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Bellingham Public Library Provides Conversation Starters

The mission of the Bellingham Public Library is Connecting Our Community with Each Other and the World. One of the best ways to do that is through shared experiences that get a good conversation going. Whether you’re part of a book club, or just want to discuss a book, or want to start a regular movie night with friends, or need some artistic inspiration, your library is absolutely brimming with possibilities. Come visit the Bellingham Public Library in January 2023 where you’ll find great Conversation Starters to check out on our display shelves.

Book Club Kits for Local Book Groups

Bellingham Public Library book club kits to check out

A Bellingham Public Library book club kit contains 10 copies of the same title and a reading guide to help facilitate group discussion. We have over 190 different kit titles to choose from, and the kits check out for 32 days, giving groups enough time to check them out, distribute the copies, read them, and gather for a discussion before they’re due.

For more information about the Library’s book club kits, visit the Book Club Resources page!

Local Book Group Spotlight

Who are they and how do they work?

More than 50 local book groups use the Library’s book kits regularly. Here’s a peek at who they are and how they work.

Some of our favorite book group names are:

  • Not Now I’m Reading
  • Readers Without Borders
  • Manly Men
  • Babes and Books
  • Between the Covers
  • Bibliomaniacs
  • Overreaders Anonymous

Book groups can be made up of friends, church members, co-workers, couples, neighbors, and sometimes even strangers! It’s a great way to connect and share conversation, and you don’t even have to like the same books. We think the best book discussions are the ones with a lot of lively debate.

We asked a few of the groups who use the Library’s book club kits the following questions…

What kind of books does your group like best?

  • All kinds, we mix it up!
  • It’s sort of a mish-mash and not really centered on any particular genre.
  • We like a wide variety. Tend to read non fiction, memoirs, historical fiction and well-written fiction of all types.
  • We like a variety, fiction and non-fiction, maybe half and half.
  • The kind of book our group likes the best has strong women characters.
  • We usually prefer fiction. We are on an Ann Patchett kick right now.

How does your group select the books you read?

  • Moderator selects from the book kit list and sends the selections and dates of Zoom meetings for the year.
  • Three of us rotate choosing the kits (because we’re technology savvy). The person in charge will reserve kits for several months and print the schedule for the others.
  • We take turns choosing a book each month.
  • Each year, we choose our books for the whole year with each member suggesting two titles, and each person votes for their favorite 12. We encourage all members to look at and maybe nominate the kits.
  • We look at what kits are available. Then we circulate a list of choices. We also love attending the Nancy Pearl event and eagerly await her list!

How long has your group been together?

  • Answers were from 1 year to 30 years!

Thank you to the groups who shared a bit about themselves. The Library is thrilled to see you spreading the love of reading and the joy of book talking throughout our community.

Bellingham Reads 2023

Bellingham Reads is an open book discussion group facilitated by a Bellingham Public Library staff member and all are welcome to join.

The group meets on the the 4th Tuesday of every month, with one in-person discussion from noon to 1pm in the Library’s Lecture Room, and a virtual discussion online from 6:30 – 7:30pm. *Please email Suzanne at scarlson-prandini@cob.org for the Zoom invite if you want to attend the virtual discussion.

Listed below are the selected titles for 2023.

Whatcom READS 2023

The 2023 Whatcom READS title is The Cold Millions by Jess Walter.

Read the book. Join the conversation.

Whatcom READS is a county-wide program that encourages everyone to read and discuss the same book. It is organized by all the public and academic libraries in Bellingham and Whatcom County and community partner, Village Books. Significant funding is received from Friends of the Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom County Library Foundation, and support from other local businesses and organizations.

Author Jess Walter will visit in March for a free lecture at the Mt. Baker Theatre and other special events. But the fun starts now, with many related programs and events happening in January and February. Visit the Whatcom READS website for a full list of events and more information!

Start a Movie Night

From Action to Horror, Romance to Suspense, and so much more, the Bellingham Public Library is the place to get free movies to watch with family and friends.

