Kansas State University


K-State Parents and Family Program

A Conversation with Tara Coleman, Chair of the K-State Book Network (KSBN)

Chair of K-State Book Network and Associate Professor of K-State Libraries Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman, web services librarian and associate professor, also serving as the chair of the K-State Book Network, sits down with Mindy Weixelman, director of parent and family relations to discuss the K-State Book Network and its recent selection for the 2018 common reading book, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

PFA: Tara, thank you for taking the time to share with parents and families the purpose of the K-State Book Network and the common reading book, and how it will translate into their student’s college experience. The K-State Parents and Family Association aims to communicate programs and initiatives taking place on campus in a timely, thorough, and direct manner.

Tara: Great! Everyone involved with the K-State Book Network appreciates the opportunity to engage with parents and families.

PFA: Let’s get to it!  If I remember correctly, the K-State Book Network (KSBN) began in 2010 with “The Hunger Games.” Wow, your team really knows how to pick a winner! Share with us how the K-State Book Network got started.

Tara: KSBN was born out of an initiative to create a positive first semester and year for incoming students. We know that the key elements for a good first semester are small classes, community, mentoring, social learning, and a common experience. KSBN is a combination of social learning and common shared experiences. We ask members of the K-State family to read the book and talk about it. We have a lot to teach each other.

PFA: We definitely do. So what is the process you use to select a book each year? Who is involved with the selection?

Tara: I’m really proud of our process. In early spring we select a book theme, invite people to join the committee, and solicit book nominations. During the summer, committee members read approximately 30 pages of books and give feedback. We stop at 30 pages because that’s what our students told us was all they needed to read to decide if they were going to finish the book.

At the end of the summer, the committee votes on the top 12 books they want to read. In the fall, we read the whole book and narrow the list down to three. In October we will announce those books and ask for the campus community to share their feedback on the books. After we read their feedback, we rank the top three and share that list with the Provost (Chief Academic Officer), who makes the final decision based on our feedback.

I’m very intentional about the selection committee and want to make sure the members are folks who are invested in the success of first-year students and who reflect the campus community. I make sure we have folks from both Manhattan and Polytechnic campus and work hard to represent all aspects of student and academic life on campus. Students are a very important part of the committee. Their voice is vital in decision making.

The committee that selected “The Hate U Give” was more than 50 members large and the committee for the 2019 book has over 60 members!

PFA:  That’s an impressive process and committee. The K-State Book Network motto is “A campus on the same page.”  How is the book incorporated into learning experiences for students?

Tara: We know that learning takes place inside and beyond the classroom, and so we encourage faculty, staff, and student leaders to include the book in a way that is meaningful to their goals. As a result, how the book is used depends on the person using it.

PFA: During summer orientation and enrollment, VP for Student Life and Dean of Students, Dr. Pat Bosco, highlights the book with parents during the College Life 101 session. He encourages parents to read the book and discuss with their students. Why is it helpful for parents to read the book?

Tara: Reading the book not only offers parents and families insight into their students’ experience at K-State — it also offers students another perspective on the book and an opportunity to think through how they respond to the book’s ideas and themes. Some students have said that they discussed the book together as a family over dinner.

PFA: I’ve noticed that all incoming freshman receive a copy of the book during summer orientation and enrollment, and are advised to read it over the summer. What happens if a student puts their reading off a little too long, and doesn’t get the book read by the time classes begin? (I’m sure that never happens!)

Tara: K-State students never put off homework! If a student gets to campus and realizes they didn’t bring the book, they can check out a copy from one of the campus libraries or one of our lending libraries around campus. We even have an audio copy for students on the go (that’s how I read the book). I also recommend logging into K-State Online and looking at their class syllabi to find out all the required texts and due dates.

PFA: Good to know. I enjoy audio books, too. I read in an issue of K-State Today that the author of “The Hate U Give,” Angie Thomas, is coming to campus. When is she coming? And what events are planned for her visit?

Tara: Angie Thomas will visit K-State on February 15, 2018. We’re still planning the details of her visit, so more information coming soon!

For the latest news on events, check out the KSBN event calendar.

PFA: Our time together is drawing to a close. My final (and favorite) question for you. What is the best kept secret about the K-State Book Network?

Tara: Anyone at K-State can help! While I’m really intentional about creating a committee, there is always space for someone who is interested. If you’re willing to do the work I’m happy to have you!  Fill out our interest survey and tell us about yourself.

PFA: Tara, thank you so much for your time and for your great work leading the K-State Book Network. The common book has quickly become a valued K-State tradition. 

Tara:  Sure! Thank you for inviting me to share information with parents and families.