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Vagabond Librarian

Reports from the intersection of military life, motherhood, & librarianship.

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reading culture

Blind Date with a Book

Picture of a book wrapped in newsprint with fake dating advertisement circled.

Blind Date with a Book campaigns have become popular at all sorts of libraries. The concept is simple: library members choose and check out a “mystery book,” read (or abandon) the book, and then provide feedback about whether they connected with or liked the book. The purpose of campaigns like this one is to encourage readers to explore materials they may not otherwise pick up. Regardless of how many times our parents have told us not to, we do often judge books by their cover. Which means that otherwise wonderful books sometimes languish on library shelves, looking more stuffy/staid/nerdy/corny than they really are.

The way in which different librarians approach the Blind Date with a Book concept is fascinating to me. Some librarians wrap the books all in brown paper, leaving you with a truly random choice. Some make it clear that the book is of a certain genre, or at a certain reading level. The librarians at my new library presented the books wrapped in personal ads–and had a wide range of genre and interests represented. They even included YA stickers on the choices from the Young Adult section, which I thought was quite clever. Hack Outreach has created a Pinterest Board dedicated to Blind Date with a Book displays where you can see a number of creative and visually appealing examples of Blind Date book displays, advertising, and occasions.

Picture of the cover of a novel called "The Forest" by Edward Rutherfurd.

Now, about my own Blind Date with a Book. It started well. I read the personal ads very closely and debated for probably longer than was necessary whether I should go for “epic with a dash of honor, deceit, and violence” or whether I should go for “mystery with a dash of sassiness, intrigue, and shock.”

I went for epic. My decision was partly based on physical characteristics–though I couldn’t see the book covers, I could see clearly that the mystery was just too short for me. When I unwrapped my choice, I found that my Blind Date was with a book I’d never seen before, with an author I hadn’t read.

Jackpot!

Picture of the "Rate you Date" jacket sleeve that accompanied the Blind Date with a Book title.

The date started well. I was enchanted. The book was interesting, well written, and the story was off to a solid start. I felt like we were getting to know each other and it was going well. Then, the story changed, and I wasn’t quite as enchanted. This epic tale covers a number of generations in the same region of England and, though the writing was just short of amazing, I did not connect with the characters or their plight after the first story. By tale three, I was checking my watch and wondering if I should feign a headache. I excused myself for a few centuries, and came back to my date when it looked like we were approaching a historical event that might prove interesting. Sadly, that didn’t pan out.

While I found my Blind Date excruciatingly long, I wouldn’t call it a total loss. In fact, I may pick up another book by this author–I enjoyed his writing, and the story line I did connect with, I connected with in a big way. In the end, this is not a book/author I’d want to date again, but I wouldn’t mind linking up for a casual and brief coffee and a chat.

TURI KUMWE: We are Together

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This summer, I took a Youth Services in Library Environments course that included a one-week residency at Syracuse University. In the class were the usual mix I’ve come to expect in my library & information science classes at the iSchool–a wonderful mix of students from around the country who represent a wide variety ages, backgrounds, and life experiences. The difference in this mix was that we were joined by four educators from Rwanda who are working to bring a reading culture to their country as part of a larger initiative called Vision 2020, which strives to transition Rwanda to a knowledge-based society . You can read a little more about our new colleagues in the Syracuse University News article Rwandan Students in Residency for Teacher-Librarianship Training.

As you can imagine if you have looked at even a few of my previous blog posts (and especially if you know me in any other context), this is exactly the kind of Change the World One Step at a  Time project that I am passionate about. The opportunity to gain an understanding of another culture, and to contribute in some way to help people develop their own culture that values reading as a foundation for enjoyment, enrichment, and knowledge creation is a project that will undoubtedly provide learning opportunities on all sides of the collaboration.

I am privileged to be in classes with my Rwandan colleagues again this fall and am looking forward to learning from them, as well as hopefully contributing in some small way to their goals. If you would like to explore a few articles and web sites about the current opportunities and challenges Rwanda faces in creating a culture of reading, please visit my Rwanda: Creating a Culture of Reading Pinterest board. If you are interested in helping by sharing ideas about libraries, education, literacy, reading, and strategies for increasing book accessibility (in Kinyarwandan and English) and the love of reading, please visit Wikispaces: Rwanda, Dream Big Read Big and become a member of our brainstorming and idea-sharing wiki.

In his introductory post for our summer course, one of my Rwandan colleagues explained the phrase he used to close his post, TURI KUMWE, meant “we are together.” I like that. And I like the new phrase I just learned, too…

TURACYARI KUMWE: We are still together.

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