libraries participating in this project will be positioning themselves as “co-creators of new ways to help people improve their quality of life, learn, develop and participate more fully in society.”

NCBC4NJL develops the “capacity among library leaders to work with each other and their stakeholders in the most productive ways.”

NCBC4NL aligns with the stakeholder interests of members of our community with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, their schools and supportive organizations.

The structure of NCBC4NJL “facilitates opportunities for networking, collaboration and creativity amongst library colleagues, to learn from each other’s successes,” as we replicate a successful program, and to benefit from cost savings realized by the economies of scale provided by group training.

NCBC4NJL is a program that ensures that libraries “address changing user and community needs, including…the differently-abled,” while providing professional development and training in new skills and opportunities to collaborate with school libraries.

NCBC4NJL meets in public places, encouraging “increased awareness of library services… and increased worth of the library in the eyes of the community,” while building a relationship with non-traditional community anchors (book stores and restaurants).

NCBC4NL’s structure mandates that “library administrators make this project a priority and either head up the outreach or delegate [it] to interested and able staff members.”

NCBC4NJL offers libraries a weekly opportunity to deliver “understanding and personal connection as well as information. The key is to communicate our brand promise and to live it, be it and demonstrate it every day, in everything we do. Then, the value of libraries will speak for itself.”

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Contract Award

LibraryLinkNJ encourages libraries to expand their areas of diversity services and recently awarded a contract of $9,850 to the Scotch Plains Public Library.

At the invitation of Cheryl O’Connor, Scotch Plains Public Library Director Meg Kolaya developed a project proposal linked to the Statewide Strategic Plan goal area, The Library as Community Anchor. Using the project template from the Statewide Strategic Plan, Meg and Pamela Brooks, Head of Adult Services and Reference, developed a proposal with the following premise: "A group of five to eight people with intellectual disabilities, regardless of their reading skills, gather with…volunteers in a local bookstore, coffee shop, or café to read aloud and discuss a book for one hour a week.” This is the Next Chapter Book Club’s Model Community Literacy Program for People with Intellectual Disabilities. LibraryLinkNJ has contracted with the Scotch Plains PL to gather, train and mentor select staff from six member libraries across the state to develop and launch local Next Chapter Book Clubs by June 2015. The project is Next Chapter Book Club for New Jersey Libraries (NCBC4NJL).

Pamela Brooks shares her experience to pique your interest:

“We are very enthusiastic about sharing participation in Next Chapter Book Club with more New Jersey libraries through NCBC4NJL. Our library’s involvement with Next Chapter Book Club has been an amazing experience on so many levels. On Tuesday evenings we leave our library at 5 pm, drive the 5 minutes to our local Panera Bread, and await the arrival of our club members. And then the fun begins!"

“We are told repeatedly that “book club” is the high point of so many club members’ weeks. What we volunteers did not anticipate is that it has become a bright spot in our busy weeks as well, energizing us, and enriching our routines with laughter, warmth and the joy of sharing a love of books and reading with others.

“Think about the benefits: the library is a community anchor, even when it moves beyond brick and mortar walls. Restaurant-goers who recognize us from the library see us engaged in the community in a very positive way. People who are not regular library users are curious and supportive when they observe the clubs in action. We volunteers give an hour and see our efforts rewarded as reluctant readers become enthusiastic book lovers, people who often face isolation and ostracism form a close and supportive group bond and practice skills like ordering food, paying with the correct money, interacting with restaurant staff, and making conversation. The library shines as an example of how vision, coupled with personal interaction can foster community inclusion while addressing the needs of the differently-enabled. We volunteers go home tired but happy. We invite you to join us any Tuesday evening to experience a meeting, and see if NCBC4NJL is right for your library.”

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NCBC4NJL UPDATE: “Aging Out” Not an Option at New Jersey Libraries!

by Pamela Brooks, Head of Adult Services, Scotch Plains Public Library

The November issue of New Jersey Monthly sports a front page banner and feature article, "Aging Out: Desperately Seeking Services for Autistic Adults." When young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) turn 21, they lose government-funded special education services. While this may not be news to those of us who interact daily with members of the special needs population, it is sobering to read the facts. When support services end for these individuals, regular opportunities for human interaction outside of their homes is curtailed.

What is encouraging is that New Jersey libraries have responded to a very real need. Through Next Chapter Book Club for New Jersey Libraries (NCBC4NJL), colleagues statewide offer weekly programs that engage special needs customers in reading and socializing in a community setting.

NCBC4NJL is obviously not a blanket solution to the demand for jobs, training, and family support services for all fellow citizens with IDD, but it is one way that libraries can offer a very effective program to our community while operating within the constraints of library budgets and staffing limitations.

What follows is a full NCBC4NJL update with news from the six New Jersey libraries that rose to the challenge of this LibraryLinkNJ pilot project:

  • Scotch Plains Public Library
  • Camden County Library, Voorhees Branch
  • Cherry Hill Public Library
  • Middletown Public Library
  • Monmouth County Library, Eastern Branch
  • Wayne Public Library
  • Woodbridge Public Library

NCBC4NJL (Next Chapter Book Club for New Jersey Libraries) is a project that funds and supports six New Jersey libraries in setting up their own Next Chapter Book Clubs for adults and teens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through a contract awarded by LibraryLinkNJ to Scotch Plains Public Library, 4 clubs launched in Fall 2014, and 2 will start in January 2015. Scotch Plains Public Library’s experience running two Next Chapter Book Clubs since 2008 enabled us to apply for and receive the contract to plan and administer NCBC4NJL, mentoring the 6 libraries’ efforts with information, support and training. Our team consists of Library Director Meg Kolaya, Senior Library Assistant Amy Chervenyak, and Lauren Kolaya, a reading teacher, who act as facilitators at our weekly meetings, and me, as coordinator.

