by Ashley Flynn
Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. Love it or hate it, this holiday provides an excellent opportunity to promote basic literacy and spice up the reading selection process for your patrons. The idea of “Blind Date with a Book” is something you’ve surely seen on Pinterest and have maybe even tried at your library already. However, there are still ways to freshen up your approach, target a new demographic, or tighten up the logistics of your program for a more successful experience.
The basic premise of Blind Date with a Book is to wrap up books and allow your patrons to “blindly” check them out. This standard approach is simple and effective, but you can tweak the program in numerous ways for a fresh spin.
- Give your book a brief bio, as if it was writing about itself on a dating site.
- Try a spin on “love at first sight” and cut a peek-a-boo in your wrapping to give a glimpse of the cover, or have an artistic person doodle their version of a cover onto the wrapping.
- Let your book’s first line do the talking and put it on the wrapped cover. You can market this as “love at first line” or get a little cheeky and ask if these books’ “one-liners” can get them checked out!
- Choose a few adjectives that describe the book and write them across the wrapping.
- Go for an “if you liked __, you may like ____” approach, and write titles of similar books, movies or shows across the wrapping.
This program is typically marketed as an adult program, but could be easily modified to suit any age group or demographic. If you’re in a school setting, you might have the art club design the cover doodles for you. In a public library, you could do small displays in each department and tailor your wrapping for each one to appeal to kids, teens, or grown ups!
Rate Your Date
Add an interactive element to your program by asking participants to Rate Their Date! We include a heart-shaped ratings card in each wrapped book that asks the borrower to describe their experience. We ask questions like:
Ugh So-so Interested Love at First Sight
How Was It?
Total Disaster Boring Ok Better than expected Wonderful
Would you date this kind of book again?
No Way Doubt It Maybe I Think So Definitely
What’s your overall rating for this book?
1 2 3 4 5
We also ask for the title of the book, as well as the patron’s name and phone number. The back of the card is left blank for additional comments. We encourage patrons to submit their ratings cards in the submissions jar, and at the end of the program we draw a few winners for small prizes (typically candy bars from our Friends of the Library fundraiser and free DVD rental coupons). In this small way, we’re encouraging our patrons to be more adventurous in their borrowing choices and rewarding them for embracing basic literacy!
You may be sold on the idea of offering a Blind Date with a Book program, but the logistics can be a little tricky. Here are some tips and tricks for making your program run smoothly.
- Have everyone on your staff pick books they like to use for your program. We have a small staff, so everyone picks 5 books. This helps us avoid putting out total duds!
- After you wrap your book, use a box cutter or exacto knife if you one to carefully cut out a window around your barcode. This can keep check-outs simple and easy. If this fails, be sure to write the barcode on the back wrapper.
- Remind your patrons that they need to check these books out! You can put a brief instruction list on your display to direct users how to participate. This can be especially effective if you’re including a ratings card or other element.
- If you have tattle strips or other security devices, remember to activate before putting on display and de-activate before users leave with them.
- Keep a list of the books you used this year so you can be sure to include fresh titles next year.
- Change the location of all books to “on display” or include some other note in your circulation software so you can easily locate them in the event someone specifically asks for a wrapped title.
- It’s a good idea to use books that aren’t highly in demand so you don’t have to risk unwrapping one if a patron specifically asks for it!