By Allison Campbell-Jensen

Blind Date with a BookCredit the pandemic, perhaps, or a prescription for escaping cabin fever, or heeding Cupid’s arrow rather than preparing for mid-terms — Blind Dates with Books were big in 2022.

Preliminary results: at least 75 people chose to spend a portion of their precious leisure time with a book. The Book Matchmakers (who work undercover, as it were, year-round) received more than 125 requests.

“Blind Date sounds like it’s going well everywhere!” Emily Reimer, the Libraries’ Access Services Director, reported from the Health Sciences Library. “Lots of books and V-Day kits flying off the shelves, and tons of people signing up for book recommendations, too.”

The student employees were caught up in the promotion, too, Reimer says. There was “Marty Gallagher, who actually retrieved their own art markers to use on the project because they were so excited about it. Meejoo Choi was another talented HSL artist.”

At Walter Library, Carissa Tomlinson, Director of Student Experience, Learning, and Outreach, praised all the teams involved. “Fantastic job everyone! I saw the books at Walter the other day and they are so nice! The drawings are amazing! This work is truly appreciated by our users!”

Two staffers new to Magrath Library went all in, as did some of their student employees. Justin Boeser, originally from Minnesota and recently returned from California (was it the pull of one of the most romantic cities in America, St. Paul?), and Molly Bostrom, who has been working as a Library Assistant for only a few months, having transitioned in her career (oh, what we do for love!) each really got into BDWB, according to Mark Desrosiers, Magrath Library Operations Manager.

In a message to the committee, Desrosiers complimented Boeser and Bostrom for “all their creativity and enthusiasm in selecting and wrapping books at Magrath.”

Power of attraction

Molly Bostrom
Molly Bostrom

Tempting blurbs, decorated book covers, special displays with books, and white boards inviting students, staff, and faculty to take a flyer and try a Blind Date with a Book. The thought of having some new, something novel (sorry/not sorry) to read, a break from chemistry (well, the inorganic type), a fresh take on biology, a fling with a field you would never “normally” explore — what’s not to like? For staff, too, setting up the blind dates was fun.

“It was definitely a team effort,” says Bostrom of the machinations at Magrath to drawing students to check out a book in brown paper covers.

“I asked Justin to ask a student to decorate a whiteboard for it.” She adds that the student, Kylli Anderson, a horticulture major, captured the enticement of growing things in mid-winter with her invitation to Blind Date.

Blind Date whiteboard at Magrath Library
Blind Date whiteboard at Magrath Library, decorated by student Kylli Anderson.

Bostrom only started in October, after previously serving in Libraries administration while pursuing a Library/Information Sciences degree through St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

“I had always really loved the idea” of Blind Date with a Book, she says. When the project planning launched systemwide in January, she says, in Magrath, “it wasn’t anyone’s baby already.” So she picked up the baby from the porch and, with the help of Boeser and students, wrapped up books with care.

“Pasta By Design,” “Sapiens: A Graphic History,” and “The Pocket,” a look at the history of the pocket in women’s clothing  were some of the titles promoted at Magrath, located on the St. Paul part of campus that includes a herd of cows as well as costume design. It’s slightly more challenging, Boeser and Desrosiers agree, to find titles to amuse and astound for this mixed audience. BTW, Boeser grew up in Minnesota, moved to the Sacramento area for a long time, and returned in only in 2020. That lasting allure, if not of winter, of Minnesota kindness and comfortable shoes, brought him back.

Of course, we all know that, as Desrosiers says, “some blind dates can go really wrong.” Fortunately, it’s just a book; it doesn’t have feelings; just put it back on the shelf and move along.

Blind Dates all year around

Justin Boeser
Justin Boeser

For anyone who loves books, in all their variety, these Blind Dates were a welcome respite from schoolwork and an unrelentingly cold winter.

And, the Libraries staff and student workers hope that you know that you don’t have to wait for a week in February to slip beneath the covers of a book you thought you’d never pick up, no less … well, the details of the date are perhaps left to the readers’ discretion.

This reporter, for instance, while waiting for someone near the McCollister Collection on the first floor of Wilson, was encouraged by library staffer Bill Hill to take a look at the new Italian language books. A huge tome on the artworks of Michelangelo included text in parallel English and Italian. Even better treats for the eyes were the huge, gorgeous photographs of works by the Italian master, some I had seen before, like “David” in Florence, Italy, and most I had not. I was lost to the world around me during a quick trip to Italy — and, when Arts and Humanities Librarian Rafael Tarrago arrived, I was a bit startled to discover I was still in Minnesota.

I did not tackle learning Italian by comparing it to the English. Another day, maybe.

Blind Dates anytime: Contact a matchmaker

Fear not, reader. The artistic book covers are on hold until next Valentine’s season but you can set up a Blind Date with a Book any day or night through our coterie of Librarians who serve on the Matchmaking committee. Just go to z.umn.edu/bookmatch, fill out a form, and soon, in your email in-box, you’ll have the book of your dreams — or, at least, a new perspective to explore for an hour or two.

Who’s behind this expansive effort? Not Cupid. They’re librarians, library staff, and library student workers: They know your secret yearnings, maybe? At any rate: They are here for you, as are these fabulous 1 million-plus books, too!

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