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Book it to the Ames Library and make a new friend

Jacob Rice
Iowa State linguistics student TK Haong speaks with fellow attendees of the Speed Friending event at the Ames Public Library, Feb. 3, 2024.

A group of 35 people gathered at the Ames Public Library on Saturday with one shared goal: to socialize with strangers.

People of all ages, from different backgrounds, sat across from each other for the second attempt at Speed Friending, including Iowa State senior in linguistics Tram Hoang. The goal of Speed Friending was to make socializing as an adult easier.

Hoang, attended the speed friending event to make new friends off campus. Hoang described making new friends in college as difficult.

“Everyone in college already has their cliques, and it’s hard to join a new clique,” Haong said. “Even if you approach people on campus, they won’t even say hello, they can’t be bothered.”

People in attendance were categorized as movers and sitters, designated by the stickers on the many folding tables. Name tags, notecards and question prompts were provided for the attendees. Each pair had four minutes to speak before moving on to the next person.

Some of the question prompts included:

  • Did you go through any phases as a teenager?
  • What is a movie that made you cry? If none, what is a movie that makes you laugh a lot?
  • How do you like to relax after a long day?
The online advertisement for Speed Friending, Ames Public Library website.

Everyone had different reasons for attending. Some said they were drawn to the event to practice small talk, meet their fellow community members, practice their English and simply make new friends.

Ames resident Cheryl Moss came to the event after hearing about it from friends. She said she found the idea fun but decided not to bring her friends as it would be like bringing a date to speed dating.

“I was comparing it to Thanksgiving meals that a church does that are community-wide, so you never know who you’re gonna be seating next to,” Moss said.

Iowa State plant biology graduate student Thomas Young attended the events with friends to relieve the social pressure of putting himself out there. Young recently moved to Ames to pursue his master’s degree and wanted to meet people he normally would not.

“I was vaguely apprehensive beforehand. I’ve never been to a speed-friending event before, but I liked how fast-paced it was,” Young said.

The Ames Public Library held the same event last year and wanted to build off its success. The difference between this event and the last was the addition of board games and a bracelet-making station.

An attendee of the Speed Friending event makes a friendship bracelet, Ames Public Library, Feb. 3, 2024. (Jacob Rice)

Ames Librarian Clelia Sweeney and Ames Library Assistant Chelsie Gohlmann used the auditorium microphones to keep the event moving efficiently. The pace at which attendees switched seats steadily took longer as people got more comfortable and conversations lengthened.

“We wanted to target the students at Iowa State coming here that don’t have any friends or family nearby, creating that community for them,” Gohlmann said.

Gohlmann said she found inspiration from a Canadian Library online.

“We were trying to think of programs that would draw people that weren’t so much like a lecture or educational thing but more so a social event,” Sweeney said.

The event ended at 4 p.m., but attendees stayed after the allotted time to continue socializing and sharing contact information.

“Can you speak to another human being for 90 seconds? If so, you can do speed friending, and who knows what will happen next,” Young said.

The Ames Public Library adult services staff plan to continue hosting speed friending events every semester.

To view upcoming events at the Ames Public Library, visit their website.

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Jacob Rice, Visual Editor
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