Monday, February 14, 2011

Speed-Dating and Blind Dates with Library Panache

What is more important in a library than anything else - than everything else - is the fact that it exists. - Archibald MacLeish

I grew up in the era where libraries were massive buildings (of course, I was much smaller). The pitter patter of feet of all sizes echoed across marble floors. Solid wood shelves soared toward heaven. They were filled with what seemed to be an infinite number of books that gave off a musty smell. A card catalog lined the walls. Librarians were serious people with buns, dowdy dresses and no sense of humor. Simply clearing one’s throat could result in a stern look or a "shush" command.

Libraries, like everything else, have evolved through the years. The library I use now is bright and airy. It is geared toward welcoming children, not intimidating them. The nondescript flooring absorbs noise rather than resonating sounds. Metal bookshelves replaced wood. Computers replaced the card catalog. Librarians look like everyone else and usually have a smile on their faces. I haven’t heard anyone “shushed” in years.

I’m not saying all these changes are good. In fact, when my daughter was studying for the Florida Bar exam, she had to leave a library because of the high noise factor. Her home with a toddler running around provided a better study zone. But to stay relevant change must happen.

A couple of libraries have come up with creative ways to attract more visitors for Valentine’s Day. For instance, one San Francisco library offered the first literary speed-dating event.

"Twenty-five lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender participants, and 38 straight participants the night before, got a chance to find love before Valentine's Day during the library's first literary speed-dating events. The events drew so much interest that the library hopes to replicate them again soon.

"Announced at the start of the year, each free event was designed to accommodate 36 people. Enrollment for the straight night closed at the end of January with a waiting list of 50 people, said librarian Donya Drummond.

"'This is changing the image of the library, showing that it can be a social place and not just a studious place," she said.

"Sharing a book about cooking and a sci-fi novel, 41-year-old Iris Tashjian, who said she came to find "if not love, maybe a book club," walked away with the latter."

Since I've been happily married for over 40 years, speed-dating is not something I’m interested in, but I do like this blind date idea from a New Zealand library.

"Monday's event pairs borrowers with specially wrapped mystery books, chosen by library staff as being particularly deserving of a hook-up with a willing reader, Queenstown library manager Robyn Robertson said.

"'We are choosing books we personally enjoyed or feel passionate about. The books are all gift-wrapped, with only a barcode on the outside, so it really is a blind date with a book and there's no telling what you might get.

"'There's a cheeky mix of fiction and non-fiction, with a nod towards the day that inspired the whole initiative. There's bound to be some romance in there - it is Valentine's Day after all - but there's also a real mix of other genres.

"'Like any date, there's an element of risk. But who knows; it could spark a lifelong love affair with a new author," Mrs Robertson said."

You can read the entire articles here and here.

Do you visit your library as much as you used to? Does your library plan events that are beyond the usual bounds of their normal activities?

Before I go, I’d like to thank The Rainy Day Wanderer for the Stylish Blogger, Write Hard and Pass the Love 2011 Awards. I am a fairly new follower, but I have found her blog is fun to read, informative and full of interesting links. So if you haven’t stopped by yet, I’d recommend a visit. You can also find out more about each award.

I’m supposed to tell seven things about myself for the Stylish Blogger award. In March 2010, I had a hard time coming up with five. Nothing has changed since then, so I will stick to those five. If you missed it, you can read them here.

As far as passing them along, I’ll reprint something from the blog post mentioned above. "I'm supposed to pass these awards along. I‘m doing that by saying THANK YOU to all of you who take the time to visit and to those who go a step farther and leave a comment and/or become a follower. You make the work that goes into blogging worth it and keep me motivated to improve my writing. Please feel free to help yourself to one, two or all three of the awards. Don’t be shy. You deserve them, for without you, writing this blog would be a rather unrewarding exercise of futility."

Happy Valentine's Day and thanks for visiting. I hope to see you again next week.

Tags: Archibald MacLeish, library, Valentine’s Day, literary speed-dating, blind dates, Rainy Day Wanderer,awards,


The Old Silly said...