Following a full-day orientation at Scotch Plains Public Library on May 7, 2014, the libraries began to plan their clubs. Over the next few months, each library developed an approach that would work best for the library and the target community. They addressed concerns including who would serve as facilitators, coordinators, and community volunteers? Would club members be adults or teens, or both? How could they recruit them? Where and when would they meet?

Solutions are inventive and diverse. Camden County Library Coordinator Rosemary Scalese reports, “We are so excited to have a Next Chapter Book Club at the Camden County Library!

We were very fortunate to have a lot of publicity before we launched the club. We meet every Thursday at 7:00 pm at the Voorhees branch of the Camden County Library. Our first meeting was held in September, and now have a core group of 4 (2 men and 2 women) who are in their late 20s and 30s.

We read a short story the first 2 times we met, and then we started our first full-length book: A Dog’s Life, by Ann Martin. So far everyone seems to be enjoying the book. All the members of the current group are able to read the book without too much difficulty. Each time we meet, we recap what has happened so far and we usually talk a bit about what we have read when we finish for the day.

I think we have the start of a great book club. Some of the members are quiet, but have already begun to talk more each time we meet. One member’s sister came in to get him one night when we ran a bit over time, and we heard him say “I’m socializing!” We have one member who is in his 30s and he is quite friendly and outgoing. We were concerned we might have an issue when we would begin reading, but when it’s time to start, he gets right down to business!

One comment I hear from people who call about the book club is that they cannot commit to meeting weekly, but now that we’ve been meeting for over a month, I see the value of getting together each week and how we could lose momentum (and maybe some members) if we met less frequently.”

Cherry Hill Public Library coordinator Linda Tilden shares, “I have a new NCBC co-coordinator, Deena Caswell, who is as excited about the group as I am. I really like the people in our group! We meet Wednesday afternoons at Whole Foods, and have regular attenders ages 19-47. Most seem to have great senses of humor, and are enjoying the stories in the Lucky Dogs book.”

Linda’s former co-coordinator, Cassie Runkel (who has since moved on to the Ocean County Library) posted this on the NCBC4NJL Facebook group after Cherry Hill’s first meeting in September: “WOW. We just wrapped up our first meeting this afternoon at CHPL. As Linda Tilden said--this is something public libraries should be doing! Every single attendee read and we were cracking up…I haven't been a librarian long but this is the proudest I have EVER felt about my job.

Middletown Public Library’s group will begin meeting in January 2015, with Jennifer Salt and Jennifer Chadwick as Co-Coordinators, and Megan Wianecki providing administrative support. They are planning for Young Adult membership, ages 14-21

Monmouth County Library, Eastern Branch, will also start in January, with Beth Miller as Coordinator. Here’s the latest from Eastern Branch Chief Librarian Kim Avagliano, who provides administrative support: “We are partnering with the Monmouth County Center for Vocational Rehabilitation and ARC of Monmouth County. A representative from each organization is interested in volunteering as a facilitator as well as helping to recruit NCBC members. We plan to meet at the library, in our cafe / YA area, weekly on Mondays, beginning the last week of January and running through early June (approximately 20 weeks).”

Wayne Public Library’s Coordinator Doreen Shoba tells us that there are currently four enthusiastic Next Chapter members who meet weekly at a Wendy’s. Two of Wayne’s club members are on the Autism spectrum and two are individuals with Down syndrome. They are enjoying The Art of Racing in the Rain. Doreen says they are happy to have a facilitator from the public, and would like to recruit another one!

Woodbridge Public Library’s Coordinator is Anne Taylor, Jean Retkwa is the Facilitator, and Assistant Director Patty Anderson provides administration support. Patty writes, “The Woodbridge Public Library kicked off its Next Chapter Book Club in September at a local Target store. The library partnered with the N.J. Institute of Disabilities and had ten anxious and excited adults enroll immediately. The club is a combination of men and women from about 20 to 60 years of age.

We now meet at the Food Court at the Menlo Park Mall and everyone is very happy with this location. Not only is the space open, bright and filled with beautiful plants and skylights, there are numerous healthy food and beverage choices when we take our break—from Panera Bread to Wendy’s.

We are currently reading the short stories in the book Lost Hats, Lucky Dogs & Dating Don’ts. We are on our 5th chapter already. We have taken a trip to NYC and to the doctors; we have met a homeless person and we are now going camping. We have all levels of reading ability—some can read only a few words, while others can read entire paragraphs and pages. We always have an ice-breaker activity before we start, such as, “What is your favorite holiday?” or “What would you like to do if you went to New York City for the day?” All of the participants love this part of the meeting, as they are eager to share their personal desires and interests. Some like baseball, while others prefer going out to dinner.

We’ve added four terrific volunteer facilitators to our group and they are a welcome addition. Anne and Jean prepare the bulk of the activities and make sure the tables are set up at the mall each week. The big surprise to some of us is how this small club has become the emotional highlight of our week. “While we all enjoy the chapter readings, the real high point seems to be the social connection and smiles we see each week on the participants faces,” said Patty Anderson, Assistant Director.

NCBC4NJL participants will convene in early 2015 via conference call to share experiences and expectations, applaud each other’s successes and learn from any missteps and dead ends we may have encountered. Pam Brooks has been invited to speak on panels at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this June, as well as the Chapters Ahead Conference (the national conference for Next Chapter participants) this April, and is looking forward to sharing the stories of the intrepid pioneers of the public libraries from New Jersey and other states who have undertaken the first library-led efforts in the country to establish statewide Next Chapter Book Clubs! While the pilot here in New Jersey may be nearing completion, it is still possible for libraries to establish Next Chapter clubs on their own, and Pam would be delighted to speak with any interested colleagues who want to learn more about Next Chapter.

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