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Kepler’s To Provide Literary Speed Dating?

Volunteer team injects fresh ideas into fading bookstore.

As from his role as CEO of Kepler’s bookstore Tuesday, a team of volunteers is swooping in from all over Menlo Park to rewrite its cultural future. They are known as the Kepler’s 2020 Transition Team.

Praveen Madan, the chief community engagement officer for the K2020TTeam, said the team intends to transform the independently-owned bookstore into a place that will host not only as it does now, but also cultural events that appeal to a younger crowd.

“We’re going to turn Kepler’s into the bookstore of the future," Madan said. 

Madan and other members on the Kepler’s 2020 Transition Team are discussing innovative ways to make that happen.

One way will be to provide a “literary matchmaking” service that sounds a lot like a speed dating event without the timer, or the pressure to make a potentially disastrous decision. 

Madan said the concept has been quite successful at his other bookstore in San Francisco, The Booksmith. For the past two years, the store has hosted Book Swaps every other week. People are encouraged at these events to engage in conversations about literature in a casual environment with food and an open bar.

“I hear from lots of young people that it’s very hard to meet other people,” Madan said. 

“We do something about this by providing a space where they can meet people in a literary environment.”  that it is challenging for young individuals to find social activities in Menlo Park, which forces them to travel to San Francisco or Palo Alto to have fun.

Madan and the team intend to solve that problem.

He aspires to make the bookstore a place where people will have the ability to socialize in a respectful way even if they have different belief systems and behavior patterns. The plan is to host events every two months or so. However, none of the details have been finalized. 

The Kepler’s Transition Team was only formed this past week and is still refining its specific list of goals. The team includes volunteers with many different skill sets.

Joining Madan on the team are:

Gail Slocum, former mayor of Menlo Park; Mitch Slomiak, Kepler’s CFO; Jean Forstner, director of community affairs at Kepler’s; Steve Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers; Beth Morgan, marketing consultant; and Patrick Corman, communications consultant.

Other prominent people and organizations in Silicon Valley are also contributing their brainpower and time toward the goal of creating a sustainable business model for a community-owned and run bookstore:

Christin Evans, co-owner of Booksmith and Berkeley Arts & Letters; Morrison & Foerster LLP; the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Howard Bailey, former CFO and high-tech corporate board member; Pushpendra Mohta, serial entrepreneur; Daniel Mendez and Vivian Leal, Kepler’s Patrons; Preston Butcher, Kepler’s Patron; Mark Melbye, Kidder Mathews; Robert Kyle, Kepler’s Patron; Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith; Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tem Peter Ohtaki; Menlo Park City Council member Kelly Fergusson; and Jeff Chow, Kepler’s Community Champion and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

Although many details need to be refined, the team will pivot Kepler's from its previous position against technological advances such as e-books that have forced many such as to close their doors. Madan said they plan to embrace the future and all the possibilities for social activities that come with it. 

When people hear you own a bookstore, they’re like ‘are you okay?’ with a look of pity on their face,” Madan said.

“They know you must be struggling if you run a bookstore. We’re not going to have any of this pity business.”


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Thomas Rogers February 01, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Interesting- a friend of mine did a literary speed dating thing at the SF Library last year and said it was pretty fun: http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=1004456301 http://www.kqed.org/a/kqednews/RN201102141644 Looking forward more generally to what the new Kepler's team comes up with!
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) February 01, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Me too. That KQED piece was cute. The participants sounded appropriately nerdy and uncertain, yet amused and hopeful. I am hoping Kepler's partners with Willows Market again (http://patch.com/A-hr8F). (: Would you go to one of these events?
Sandy B February 01, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I'm glad they're going to change their approach. I love that store.
Thomas Rogers February 02, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Ha, "no comment" on on whether I myself would attend such an event :)
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) February 02, 2012 at 07:59 PM
lol I'm going to go ahead and say that I would. Not to find a date. I'd go to have interesting conversations and discover new books. I'm almost done with "The Next 100 Years." Got any good book recs?

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