March 20, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 50°F

Life & Culture

Students take leap of faith with Blind Dates with a Book

In February, leading up to Valentine’s Day, Ithaca College students were invited to cozy up and maybe even fall in love with a book or film from the Ithaca College Library. However, the catch is that they did not know what book of film it was that they were borrowing as part of the library’s Blind Date with a Book program.

Blind Date with a Book has been a college favorite for eight years and this year, it ran from Feb. 8 to 22. As part of the program, students were greeted as they entered the library by a line of sweetly decorated and wrapped books and films chosen by staff and student employees. They were not given the title of the book or film, but rather the subject of the material, along with a brief synopsis or quote to provide a hint as to what it could be.

Senior Ellen Chapman participated in Blind Date With a Book during her first year. She said she appreciates the mystery element of the program most.

“I think it’s just perfect because, you know, there’s the saying, ‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ but I judge every single book I read by its cover,” Chapman said. “So I think it’s really interesting to just be able to read a synopsis of it and then decide truly based on the subject as opposed to how it looks.”

As a student employee at the library, Chapman said she enjoyed checking the books and films out for students and faculty and finding out what it was they grabbed as it appeared in the library’s system, whether it be “Hyperbole and a Half,” written by Allie Brosh, or “The Princess Bride” (1987), directed by Rob Reiner.

Cathy Michael, communications librarian, said she likes promoting the library’s collection through the program. Michael has been involved with the program since the beginning, helping spearhead it to fruition after a student recommended it take place in 2013 upon seeing its success at other public libraries. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been slightly less involved as Sarah Shank, interlibrary loan borrowing coordinator, led the effort in keeping the program running.

“I think there was maybe a dedication to keeping some tradition alive and sense of regularity or connection, so that was very nice of her,” Michael said. “I remember thinking, ‘She’s going to do all of that on her own.’ But I knew she could juggle a lot, so hats off to her for doing that.”

This year, Michael contributed to Blind Date With a Book by promoting it across campus through Intercom and selecting works by some of her favorite authors, like Jane Austin and E.M. Forster, to include in the program.

Contrarily, when the program initially began, Shank had not been involved as much besides helping wrap selected books. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she wanted to continue the program as a way of helping make things feel more normal. When classes were back in session on campus in Spring 2021, she said she wanted to encourage people to stay indoors by including cookbooks and games in the program, along with the normal books and films that students had come to expect.

Shank said one of the most difficult aspects of Blind Date With a Book is finding books from the library’s stacks to include in the program. Shank said that having a range of genres like comedy, drama, romance, fiction, nonfiction and more is important to her when making selections of what to include. 

“I think it’s fun to be reminded how many different things we have in the library,” Shank said. “Sometimes, I think that there is an assumption that we might not have fun things to read but we do have quite a bit of fun material up on the fifth floor on a variety of different topics.”

Shank encourages students to submit suggestions for titles to include in the program in the future. She said the library also takes suggestions from students for ideas for brand-new displays the library could work on.

Senior Alison True works at the library as a student manager. This year, she worked with Shank to help prepare for the program. At one point during the process, Shank allowed True to pick out an assortment of books to include for this year. True said she enjoyed seeing some of the library’s patrons pick up some of the books she chose, like “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and a collection of “Winnie the Pooh” stories by A.A. Milne.

“We have a lot of regulars, and so seeing the same students and seeing what they’ve checked out before and what they grabbed and I know what’s inside, I feel a little bit like Santa Claus,” True said.

True’s enthusiasm for the program is part of what makes it special for Michael, who said she enjoys displaying materials that make people happy.

“I think that books can bring, even if they’re not romantic in nature, a lot of love and happy feelings to people,” Michael said. 

Although Blind Date With a Book has concluded for this year, Michael said the library has various upcoming events throughout the remainder of the semester for students to look forward to. Besides a National Poetry Month display that will occupy the library in April, there will also be a version of Book Talk coming sooner in March. Last year, this type of display focused on Ukraine. Shank said the library is in the process of putting together a collection of health and wellness books as well in which she wishes to include student suggestions. 

“If people have ideas for displays or other types of things they would like to see at the library, they can always send an email to,” Shank said. 

Evan Miller can be reached at