Speed dating: that most nerve-racking of concepts, wherein you float from station to station, trying to spark up interesting, flirty conversation with strangers in ten minutes or less. If you’ve attended one of these flustering events, you know how difficult it can be to get beyond name, rank, and astrological sign in such a short space. To remedy this, libraries across the country have adapted the speed dating model for avid readers. According to a New York Times profile on the subject:

Literary speed dating seems to have its roots in Europe. Danny Theuwis, a librarian from Leuven, Belgium, believes he and his colleagues introduced the concept in 2005 with the goal to enliven somber libraries, and make them “more alive, more direct, more emotional,” he said in an e-mail.

So how does it work? Participants are asked to bring along one or two of their favorite books and use them as conversation-starters. Hey, sounds better than being asked, “So. Where do you work?” for the fifteenth time. The idea is to use your favorite literary works as a way of gauging your compatibility with other participants. A Zane and a Michael Eric Dyson might find love. Or perhaps a James Baldwin and a Zora Neal Hurston–or a Richard Wright and Toni Morrison. It’s a grand idea for literary enthusiasts, especially those who tend to be too introverted to get the flirty party started with no relevant icebreakers to go on.

In the Times piece, one San Francisco Public Library participant claimed, “The kind of person the library can attract is different than the kind you get at a bar.” Perhaps. It’s always been a popular belief that where you go determines the kind of person you’ll meet when you get there, but if this were true, we’d all be paired off with highly compatible partners already, right?

What do you think? Can a mutual love of reading and/or libraries be enough to fan the romance flame? Is liking similar authors a strong indicator of compatibility in other areas? Would you attend a literary speed dating event?

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