Heading down a row of books to meet nine like-minded souls to discuss travel or criminal endeavors sounds like the start of a great novel. That's appropriate for fundraiser both benefitting and taking place in a library. 

Dinner in the Stacks, set for Friday at Beale Memorial Library, could be a book- — or library- — lovers dream come true: An evening at the library with after-hours drinks, delicious food and conversation, led by one of 13 engaging hosts.

"A library after hours — it's cool," said library associate Ariel Dyer. "I love it too."

Stars aligned to bring the event, originally conceived by Beale library supervisor Sherry Wade, to fruition right around the Beale's 30th anniversary. The library, which has called other Bakersfield spots home since 1900, has been at 701 Truxtun Ave. since 1988.

"We wanted to do something big," Dyer said.

That plan was possible through the Kern County Library Foundation, which can host a fundraiser. (All library-organized events must be free to the public.)

For the big night, guests receive a gourmet dinner, prepared by Cafe 1600, the partnership between Bakersfield Adult School's Culinary Arts Program and America's Job Center of California. They will be seated at one of 13 tables, hosted by a member of the community, who will lead a conversation based on their own topic of interest.

Attendees can select their seat when buying their ticket, which must be purchased by Monday. Four of the tables are sold out: art, with Bakersfield Museum of Art Director Amy Smith; criminology, with Tammi Noe, crime lab director of the Kern Regional Crime Laboratory; graphic design with Bakersfield Life freelance writer and Wonder Woman cosplayer Nina Ha; and technology with Bill Moseley, dean of academic tech at Bakersfield College.

(Those who would still like a moment with Smith can take part in the pre-dinner informal tour of the library's art collection, Dyer said.)

The available hosts/topics as of press time are: Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, on downtown development; Robert Provenico, director of the Bakersfield Master Chorale, on choral music; Beatriz Trejo, Young Lawyer of the Year for Worker's Compensation on the law; Dick Taylor, director of Kern County Veterans Services, on the military; Jessica Grimes, Taft College professor and one of The Bakersfield Californian's 20 Under 40, on multiethnic literature; Brian Sivesind, director of theater at Bakersfield College, on theater; Don Thompson, Kern County poet laureate, on poetry; and Mike McCoy, director of the Kern County Museum, on travel.

The final table is a subject ripe for its own place among the stacks: a mystery host discussing a mystery topic.

What's not mysterious is the evening's itinerary. It starts with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. in the library's atrium. Dyer said "cocktail" is used loosely, since they will be pouring sparkling wine. Appetizers — homemade meatballs, bruschetta on grilled sourdough bread and antipasto platter — will also be served. Live music will be provided by Paula Einstein on ukulele and Terry Cano on piano.

A variety of baskets and items will be on display for the silent auction, which will run until 7 p.m. when dinner begins.

Tables will be spaced out throughout a portion of the library, since the existing stacks don't allow for everyone to be grouped together.

Conversations will take off as dinner — roasted pork loin or vegetarian risotto with roasted eggplant — is served. Peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream will be offered for dessert.

Proceeds from the event will help support the Beale's early literacy and learning programs for children and teens and also to update the children's library.

"We have a wish list of things we need for our play center," Dyer said. "We’re going to try and replenish those things."

Based on initial response, Dyer said another similar event could be in the library's future. The main goal is to keep offering activities to show people what the library has to offer.

"We’re a community space," she said. "We give people information but I want people to use it as a community space."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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