Speed dating with a literary twist as libraries offer love

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Belgium is using the promise of romance to lure single readers into libraries in what librarians hope will become a new fashion - bib-dating.

"It's speed-dating, but in a new setting - with books," said Eric Van der Straeten, one of the librarians who came up with the idea. He and fellow librarian Danny Theuwis are hoping their idea will kill off the stereotype of libraries as stuffy.

Mr Theuwis experimented with the idea three years ago, combining 14 single bookworms - most between 18 and 35 - with novels. "I got some flowers for the tables, candles and gave those who came a glass of red wine," he said. "I got a lot of e-mails after that saying it was a pity it was only a one-off."

The pair held sessions at Antwerp's Dutch-language Permeke library to train librarians from 306 libraries on hosting bib-dating - Dutch for library dating.

Participants begin by drawing a question, for example, what was your favourite book as a child. They go around the room with the question and mingle. For the second round, readers reach for the three favourite books or passages they were asked to bring, and like speed dating, share their thoughts one-to-one with others for a few minutes before switching to a new partner. At the end of the session, participants fill in a note to be placed in the book of the person they would like to meet again. "The ultimate is to plan another bib-date, or meet elsewhere in the library ... by 'L' for love maybe," said Mr Van der Straeten.