Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | February 10, 2015

Make a Date with a Book: It’s Love Your Library Month

Those of you who follow the Author Chronicles blog know that the five of us — Gwen, Nancy, Matt, Kerry, and I — take turns writing the weekly post on Tuesdays. The week before I’m scheduled to write the post, I toss around topics and decide on one. Most of the time, however, when Tuesday rolls around, that topic gets sidelined and replaced by another, spur-of-the-moment idea that I can’t resist. This week’s post is a prime example of that. I’d intended to write about how to use the newspaper to find ideas for stories, characters, settings, and more, but when I opened the paper to look for examples, I found a story on the front page that I just have to write about because it’s timely and because it’s about two of my favorite things: books and libraries.

In the February 9th edition of our excellent local newspaper, the Burlington County Times, is an article by staff writer Sean Patrick Murphy —  “Library Pairs Patrons, Books for Valentine’s Day.”* The title intrigued me, so I read the article and learned that the Library Company of Burlington [which has been in existence since 1758 and is now part of the Burlington County Library System], for the third year in a row, is offering a “Blind Date with a Book” as part of Love Your Library Month.

The article states that library director Sharon Vincz got the idea for “Blind Date with a Book” from another library, and a terrific idea it is. Library patrons can choose from a selection of new books, which are wrapped in sealed brown paper bags and decorated for Valentine’s Day — no peeking allowed until the book has been checked out. Patrons are asked to fill out and return a “Rate Your Date” form after reading at least fifty pages (to give the book a chance) and return the evaluation and book by the end of the month. Forms that are returned are entered in a drawing for gift cards and movie theater tickets.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

This program appeals to me for several reasons. First, I love libraries and anything that promotes them is great. With ebooks and social media, libraries are changing, but they continue to provide services people need and I imagine they always will. One of the big pluses libraries offer is the individual help of a trained librarian. Three cheers for librarians, libraries, and the new ideas they stimulate!

Second, the program gives the library the opportunity to introduce new authors and gives patrons the chance to read a book that they would not otherwise have chosen. While I buy a lot of books (my husband frequently reminds me that reading library books costs no money), I tend to buy books of authors I know because I hate to waste money on a book I may not finish. The library is the place to try out books by new authors and books suggested by others, but there are so many choices that I usually try only new authors and books that deal with topics or genres I’m interested in. That’s why I also like the idea of picking up a book in a genre I might not otherwise look at twice.

Personal experience has shown me the value of a program like this one. While it was not through a library program, last year I myself became a fan of an author whose books I would not have normally tried. When an author friend and I attended a science fiction convention, she received a free ARC of Warbound by Larry Correia, the third book in his Grimnoir series, and handed the book to me to read first. The book is a kaleidoscope of genres including alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction — with action, adventure, fantastical inventions, battles, and romance thrown in for good measure. Since I don’t read alternate history and rarely read paranormal, I might have stuck the book at the bottom of my “to read” pile. However, I wanted to return it to my friend when we met at the next convention, so I read it right away and discovered a book I couldn’t put down (and enjoyed enough to promptly buy the first two books in the series). That’s why I’m all for any program that introduces readers to authors whose books they might not have picked up on their own.

Reading something different can expand our horizons, open up new possibilities, and create new interests. Acquiring new knowledge is never a waste of time.

So, let’s all celebrate Love Your Library Month by visiting our local libraries and picking up a “blind date” book. If your library doesn’t have an actual “blind date” program, ask the librarian to help you. Tell him/her the genres and authors you prefer and let the librarian to pick out a book for you, something by a new author or in a different genre. Spend some of these cold February nights curled up with a good book!

If you discover an author new to you or adventure into a new genre, please share!

*I wanted to include a link to the article, but it is only available to subscribers. Sorry!

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