Malia Wollan

Outside of college campuses and romantic comedies, the library is not usually a place to pick up a date. But that didn’t stop several dozen singles, mostly in their 20s and 30s, from showing up on a recent Tuesday night at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library for its first speed-dating session.
Literary speed dating seems to have its roots in Europe. Among the first of similar events in the United States took place at the Omaha Public Library Benson Branch, where Amy Mather, a librarian, and her colleague at the time, Manya Shorr, organized a “Hardbound to Heartbound” night in 2009, on Valentine’s Day. Some 65 people showed up.
Last spring the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a national consortium of public libraries, included literary speed dating on its list of suggested adult library programming. Since then, libraries across the country have been dimming the lights and playing matchmaker.
One logistical snag is the preponderance of women. Libraries reported difficulties attracting men in sufficient numbers. In downtown Fort Collins, an event had to be canceled when no men signed up. At the San Francisco event, the sign-up ratio was about one man to every five women. (The one exception seemed to be the same-sex night, when more than twice as many gay men turned up as lesbians.)

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