Library arranges blind dates – with books

Katherine Keyes, assistant director at the Sycamore Public Library, displays the mysterious books in the "blind date" display.
Katherine Keyes, assistant director at the Sycamore Public Library, displays the mysterious books in the "blind date" display.

SYCAMORE – What about this book, the fat one in the corner? Does that feel like a good read? Or maybe the tall, skinny one next to it.

Not even Katherine Keyes, Sycamore Public Library assistant  director, could tell what kind of book she had when she picked one out last week – and the whole thing was her idea.

For the last two weeks, the Sycamore Public Library has hosted “Have a Blind Date With a Book on Valentine’s Day.”

Books were chosen at random from throughout the library and wrapped in brown paper with little one- and two-word clues as to what they were about. Patrons didn’t know until they got home and unwrapped their books just what they had.

Some of the clues are intriguing. One was, “revealing, bossy, funny, memoir.” Another reads, “founding father, defining America, language,” while still another hints at “terrifying, chilling, gripping.”

“How much more fun is it to get a book when you don’t know what it is?” Keyes asked.

Keyes was so intrigued, she checked out a book herself. The clues were “brutal conditions, dangerous expedition, cold.” Based on the bar code, the library clerk told Keyes she had picked a good book.

“I asked her what it was, but she went, ‘No. no. No, no, you have to take it home and find out,’” Keyes laughed. “So you don’t know even when you check it out.”

The book was “Race to the End: Amundsen, Scott and the Attainment of the South Pole” by Ross D. E. McPhee.

Although it’s not the type of book she normally reads, Keyes said she’s going to read it anyway, which is one the reasons behind the program – introducing readers to new reading material.

Keyes said she got the idea for the display when two friends each sent her a blurb about another library doing the same thing. “I said, ‘Hey, we have to do this,’” she said.

“She presented it to me and it sounded like a hoot,” library director Sarah Tobias said. “So I asked the reference desk to take care of it, and they did.”

Debbie Norris, a reference librarian, said she and Tammy Johnston selected about a dozen books throughout the adult section of the library, both fiction and nonfiction.

“Some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed,” she said. “We just picked those we thought might capture the public’s interest.”

Some kids have expressed an interest in the books, but Norris said all of them are adult books. The library may do something similar for younger readers.

Enough books were checked out in the first week, Keyes said they had to add some more to the display. With the display situated at the top of the stairs, Norris said patrons can’t help but notice it.

Even those who don’t check out a book, she said, still get a chuckle out of it.

“It’s just a cute idea,” she said.

Though intended to only run through Valentine’s Day, Keyes said the display has been so successful it will stay up through the end of the month.

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