Local libraries are targeting young professionals with a new “Book Dating” program, which serves as a kind of speed dating for lit nerds.
With about three minutes to pitch their favorite author, favorite book and themselves, 35 area residents gathered at the Reston Regional Library Tuesday night to engage in discussions that could lead to new friendships, book clubs or even romance.
The Book Dating event was the second in Fairfax County.
“[I was] looking for social connections and like interests. I like what they did,” Oakton resident Christina Mailki, 45, said. “I’ve done a book club before because it pushed me to read outside of my genre.”
Mailki shared a book by Northern Virginia resident and mystery novelist Ellen Crosby, “The Sauvignon Secret.” Mailki did not leave the event with new connections, but she said she might attend future library events.
“This is a trial period for them [the library]. I think it’s great they tried something new,” Mailki said, adding that she would like to see the library pair people based on their interests or offer a book club signup sheet at events.
The Reston Regional Library event mirrored a previous Book Dating night at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library at Falls Church in February. But like most good ideas involving books, Fairfax County’s libraries borrowed the theme from another source: the Shirlington Branch Library in Arlington, which told Fairfax County it also got the idea from another library system.
“This is something really new for us. We’re trying to reach a whole new demographic. Professionals don’t really use the library,” Reston librarian Sue Cordek said.
Older residents have traditionally used the library in volume. Parents with children visit for access to the children’s section and for summer reading programs. But professionals — many of whom use e-readers — are the ultimate get for library staff, 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 event drew about 35. Women outnumbered men at both events. The age spread ran from 20s to 70s, Book Dating organizers and eventgoers said.
“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.”
Vienna resident Marian Osborne, 68, has attended both of the 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 these event offerings and continues to try to attract more people.
“I definitely want to keep the series going,” Kavich said. “I was hoping that branch staff would keep this going and see how awesome it is, and they did. ... Out of the box, we had 45 people [at Tysons-Pimmit]. It’s wonderful to see we’re giving people what they want.”
Kavich said the next Book Dating event could be at the Kingstowne Library in Alexandria.
For more information about Book Dating and to check out other library events, visit http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/events/.