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secret Posted by Hello

Monday, February 13, 2006

Food for thought this Valentine: Relationship-building and...reading?

These are some of the things I miss about this little country of BelgiumJ

 

ANTWERP, Belgium -- It could be a Valentine's setting at any restaurant or bar: Young couples drink red wine and chat eagerly at intimate tables aglow in candlelight and adorned with flowers.

But this romantic venue also features books. Hundreds of them.

 

Singles who like to read are descending upon libraries across Belgium as part of an experiment in what two librarians have dubbed "lib-dating."

By designing a new place for singles to find love, creators Eric Van der Straeten and Danny Theuwis are hoping to draw more people to books by appealing to their hearts, as well as blow the dust off stereotypes of libraries as stuffy and solitary places.

"Basically it's speed-dating, but in a new setting -- with books," Van der Straeten said, referring to the popular dating method where singles are paired for a few minutes of chat before switching partners.

Theuwis experimented with the dating idea three years ago, combining 14 single bookworms -- most between 18 and 35 years old -- with novels.

"I got some flowers for the tables, got some candles and gave those who came a glass of red wine," Theuwis said.

The informal setting and two people huddling to discuss their favorite books was all that was needed to break the ice and let relationships blossom, he said.

He said many of the participants wrote him afterward saying it was a pity the get-together was a one time thing.

He and Van der Straeten have since held sessions at Antwerp's Permeke library to train librarians from more than 300 libraries across the country on hosting lib-dating sessions. Van der Straeten said he hopes many of the libraries will set up their own dating groups in the next few months.

Participants are given 10 minutes to introduce themselves to others in the group, which Van der Straeten said should not exceed 20 people to ensure intimacy.

Upon arriving, participants pick a small piece of paper from a glass with a question on it, such as: What was your favorite book as a child and why? They are instructed to go around the room with the question and mingle.

For the second round, readers take the three favorite books or passages they were asked to bring, and share their thoughts one-on-one with others for a few minutes before switching to a new partner and new books.

At the end of the session, participants are instructed to put their books down and write a note to placed in the book of the person they would like to meet again.

"The ultimate is to plan another lib-date, or to meet elsewhere in the library ... by the letter 'L' for love maybe," Van der Straeten said.

Frederika Van Wing, manager of the Flanders public library network's campaign to boost visits, hopes the idea catches on, and draws more readers to the library.

She said only 35 percent of those living in the northern Flemish region of Belgium belong to a public library, though a recent survey conducted by the network found that libraries are the No. 3 spot for recreational activity, after the cinema and sporting venues, in Flanders, including Brussels.

"Libraries are turning into cultural hubs. They have a social role and are the only meeting place in some communities," she said.

Librarians seemed hesitant to embrace the idea at first but said they are warming up to it.

"Maybe we should start this; there is a market for this," said Monica Jacobs, a librarian from the town of Deurne. "After all, the image most have of us is of some sort of a reading club of old English aunties."

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On the Net:

http://www.vcob.be

 

From: http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/wire/sns-ap-belgium-library-dating,0,6352850.story?coll=sns-ap-world-headlines

 

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