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“There’s a gap in most people’s lives when they leave the library,” Prisbrey said.
Editor’s Note: Ask Me (Almost) Anything is intended to be a local, community-oriented derivation of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything discussion threads.
“Having the book as a prop helps you not to worry about awkward pauses and puts something you’re passionate about on the table.
And when you know the person across from you loves reading as well, it’s something you share off the bat.” The idea came about in the fall when Mary Prisbrey, newly hired as the branch’s librarian, was asked by her manager to find ways of drawing in young professionals.
So it’s anyone’s guess who “invented” the idea, and which library sponsored the first-ever book dating program. Prisbrey explains that it’s speed dating — each one-on-one session is timed for three to four minutes (although some people would like it to go longer) — and Prisbrey says she uses bells and whistles to enforce this time restriction.
Most participants seem somewhat experienced with the speeding dating process. “They jump right in.” One of the challenges has been the uneven gender ratio, with a disproportionate number of women registering for the events (during the second session, for example, there were 24 participants, and only 6 or 7 were men).
The event is intended to draw young people into the library while providing an opportunity for them to meet other singles in the area. Prisbrey has since been in touch with “Lacey,” the librarian who developed the program in Fargo, who admits that she didn’t actually create the idea either.
Johnny Rockets and Capitol City Brewery have also offered food donations.
Libraries aren’t known as hot spots to meet singles.
But the dimly lit conference room in the Shirlington Branch Library in Arlington County sounded more like a house party than a place for inside voices. On the third Sunday of every month, bookworms arrive in the hopes of meeting someone special through a common love of reading.
On a recent September evening, men and women young and old exchanged phone numbers, e-mail addresses and book recommendations. Courtney Conklin, 30, who teaches kindergarten in Woodbridge, was attending her first session last month and said she would definitely be back.