Go On a Blind Date With a Book

If you visit the library in the next couple of weeks, you may notice displays of books, in plain brown paper wrappings, in various locations around the library. There are no titles or authors listed on the wrappers and there’s no peeking to see what book is inside these anonymous packages – they are sealed up tight. What are these books? Are they books so bad that we’re looking for a way to trick people into checking them out? Are they titles so scandalous that we’ve covered them, for your benefit, lest a neighbor see you with one? No, not at all. These are books we think you’ll fall in love with, if you just give them a chance.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we are playing matchmaker for library visitors, fixing them up with some of our favorite books! We’re excited to be presenting, for the first time, Blind Date with a Book, where you take a chance and check out a book we’ve selected, without knowing exactly what that book is until you get it home. We’re hoping we can introduce you to a book you’ll love, but may not have picked up on your own, otherwise.

Blind Date with a Book is an idea we’ve read about online and Molly, in our Youth Services department, decided she wanted to try it out with our teen library users. Not a group to let the kids have all the fun, our Adult Services staff have gotten in on the act as well and, as a result, you’ll find Blind Date with a Book displays targeted at different groups of readers, throughout the library. In addition, I hear that the Thomas Memorial Library, with whom we share this column space every other week, is doing the same for their adult readers, through the month of February.

While other Blind Date with a Book activities, elsewhere, have involved librarians writing personal ads to pique readers’ interest in a book, we’ve taken another approach. The books are made anonymous in plain brown wrappings, and library staff members have decorated the outside with words and images in hopes of tempting you to take a chance and read something new and unknown. Blind Date with a Book is an exercise in, truly, not judging a book by its cover.

The selected books include both fiction and nonfiction titles, with basic genres and categories clearly marked on the wrappings. Apart from these categories, though, we are trying to be vague yet intriguing with the hints we are adding to the book wrappers. An adult historical novel says, “It’s 1351 B.C. and you’re about to step into a world filled with drama, political intrigue and a little bit of romance…” A book for teens, tagged as being in the historical/fantasy/thriller genre says, “If someone told you a ‘spirit’ said the Titanic was going to sink, would you believe them?” How about an adult nonfiction title, which asks, simply, “Life of a Maine Farm girl… Is it paradise?”

We hope this idea will catch on and that our readers will have fun with it. As books are checked out, we will be adding to the selection of eligible (and available) books. Do you have a book you think your neighbors and fellow readers would enjoy? Let us know and we’ll add it to the mix. Who knows, if you all have fun with it, this might continue indefinitely!

So, if you’re feeling a little adventurous, and would like to take a chance on finding your true book love, come on in, take a look at the displays and see if any of our eligible books intrigue you. The book you choose may end up being a one-time thing, or it could lead to years of happy reading. Either way, we promise we won’t tell!

Kevin M. Davis, Director, South Portland Public Library

This post was originally published as a Library Links column in the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Sentry on January 31, 2014

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