OK, speed-dating library sponsored events are a bit over the top for me, lol. But overall I think libraries have done a good job staying up with the times. Computers, wifi, coffee shops, kids entertainment areas, all that ... it's necessary to keep modern people going to them.

And yes, I DO go to the library ... a lot. I like the atmosphere and do a lot of people watching, writing, editing, and studying there.

Maryse said...

Speed-dating at the library? Not happening here. We have art exhibitions and book discussions but no organized dating opportunities.
Wonderful children section downstairs and adult/quiet area upstairs. works well. I love going to the library. For me it's Christmas every time I pick up books there. :)
Thanks for your comment on my blog, Jane. Always a pleasure to 'see' you there. ♥

Joanne said...

I love the idea of a blind date ... with a book! How cute. It's wonderful how just a little thought and imagination can bring in the patrons, and make for a fun time too. Happy Valentine's Day :)

Old Kitty said...

Awwww poor libraries!! The things they must do to survive!! Recently we had an "adopt a librarian" thing but even more recently we had a "SSSSH! Save our libraries campaign" because lots of councils here are hell bent on closing local libraries (booo!).

Anyway!!! this speed dating sounds like such fun!! I'm all for getting people to use libraries but I kind of hanker for the days where libraries were oasis not just of learning but of peace, calm and silence!!

Take care

Carol Kilgore said...

Happy Valentine's Day.

Most libraries aren't the stodgy places of the past any more. Our town has a brand new one, and it's wonderful.

Arlee Bird said...

I like what I've seen in libraries in recent times, but I haven't gone there to just browse in years. My most recent library experiences have been going online to find things and then arranging to pick them up at my local branch. They call me when it's there and I go get it. It is convenient and saves so much time.

the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love the library! One of my favorite places. And it's always crowded when I go. I love the way they're keeping relevant!

Hart Johnson said...

Oh what a great addition to the dating cycle! So much better to bond over books that hard liquor... everyone is more likely to know if they are actually compatible or not!

Not that I'm shopping... And Congrats on the awards! I like your egalitarian approach to distributing... Blogs that come to me tend to die because I can't sort who to give them to.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

The Old Silly, I thought it was a bit over the top, too. I’d forgotten about the little coffee nook at my library. Bringing in drinks in the “olden days” would have been a criminal offense.

Maryse, art exhibits and book discussions make more sense for libraries. However, since books were their common thread for the speed-dating event, it was probably more a book discussion than anything else. I always enjoy your blog, and will try to stop by more often.

Joanne, I really like that idea, too. Maybe I should take a copy of the article to my local library.

Old Kitty, adopt a librarian sounds interesting. What do you do with them if you adopt one? I hope you can save your library. Maybe we should force these people who want to shut them down to spend at least an hour a week for a year in one and see if they change their mind.

Carol, my memories probably made ours more stodgy than it really was.

Arlee, it’s kind of like a fast food restaurant, but with books instead of food. Great idea.

Elizabeth, the one I go to is always crowded, too. That's why I can’t figure out why they keep talking about closing them.

Ciara said...

My kids LOVE the library. It is a treat to go check out books. My middle son was so excited when he received his own library card a few months ago. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the idea of the second one better. I'm not single either, but I doubt I'd be snubbed by a book.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Hart, that’s a good point about bonding over books rather than liquor. I do the awards that way because I don’t know who has already received them recently and because I’m wishy-washy.

Ciara, that’s great! My grandson also loves the library. He’s even chosen it over going to the park or the pool.

Alex, that’s what great about books!

Anonymous said...

Blind dates are weird and awkward. They make for great comedy in movies. I'm thinking of The 40 Year Old Virgin and his blind dates LOL!

Helen Ginger said...

Congrats on your awards.

I hate to admit it, but in the past few years, I've only gone to a library for Texas Book Festival meetings. That's sad, since I used to love libraries. I loved our small town's library while in high school and spent a great deal of my college life in a library.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Growing up, I never had good libraries, but I did have parents who never said no when I wanted to buy a good book. So for me to go to the library is almsot strange, and that's the way my kids are too. Having said that, I would love to have a blind date once in awhile. You get stuck in your generes, and sometimes you need a kick in the butt to get you reading something else that you may enjoy just as much.

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world