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Matchmaking Site Brings Romance to British University Libraries

University libraries across Britain have become much more fertile flirting zones, thanks to a new Web site created by a computer-science student at University College London.

The site, Fitfinder, allows students to post messages broadcasting their attraction to others they’ve spotted in the stacks.

Its creator, Richard Martell, an avid rugby player, says that for him and many of his teammates, study sessions often turned into texting sessions, as they traded banter about potential partners. “Sure, you try to do a bit of revision,” he says, “but you do get bored and you need a bit of light relief.”

He believes the site will facilitate connections by allowing posters to describe themselves to the objects of their attraction and provide contact information. But comments are open to everyone, and a perusal of the site suggests that, thus far at least, it’s serving more as a forum for the online equivalent of construction-site wolf-whistling than for genuine romantic outreach.

Many of the online messages are unfit for publication here, but some of the posters seemed to take the academic setting into account. “I saw you doing quantum mechanics integrals,” read a message on the University of Cambridge portion of the site, addressed to a blond male in the library of Gonville and Caius College. “I wish you could be my derivative and lie tangent to my curves.”

When Fitfinder went live, in April, it featured just University College London but generated such an overwhelming immediate response—nearly 3,000 unique users that day, Mr. Martell says—that he shortly allocated space for London’s four other main universities. Soon he was  fielding requests for the libraries of other institutions; by the end of the following weekend, 27 of them were included. Several advertisers, interested in the student demographic, have also expressed interest, he says.

By the end of the second weekend, the postings had already begun to take on a slightly jaded air. A female student at University College London who had been spotted applying “copious amounts of mascara” in the bathroom was rebuked: “What’s this—revision for Beauty Studies? Or just trying to get on fitfinder? Loser.” Someone studying in a King’s College London library wondered online whether, like so many other internet fads, this one was already running its course. “Does anyone feel like Fitfinder’s got a bit like Chatroulette?” the poster asked.

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