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The Benefits of Joining A Review Group

What’s $16.95 times 5?  Can you do the math quickly in your head?  No? Let me help with my calculator.  That equals $84.75.

Now, what is $84.75 times 6?  $508.50.

Every two months, I drive about an hour to attend Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Material Review Group, fondly called SOYAMRG by its members.  This review group has been around for over 30 years and was started by Wright State University Professor of Education Dr. Mary Lou White and Mrs. Diane Ball, Media Specialist  at Oakwood Junior-Senior High.   Since its early days, SOYAMRG has been dedicated to reviewing books, audiobooks and other media for young adults.  Though the group’s members have changed a bit over the years, the mission remains the same:  to provide a local perspective on the book selection process for school and public librarians and for other professionals who work with young adults.  Reviewers receive an average of 5 books at each meeting (though at times, I have left with as many as 12!) that I read, review and then keep for my library.  Publishers send both published copies and advanced readers’ copies of books.  

The savings that come with the membership are enough to inspire librarians to join.  In the past 8 years that I have been a member, I have been able to bring in over $4,000 worth of books to my school library at no cost to the district.  We all know that budgets are tight, and I know some libraries do not even have money in their budget for new books.   Being a member of SOYAMRG has been an excellent way for me to supplement my library when times are tough.  

Savings are one reason to join, but much more can be said for the fellowship of the group.  Through my membership I have developed many new contacts for my network – both public and school librarians, and I am lucky enough to call some of them friends.  Members of SOYAMRG share a meal and share reviews of books at each meeting.  We have congratulated members who have retired, gotten married, and have had babies. We have seen new members come and familiar faces leave. We have quite a few OELMA members in the group already, and we welcome new members at any time during the year; membership is just $10 per year.

There are certainly many benefits to joining a review group, but perhaps most important are the books.  Most of us became librarians because we love books – reading them, smelling them, holding them, talking about them.  I have discovered many titles I would not have known about without SOYAMRG – books that aren’t starred in School Library Journal or included in the latest shipment for the Scholastic Book Fair.  Because of SOYAMRG, I get to see the passion in the eyes of a librarian as she reviews a book she loves and will highly recommend.  I get to read a little gem of a book that didn’t get the publishers’ top billing.  I always wanted a job where I would get paid to read books.  Now, I can tell people I do.  

Currently, SOYAMRG meets in the Dayton area and our next meeting will be in July on the third Tuesday.  For more information, please visit our website or feel free to email me at