In Fairfax, literature lovers connect through ‘Book Dating’

June 26, 2013

With about three minutes to pitch their favorite author, favorite book and themselves, 35 people gathered recently at Reston Regional Library for discussions that could lead to new friendships, book clubs or even romance.

Local libraries are targeting professionals with a new “Book Dating” program that is a kind of speed dating for literature nerds.

Christina Mailki of Oakton was “looking for social connections and [similar] interests. I like what they did.”

“I’ve done a book club before because it pushed me to read outside of my genre,” said Mailki, 45.

Mailki shared the book “The Sauvignon Secret: A Wine Country Mystery,” by Northern Virginia resident Ellen Crosby. Although Mailki did not leave the event with new connections, she might attend future library events, she said.

“This is a trial period for [the library]. I think it’s great they tried something new,” Mailki said, adding that she would like the library to pair people based on shared interests or offer a book club signup sheet at events.

The Reston Book Dating event was the second in Fairfax County. There was a Book Dating night in February at Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library in Falls Church.

“We’re trying to reach a whole new demographic. Professionals don’t really use the library,” Reston librarian Sue Cordek said.

Older residents often use the library, and parents with children visit for access to the children’s section and summer reading programs. But professionals, many of whom use e-readers, are the ultimate target for library staff members, Cordek said.

“It’s good publicity for the library,” she said. “Book connections would be one thing [for book daters to leave with]. But just to realize that this is a good place to get a book is another.”

The first Book Dating event in Tysons on Feb. 13 drew 45 readers. Reston’s drew about 35. Women outnumbered men at both events. Ages ranged from 20s to 70s, organizers and participants said.

Fairfax borrowed the idea from the Shirlington Branch Library in Arlington County. Shirlington said it also got the idea from another library system.

“We have multiple goals. One is to do different kinds of programming. We, across the county, are trying to look outside of the box for new services to offer,” said Ted Kavich, Fairfax County public libraries program and educational services manager. “Reaching that younger demographic, particularly young men, can be tricky. . . .This is a way to talk about books with people who love books and make a new friend.”

Marian Osborne of Vienna, 68, has attended both libraries’ events.

“I’m single, and I like to read, and I don’t very often have opportunities to talk with people about what I’m reading,” she said.

Osborne brought National Geographic’s “Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond,” by James Trefil and Buzz Aldrin. “It’s basically a picture book, so that made it really easy to share and people were interested in it. . . . I purposely picked something that would be interesting to a man.”

Like others who attended the Book Dating event, Osborne said she hopes the library system expands event offerings and continues to try to attract more people.

“I was hoping that branch staff would keep this going and see how awesome it is, and they did,” Kavich said. “Out of the box, we had 45 people” at Tysons-Pimmit.

Kavich said the next event might be at the Kingstowne Library in the Alexandria area.

For information about library events, visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/
events/
.

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