University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries

Faculty & Staff

“Blind Date with a Book” at Memorial Library

Image by Flickr user SilkegbIf you stop by Memorial Library today, you might notice something different about the browsing display near the circulation area.  A new display, created by librarians Beth Harper and Paloma Celis-Carbajal entices students, faculty, and staff to go on a “blind date” with a book– each one anonymously wrapped in paper like a present.  Signs advertizing the books urge passersby to “check me out!” and “take me home!”

Beth got the idea from a news story about a public library that did a similar program recently, and she and Paloma worked together to gather recommended reads from library staff, who also wrote the “personal ads” for their chosen books.

“People really had a good time writing those ads– it’s kind of fun to think about how to write a teaser for a favorite book without giving anything away,” said Beth. The raciest ad so far reads, “Thought 50 Shades of Grey was interesting?  This is better.”

Memorial Library, of course, is a hub for serious scholarship among faculty and graduate students, an atmosphere that benefits from a bit of fun once in awhile, especially in the midst if a temperamental winter.  “We thought this would be a good way to bring something fun and light to a serious library,” Paloma said.

In addition to adding an element of mystery and surprise to Memorial, Beth also notes a more egalitarian goal for the display: breaking a reading rut. “It’s interesting to consider how gendered our reading choices can be– how we get stuck reading only books from a man’s or a woman’s point of view, or by writers of our own race.  Even just the same genre over and over.”  The Blind Date with a Book display breaks down that initial impulse to stick to what you know.  Instead, readers choose books based on intriguing personal ads, and might find themselves enjoying a story they wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.

The display titles span a broad range of genres, styles, and eras, and each wrapped book comes with a set of instructions that mimic real-life dating etiquette (including spending a polite amount of time with a bad date before beating a hasty retreat):

  • Browse the personal ads attached to each wrapped book and select your reading match.
  • Check the book out.
  • Wait till you get home to unwrap it!
  • Read it and enjoy! Spend at least a few minutes with your date.
  • Fill out the attached “Rate Your Date” form and drop it in the comments box next to the book display.
  • If you don’t like the book, simply return it to the library. Its feelings will not be hurt.

The “Rate your Date” card inside each book also encourages readers to rate their books on a scale from “dud” to “soul mate,” in keeping with the dating theme.

The Blind Date with a Book display will be up through the first week of March, so stop by and find your next read, or leave Rate Your Date cards in the comment box!

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