Need a first date idea? This roundup of the world's best libraries will give you plenty of inspiration.
Looking for a cool new date spot that’s versatile, affordable, and just the right amount of quirky? Presenting: your local library.
Granted, this date works best for people who love books (and if you’re one of those people, you’re already sort of sold, aren’t you?) But you don’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy a random afternoon at the library. In fact, it can even be romantic.
Start With The Children’s Section
People love to revisit their childhood, and few things bring out nostalgia like picture books. Even the coolest, most composed adult will usually revert to child-like excitement upon seeing a long-forgotten book, and date conversation will be consumed with “OMG, remember this one?”
This is why a library is so great: books that have long gone out of fashion since we were children, and therefore impossible to find at Barnes and Noble, are still preserved in the stacks at libraries. And you can plop down and gigglingly revisit your past, without having to feel bad about reading and not paying, or ruining pristine pages.
Try to plan your visit for when the Children’s section will be relatively empty (i.e. at night or at naptime—definitely not at story time.)
Head To The Music Section Next
Anyone who likes to boast on the obscurity of their music taste should definitely take a trip to the Public Library–that’s where they keep the stuff that won’t even get on iTunes. They have record players there so you can listen to albums as they were meant to be heard. Best part? Library record players have two headset plugs. It’s the loveably dorky music equivalent to two straws in a milkshake.
Separate For A Bit
Give yourselves twenty minutes to look around solo, and then meet back at a table with a stack of books. What sections did you guys head for? Gardening? Old-school knitting patterns? Dusty biographies of silent movie stars? Fiction? Compare books, and then sit down and actually read for a bit. There’s something a little illicitly romantic about sitting together in a room where talking is frowned upon. Will you pass notes? Play footsie? Or just be content to sit together reading in each other’s company?
Kiss In The Stacks
No one in history has ever graduated college without fantasies of a prolonged, secret make-out session in the stacks. It is not too late to make this happen!
For The Card-Carrying Nerds
The one thing libraries still have that the Internet doesn’t is Microfiches. No one has gotten around to putting newspapers online in their entirety, and seeing what they looked like 100 years ago, advertisements and all, is the closest approximation to time travel available to us.
Pick a decade that interests both of you (or an event, a murder, or an election), and spend a hot summer’s afternoon tucked away in a cool, dark, microfiche room.
Check Something Out, And Go Read It In The Park
Or a coffee shop, or at home, or wherever. You don’t have to stay in the library all day, you can use it as a springboard. But think about how much more you will know about your date after an afternoon perusing books together!
Pick The Right Library
Not all libraries are created equal. Sure, your local community library might have its charm, but if you’re going on a date, might as well pick the cream of the crop.
New York has what might well be considered the crown jewel of libraries, The NYPL. It’s the largest public library in America, situated on fashionable 5th Avenue. The Reading Room is something to see, more akin to a European Palace than a library, and the collection features such treasures as a Guttenberg Bible and the original "Winnie-The-Pooh" dolls. (The library is no stranger to romance, either–Paul Varjak brings Holly Golightly to the library on their first “date” in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," and, (perhaps less whimsically) Carrie Bradshaw (tries) to marry Mr. Big there in the first "Sex and the City movie.")
Los Angeles also has some libraries that are worthy date stops. The Huntington Library (which is not a public library, aka not free) boasts gorgeous botanical gardens and an impressive selection of Folios, "The Canterbury Tales," and a first edition of Audubon's "Birds of America." You can also have tea there.
The Brand Library in Glendale, CA is especially cool, first of all because it specializes in art and music, and secondly because it’s supposedly haunted. The library was originally a mansion whose owner died there in 1925. The library has an incredible collection of records and CDs which are fun to poke through, and the librarians are usually happy to talk about ghost sightings.
The Boston Public Library was the first municipal library in the United States, founded in 1848. Along with the NYPL, The Library of Congress, and the Libraries of Yale and Harvard, it’s one of the most important libraries in the United States. The collection boasts first editions of Daniel Defoe works, and the entire library of John Adams, the papers of William Lloyd Garrison, and the archives of the Handel and Hayden Society. The library holds 8.9 million books in all.
History buffs in D.C. can’t miss the Library of Congress, which houses some of the most important articles from American history, including an early draft of the Declaration of Independence and the papers of Thomas Jefferson. What’s more, the Library of Congress is unique in that it has a cafe and gift shop—ideal for first dates.
Of course, the United States doesn't have the monopoly on jaw dropping libraries. the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt was inaugurated in 2002 in honor of the most famous library of the ancient world. It's not quite what was around during Ptolemy's day, but it does boast books in English, French, and Arabic and—if you're looking for opportunities for starry romance—a planetarium. The Bodleian Library at Oxford is difficult to get into (unless you're on a date with a student or professor?), but worth it for fantasy fans interested in seeing the building that inspired Tolkien and doubled as Hogwarts for two of the Harry Potter films. And art fans can't miss the library at Trinity College in Dublin, where the Book of Kells is on permanent collection.
These last few are, however, less suitable for canoodling in the stacks. If you're just looking for a low-key setting in which to impress each other with your love of literature, best stick closer to home, and let your own local library help you prove that true romance isn't just found in books.
Chiara Atik is author of Modern Dating: A Field Guide
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons