Your feedback counts


Member's feedback about BDS books and discussion notes is vital. Book groups' comments - whether positive or 'constructive' - help the scheme to maintain a quality selection of titles and to produce discussion notes that are functional and of a high standard.

As most book groups will be aware, there are two ways a group can rate and comment on a book:

1. Hand written comments on the consignment note that accompanies each book parcel.
There's a space at the bottom for comments. A large number of convenors take the opportunity to supply BDS with a couple of sentences that sum up their group's opinion of their latest book. A representative selection of these reviews are transferred online by a BDS staff member.

2. Online 
Find the relevant title in the Online Catalogue, go to the bottom of that page and click on 'Review'. Follow the prompts. (You must be logged in to the Convenor section of the website for this link to work). Online comments appear in the electronic version of the BDS Catalogue once the comments are moderated. 

BDS manager Barbara Brown makes a point of reading groups' comments, to gauge whether members are responding well to a particular author, topic or genre. Typical or representative comments are added to the online and printed versions of the BDS Catalogue, to assist other groups with selecting their booklist.

"When reviews and comments about a book are pretty consistent, then that's a really good indication that it's being well received by groups - or widely panned!" says Barbara. "That helps me with decisions such as the level of book stock and what titles I might recommend to groups looking for a particular genre."

As more and more groups review and rate their books via our website, the star rating (5 yellow stars means a really great read) will become statistically more representative and reliable. In future, it is likely that we will no longer need to ask groups to do the annual vote for their most popular read. If you missed the resukt of the 2018 vote for the Top 10 Favourite Books, view them here.

However, Barbara explains that a consistent rating by groups is not the only criteria for assessing the 'success' of a book - or the whole collection.

"One book group's '10 out of 10' book choice can be another group's 'why is this book in the scheme?" she says. "The key is to offer a diverse collection of genres, authors, topics and writing styles so that our collection appeals to a wide range of readers."

She goes on to explain that differing opinions within a group can be advantageous, as it can fuel more animated discussion. The discussion notes provided by BDS also play a role in helping achieve this.

"Producing discussion notes that assist a wide range of book groups can be tricky," says Barbara. "Groups can respond quite differently, depending on whether they are more literary in their approach or meeting in a more social setting," says Barbara. 

As an example, she highlights The Color of Water, a non-fiction account of a Baptist minister in a mixed race marriage. The notes received disparate feedback from groups: a North Island group commented that the notes were 'particularly good' while a Canterbury group described them as 'pompous'.

Shelagh oversees the production of discussion notes for new books in the BDS collection


Booknote organiser, Shelagh, says the quality of book notes has greatly improved in recent years because the production process has become a lot more rigorous. Added to that, comments from book groups about the booknotes help determine where further improvements may be required.

"Notes are well scrutinised and well proofread during their production," says Shelagh. 

There is also a greater emphasis on offering helpful discussion questions, she explains.

"Feedback is helpful, regardless of whether it's positive or not so," says Barbara. "The variety of points of view help make the scheme what it is - and we hope to continue generating great discussion for many years to come!"

(article updated February 2019)




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The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations