San Francisco Public Library hosts first literary dating event

San Francisco Public library was abuzz, not with scholars and students looking for a room to study and research, but with people looking for a mix of literary passion and for the need to socialize.

The search for love and friendship in San Francisco can be a challenge. So when meeting someone new for the first time, an icebreaker is a must.

The library held its first Literary Speed Dating event on Feb. 1, a gathering that drew a large number of entries, some of which were turned away.


“I got around 200 emails of people interested in the event,” said Donya Drummond, SFPL librarian and organizer of the event. “We are taking 36 people – 18 men and 18 women.”

The participants were instructed to show up with a book that they either loved or didn’t like.

Before the event, the participants had fifteen minutes to mingle. Then, the couples were paired randomly and had four minutes to talk with each other. The books they brought acted as conversation starters and afterward, they could move on to other topics if they wished.

“If there are two things I like, it’s reading and talking,” said excited first-time participant Jordan Mattox, a history major at SF State. “So I was like ‘Oh god, I want to come to this. It sounds exciting.’”

The books Mattox brought were “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis, and “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis, two subjects one could say are controversial and contradictory.

“It’s kind of a joke but it portrays that I am a multifaceted person,” said an excited Mattox. “There are things about me that are contradictory but that makes me interesting.”

The “literary speed dating” concept began in Belgium and word of its success made its way to American. The Sacramento Public Library has held such events with much success and now the SFPL has joined other venues in hosting speed dating events in the Bay Area.

“I Googled it and saw that one was in Belgium and now Sacramento Public had done it, so it seemed like something really fun to do,” Drummond said.

Even though the library is not typically known for fun social events for people between 20 and 30 years old, Drummond thought a speed dating event would be a cool way to draw people into the building.

“It would inspire people to come to the library,” Drummond said. “People see that the library is a fun place that has events that are fun and not just for study and reading.”


Another participant, Adam Engelhart, brought the high-tech aspect into the event. Engelhart, a technology and intellectual property lawyer, brought his Kindle, which has many of his favorite books and authors including Agatha Christie. He brought Christie’s “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.”

“Agatha Christie invented most of the mystery ending in detective fiction and this is really well-written,” said the soft-spoken lawyer as he waited outside the Literary Dating event venue.

Unlike the stereotypes of speed dating, Engelhart and Mattox were not looking for love, but instead were out to meet new people.

“I have this tendency to be introverted,” said Engelhart. “I want to meet interesting people.”