Before I start talking about libraries, I want to sing Happy Birthday to myself. The Annoyed Librarian just turned six, and for over half of those six years has been hosted by the Library Journal. This past weekend we had a huge LJ birthday party to celebrate. I barely had time to recover from all the champagne before writing this.
Speaking of alcohol, a couple of kind readers sent me a link to the strangest library fundraiser I’ve ever seen: Booze for Books.
Boozing for books isn’t necessarily odd in itself. The odd thing is the group sponsoring it: YALSA. For those unaware of YALSA, it stands for the Young Adult Library Services Association. We all know that “young adult” really means “older child,” and Booze for Books is a “fundraising event in support of Books for Teens.”
Personally, I love the idea. Drinking martinis and buying books are two of my favorite activities, and if I could combine them into a fundraising event to to help needy teens get books to read so much the better. Maybe I’ll host a cocktail party and have people bring books to donate. Or just charge the $15 for drinks the bars charge and donate the money to my local library.
Some puritans really don’t like the idea, though. You might know H.L. Mencken’s definition of puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Some librarians are reacting as if the fundraiser was designed to get teens drinking instead of reading.
One earnest librarian wrote to YALSA and the ALA Council complaining:
As a former council-member, the very first thing that came to my mind when I read about this fund-raiser was the loss of two precious children’s librarians at the hand of a drunk driver in Denver a few years ago. Why is it that we think a social gather must be around alcohol? Hosting with alcohol does not make your get-together any more sophisticated.
Hmm. If the first thing that comes to mind are “precious children’s librarians” getting killed by drunk drivers, you’re way too morbid. I recommend a Bombay martini straight up with a twist and some Cole Porter to lighten your mood. People drink every day in this country, and the overwhelming majority of them don’t kill anyone.
No one said a social gathering must be centered around alcohol, but if you’re wondering why most of them are you haven’t spent much time around librarians, or even normal people for that matter. Alcohol isn’t supposed to make a get-together more sophisticated. It’s supposed to make it more enjoyable, which is why that’s how most of them are done. Even book group meetings are sometimes accompanied by wine.
An earnest councilor approved of that criticism, making some good points, writing that “it cuts out a portion of our society which, as other noted can include whole communities, who do not support drinking for either religious/philosophical reasons or for health reasons. It would most certainly be an uncomfortable kind of event for anyone who is in Alcoholics Anonymous!”
Yes, it would be an uncomfortable event for AA people, and for the minority of teetotalers in the country. An appropriate response to that might be, who cares? Not every fundraiser has to be aimed at every person. And besides, how many fundraising dinners or parties have you been to that didn’t serve any alcohol?
The teetotalers can just stay home that night and let the rest of us enjoy ourselves. If you’re the sort of person who complains about people drinking at parties, then you’re the sort of person that people at parties drink to make more interesting.
Another councilor complained that “the word ‘booze’ seems low class and I like to think that libraries are classier.” Talk about excluding a portion of the public! I thought libraries were all about supporting the “low class.” That’s the only class that truly needs libraries. Don’t be such a snob.
Yet another librarian thought “booze” was too lowbrow. She suggested “Cocktails for Collections.” Yeah, that would be a great slogan if the fundraiser were aimed solely at librarians, since they’re the only ones who would automatically associate “collections” with libraries. Unfortunately, librarians don’t have much money, so they’re a terrible target for fundraising.
“Booze for Books” is catchy. “Cocktails for Collections” is boring. That’s just the way it is.
Librarians upset about this should just relax and have a drink. And on April 12th, librarians around the country should serve some drinks and raise some money.
And remember, teens like to watch movies, too. Maybe next year YALSA can have a “Drugs for DVDs” fundraiser.