Browse our catalog by typing “feature film” into the search bar, or stop in and see what’s on the shelves in person. DVDs check out for 3 weeks, and you can take home stacks of them to get you through the cold winter nights!

Or use your library card to stream films for free through Kanopy. There are so many genres to choose from and Kanopy puts together great themed lists each month too.

Fun for Foodies


There are a LOT of cookbooks at the Bellingham Public Library, as well as food memoirs, and books on cocktails, and fermentation, and food preservation and so much more. If you love to eat, cook, or simply read books about eating and cooking, there’s nothing better than a fun, food-focused gathering with friends.

Sure, you could host a boring old dinner party, but wouldn’t it be fun to throw a themed cook-off? Say, “Variations on a Meatloaf”? Imagine meatloaf with blue cheese and bacon, meatloaf with mac and cheese baked right into the middle, meatloaf made without meat, or meatloaf with pineapple and a teriyaki glaze. What about a sushi-making party? Or foods made with peanut butter? Or “Homemade Dim Sum on D Street”? The possibilities are endless, and the Bellingham Public Library has plenty of inspiration for you.

Staff Recommendation: Host a “Nostalgia Potluck”. Invite friends to bring a dish that’s sentimental to them, then share the story behind the dish.

Listening Party

Freegal Music

Your library card lets you stream free music through Freegal, so why not host a listening party and try a new genre or share old favorites with friends?

Please Note: January 3, the Library is migrating its Freegal service to an instance shared with Whatcom County Library System. Existing accounts won’t migrate, so you’ll need to re-register. More info can be found on the eMusic page.

If you prefer to listen to books, the Library has you covered there too. You can download free eaudiobooks through the Washington Anytime Library with your library card.

Craft Together


The Bellingham Public Library has almost as many books on creating arts and crafts as we do on cooking, and you can easily find inspiration for an activity to share with family and friends by browsing our collection. You can hit up the free shelves in the Central Libary’s lower lobby for magazines for collage materials too. Making things together is a great way to get conversations flowing and the memories live on in your creation.

Community Voices Kits

Community Voices Kit contents

In the Library’s Children’s Department, the new Community Voices Book Kits center and celebrate diverse voices and experiences in our community. Each kit contains 18 books and provides stories, conversation opportunities and resources for families that help bridge learning, understanding and connection with each other.

For ages 2 – 8 and their families

Children’s Storytimes and Programs

BPD Literacy Inititiave Program with Sergeant Kyle Nelson reading

Early literacy depends on connection and shared activities like talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Bellingham Public Library provides opportunities for kids of all ages and their caregivers to start conversations as they participate in these activities through Storytimes and other programs. For a complete listing of all of upcoming Children’s storytimes, visit our January 2023 Events page. The Library also partners with the Bellingham Police Department to provide age-appropriate books to children in the community through the BPD Literacy Initiative.

Museum Passes

Get a free pass for up to 4 family members to visit one of our local museums. The Whatcom Museum, Mindport Exhibits, and the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention all offer unique exhibits and experiences that are sure to give you plenty to talk about.

Visit the Libary’s Museum Pass page for more information about this exciting program.

Study Groups and Tutoring

A highlight of the recent main floor remodel at the Central Library are two new study rooms. They are the perfect spot for small groups to meet, collaborate and start conversations. With WiFi access, whiteboards, and seating for up to 6, the rooms provide opportunities for tutoring, studying, networking, Zoom meetings and more.

Visit the Study Room page today for more information, and call the Help Desk at 360-778-7323 to reserve space, or use the MyLibro app to do it yourself.

SkillShare Programs at the Library

The SkillShare space at the Bellingham Central Library is home to many programs for adults. All programs are free to attend. See the January 2023 Events page for program descriptions and dates.

Upcoming SkillShare Programs in January 2023:

From book shares to local museum visits, SkillShare activities, new recipe or craft ideas, music, movies, and much more, the Bellingham Public Library offers all kinds of ways for you to connect with others and start a new conversation.