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A valentine for the ears: Library offers musical 'blind dates'

  • Blind dates
    Blind dates  Kathleen DeLaurenti, arts librarian for the Swem Music Library in Ewell Hall, stands next to the "blind date" display. The program offers faculty, staff and students an opportunity to try out new music.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • A valentine for the ears
    A valentine for the ears  Composer action figures sit next to wrapped CDs on the display case.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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On Valentine’s Day, many people worry about being alone. Fortunately for students at William & Mary, there’s another option: the new “Blind Dates” collection from the Swem Music Library in Ewell Hall.

Taking advantage of the library’s vast audio collection, the blind date system, rather than pairing people with people, brings people together with new music.

Approximately 80 CDs are on display, wrapped up so that the title is hidden. Each bears a label with the genre and a note that the CD is “seeking” someone who likes that genre. The genres range from “Modern Musicals” to “the Godfather of Goth” to “90’s Songstresses.”

Faculty, staff and students may “check out” a date. When they do, they will find inside their mystery CD a new musical experience and a “rate your date” card which can be filled out and returned to the library. Students who return their completed rating cards will be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift card to Chipotle or Amazon. The drawing will be held March 11.

The system is the brainchild of Kathleen DeLaurenti, the arts librarian. She says she was inspired by a number of public libraries trying similar “Blind Date” programs with books over the past year. She thought it would be fun to try the same thing with music.

It began as a way to try to raise more awareness of the music library outside of the Department of Music, but quickly became something more.

“I was very surprised at the popularity,” she said. “We’ve been getting a lot of thoughtful responses, and they’ve been overwhelmingly positive. Over 70 percent of our responses on the cards have been either fantastic or good, the two highest ratings.”

On a recent visit to the library, Mike Goetjen ‘13 pulled out a CD that was seeking “Enchanted Baroque Opera” lovers. Upon being opened, his “date” turned out to be Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.

“Sometimes these are tricky,” he said. “Like one time I thought I got the clue, but when I opened it, I actually hadn’t.”

Avery Newton, another senior and regular at the music library, agreed. She has gotten four CDs from the collection, and said she’ll probably pick up another soon.

“It was there, it looked fun, and it’s a good way to expand musical horizons,” she said. “It’s almost like a real blind date. I keep hearing people talk about it and saying things like ‘Oh, I really liked this!’ or ‘I’ll never do it again, but it was an experience.’ It was a good way to find new music and to learn more about genres of music I was already interested in.”

Diane Dudley, an assistant at the library, said that although originally there were 80 CDs, the event became so popular that on the first day, almost all of the CDs were gone.

“We had originally thought 80,” she said. “But now, with them being checked out so fast, we are probably going to have more than 80. Maybe even 180.”

More information on the event can be found on the Swem Library webpage and on the Facebook pages for Swem Library and Swem Music Library.