Jun 09, 2022
8 mins read
February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book
Sharp cuts to local authority funding, alongside sharp staff and funding shortfalls, had placed the community library at risk of closure. The decline in spending on stocking the bookshelves, together with the loss of permanent staff, brought about a decline in people visiting the library.
Pascal, a management consultant who also manages the pro bono management consultancy arm of his company (founded to help businesses in their community survive and thrive), was approached by Fred, the only surviving librarian, asking for help to keep the library open. This was the end of January. The threatened closure would take place at the end of February. They had just four weeks to reverse this decision.
Pascal drafted in Florian, Saoirse, Benny, Annie and Maggie, his fellow WorkLife Book Club members. He needed their help to somehow stop the library from becoming a closed chapter of Shoreditch's life.
As they were mulling over ideas, Benny, a creative director of a brand strategy company, asked if any of them had ever gone on a blind date with a book. They hadn’t.
Words of Wisdom
Benny said the set-up is simple: just wrap books in paper - hence the “blind date” - and decorate the wrapping with enticing facts, the books’ first lines, hints about the plot line, and fun facts about the book, such as being made into a film starring … He said it’s a perfect premise for Valentine’s Day, that could easily extend for the whole month of February - A month of love filled with book blind dates.
With just days to launch the idea, Annie, an information and security analyst who loves nothing better than exploring ways to use technology to solve problems and explore ways to make a positive impact to the world around her. And Saoirse, a freelance reporter, journalist and blogger, who covers local news and human interests features, joined forces with Benny to launch: Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book campaign.
Maggie, a police officer, set to work on the library catalogue of books to select books across a range of genres - both fiction and non-fiction - romance (because of the month that was in it), mysteries (her own favourite genre), biographies, culinary, travel and more. She wrapped the books and prepared the labels for each one - all with a sense of intrigue and mystery (it was her favourite genre, after all), to pique people’s curiosity, to make them want to ‘get to know’ the book better.
She then created “rate your date” cards that readers would fill out when they’d finished their book. The card ratings were: "true love," "just friends", and "never again." The cards would be entered into a draw to win book prize baskets containing food and books.
Florian, a restauranteur who was involved in lots of initiatives with his fellow restauranteurs to help people within his industry to flourish and grow through professional and personal development opportunities, set to work on getting the food (and drinks) for the baskets, along with signed copies of books by his chef and sommelier friends (Florian is also a sommelier) The project didn’t have a big budget, but that was OK because Florian was always helping other people, he had a lot of goodwill, and that filled many baskets.
Pascal, who also had a lot of goodwill because how he was always helping people set about getting more prizes. The group had an idea to run a Save Our Library gala fundraising event, selling tickets to local residents and business owners to attend and also raffle tickets for the prizes Pascal was collecting, which included auction items to bring in big bids.
Fred brought the team of volunteers that had been helping to hold things together since his fellow librarians’ jobs had been made redundant on board to help with everything that was happening with: Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book
And if everything they were doing wasn’t already enough, the group had an idea for …
WorkLife Book Wisdom
Readers would note the most interesting or surprising piece of wisdom they took from each book they read. It could be anything, but it could only be one thing from each book.
There would then be a collective vote on the most interesting or surprising piece of wisdom shared. The winners would receive … one of Florian’s books, food (and drinks) prize baskets.
The Winning WorkLife Book Wisdom …
“Making a company is a great way of improving the world while improving yourself.” From Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.
“Art is what we call it when we’re able to create something new that changes someone. No change, no art.” The Practice: Shipping creative work by Seth Godin.
“Of course, many people experienced the same perilous times as Rockefeller - they all attended the same school of bad times. But few reacted as he did. Not many had trained themselves to see opportunity inside this obstacle, that what befell them was not unsalvageable misfortune but the gift of education - a chance to learn from a rare moment in economic history.” The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday.
“An individual has been described by a neighbour as follows: Steve is very shy and withdrawn, invariably helpful but with little interest in people or in the world of reality. A meek and tidy soul, he has a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail. Is Steve more likely to be a librarian or a farmer?” Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
This last book won a special prize (a book blind date in Florian’s restaurant with dinner and drinks - as well as the gift basket) because the answer made the librarians laugh out loud. Farmers aren’t so easy to find in Shoreditch. So there weren’t any farmers on a blind date with a book. Had there been, I think they, too, would have laughed out loud at the answer.
The sheaf of librarians (or is the bundle, catalogue, stack or source the collective term for librarians?) agreed that the answer could only be revealed by taking the book on a blind date. Maggie might have had a little input into that decision and was quickly wrapping the stocked copies and writing labels with those very words of wisdom on each one. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman was soon to become the hottest book date in town.
Do You Believe in Love at First Page? February a Valentine’s Month Filled With Blind Dates With a Book was so successful it not only saved the library from closure. It also created permanent jobs for two new librarians to join Fred. That was just as well because they continued to run monthly Blind Date with a Book themed events, which are so successful, that they are continuously running out of covered books and need many hands to add more to the collection.
The community library’s story was informed by Britain has closed almost 800 libraries since 2010, figures show Guardian article by Alison Flood, Friday 6 December 2019.
The Blind Date With a Book idea was inspired by https://programminglibrarian.org/articles/our-picks-blind-date-book
The WorkLife Book Wisdom idea was inspired by an email that popped into my inbox from Derek Sivers, in which he shares: “For every book I read, I note its most interesting and surprising ideas.” Here’s link to his list of books: https://sive.rs/book
The WorkLife Book Club members are the six members featured in my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.
This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.
You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.