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Mix and mingle meets the literary crowd

Library to host new speed dating event

May 29, 2010|By CHRIS COPLEY
  • Singles will have the chance to meet other literary-loving singles Sunday during Speed Dating with a Literary Twist at the Washington County Free Library.
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Love to read, hungry for friendship, but shy about saying "hello" to strangers?

Washington County Free Library has a suggestion: Bring your favorite book and come to the library's speed-dating event from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, June 6.

"We're calling it 'read-dating,' because we're asking people to come prepared to talk about books," said Pat Wishard, WCFL public relations and marketing librarian.

Speed dating is a structured getting-to-know-you party in which people pair up and chat for 5 to 7 minutes. At the ring of a bell, half the participants remain in their seats; the others move to a new chair and meet a new person for 5 to 7 minutes. The idea is to meet many new people, and, in this case, get to know their taste in books.

The event, officially called Speed Dating with a Literary Twist, is a fundraiser to benefit Friends of the Library, a service and promotion organization of WCFL. Area single residents who like books and are 18 or older are invited to bring their favorite and least-favorite books to the event at the WCFL. Admission costs $10. Wine and cheese will be provided.

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Wishard said participants can nosh and mingle from 6:30 to 7. Three visiting authors will be introduced. The speed-dating is from 7 to around 8. The evening will close with another time for mixing and chatting with authors.

Libraries as social halls

Ashley Hutson, branch manager with Smithsburg Public Library, helped organize the event. She admitted that when she mentions the event, people get a chuckle.

"That's usually everyone's reaction," she said. "I think people think of the library and they don't think of it as a place to go for social events. But we're going to try it."

Hutson said the event is part of WCFL's effort to change its reputation. Most people - even her mother, Hutson said - still think of libraries as places to borrow books. But there's more at the library, she said. WCFL lets patrons borrow DVDs and books on CD. Several WCFL libraries let patrons use designated computers. Librarians organize live music and lectures. Community groups use the library's classrooms and meeting rooms.

She added that, increasingly, libraries are trying to fill a niche: They want to be a place people can socialize that's not work and not home.

"(Librarians) want the library to be a 'third place' - the community's living room," Hutson said.

Visiting mystery authors

The three authors attending the event are cozy-mystery writer Joanna Campbell Slan, romantic-suspense writer Rebecca York and hard-boiled-detective-novelist Debbi Mack.

Slan has written three "cozies" - traditional murder mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie - and 11 nonfiction books. The Vienna, Va., author said she loves libraries and the people who use them. And she loves to meet fans.

"This is my way of giving back," she said. "You know, I think that's the point. Today, it's harder ad harder for authors to get together with their fans. There's so much done on social media. It's wonderful to be around book(-loving) people. It's invigorating."

Mack said she had participated in a get-to-know-you event like speed dating, but between authors and fans.

"I've done something similar at a conference - talk to people about my books," said the Columbia, Md.-based writer. "Writers have 30 seconds or a minute to talk about their books, before people move on."

Ruth Glick, who writes under the pen name Rebecca York, has written more than 100 books. She said she likes meeting fans, and she likes author events held at libraries. She especially likes meeting passionate fans.

"The purpose of your writing is to have an audience. You'd like people to buy books from you, but it's also nice when they come with a pile of your old books," Glick said. "There's no writer who gets tired of hearing people tell you 'I love your books.'"

New trend in libraries

Wishard had the original idea to host a speed-dating event at the library. She said she heard of other libraries hosting similar events and thought this might appeal to local bookworms.

Sacramento (Calif.) Public Library hosted a speed-dating evening in February. Sarah Dentan, branch services manager for SPL, said the event was packed.

"It went extremely well. We had a waiting list. People had a really good time," she said. "We had to kick them out at 8 when the library closed."

Dentan said the Sacramento speed-dating gathering was planned as a one-time-only program, but patrons asked for more.

"That was nice - it means people really enjoyed it. It appeals to people who don't go to bars," she said. "We're thinking of doing a 'speed-friending' event."

Wishard said event organizers are hoping for a good turnout. They're also hoping people will register in advance. This will help organizers determine whether the speed-dating program should be divided by book genre or age.

If you go ...



WHAT: Speed Dating with a Literary Twist

WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, June 6

WHERE: Washington County Free Library, 100 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

COST: Admission costs $10, payable at the door.

CONTACT: Call 301-739-3250, ext. 186, to register

MORE: The event is intended for singles age 18 or older. Bring favorite and least-favorite books to spark discussion. Proceeds from the event benefit WCFL's Friends of the Library.

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