Sometimes it’s amusing to look at the time and energy librarians put into things that probably aren’t worth it.
For example, take a look at Sweater Vest Sunday, dubbed by someone on the Publib listserv as the “worst marketing ever.” Kind Reader sent this link, but I think you have to scroll down to find the discussion.
We know someone at ALA must be excited about it, because there are three exclamation points in the first four sentences. Heck, there are two exclamation points in just the first sentence, which is quite a feat of exclamation pointery.
In case you can’t bear to click, here’s most of what you need to know:
ALA Midwinter 2013 attendees – and all fans of intellectual freedom – can take a stand for the freedom to read (and for fashion!) by participating in Sweater Vest Sunday! All day on Sunday, January 27, 2013, help spread the word about the importance of reporting challenges to library materials by wearing a sweater vest to your meetings, lunches, programs, and special events. On site in Seattle, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) staff and volunteers will be passing out stickers and postcards to Midwinter attendees. And at 2:45 p.m. at the ALA Member Pavilion in booth 1650 on the exhibit floor, everyone is invited to a group photo of librarians showing off their sweater vests!
Take a stand for the freedom to read (and for fashion!)! Stickers! Am I the only one who reads this and feels a little bit of my librarian soul die?
Wearing a sweater vest to support the freedom to read? Why? What’s the connection? It turns out there is a very tenuous connection.
In 2011, the Office for Intellectual Freedom unveiled the “It’s Everybody’s Job” Challenge Reporting Campaign to encourage the reporting of challenges to materials in libraries and schools. Conceived by librarian Andy Woodworth, the campaign commissioned original artwork (inspired by World War II-era public safety notices) that can be shared online and printed as posters and bookmarks. The posters and bookmarks feature a librarian rocking … a sweater vest!
There’s another exclamation point. Someone either gets very excited about sweater vests, or else hopes the excited punctuation will help us get excited. It’s not working.
Okay, so they made a poster that happened to have a librarian in a sweater vest, er, sorry, “rocking a sweater vest,” as if that’s possible. What I find curious is that in a profession that’s 85% female, the representative librarian is a man. What’s up with that? They could at least have given him a bun and had him shushing people.
Regardless, that wasn’t necessarily a good reason to have Sweater Vest Sunday. Why not Bow Tie Sunday? Or Clipboard Sunday? Or Goofy Looking White Guy Sunday?
Looking closer, we see that wearing a sweater vest isn’t even an arbitrary way to support the freedom to read. It’s a way to support the reporting of book challenges in libraries, which isn’t really the same thing.
Just because some yokel doesn’t like books with gay penguins doesn’t mean we don’t have the freedom to read. Even library directors who remove books from a library because they’re yucky doesn’t affect that freedom. The books are out there and we can read them. Take that, North Korea!
Add up all the book challenges out there and what do you have? A drop in the ocean compared to the books available to the public, even the challenged books. I guess I should be happy they didn’t say “wear a sweater vest to fight censorship! (and fashion!)”
Encouraging the reporting of book challenges is a very incomplete and unsatisfying way to promote the freedom to read, which might make the sweater vest appropriate since sweater vests are incomplete sweaters for people who just can’t commit to the full wool. That’s what I’m calling a real sweater now, the full wool.
People committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read don’t have to worry about book challenges, because intellectual freedom is alive and well in these United States. They don’t have to be concerned with small nuisances, because they know that intellectual freedom has the full protection of the U.S. Constitution. And if there’s a serious challenge, they’d call on the ACLU, not the ALA.
If you fret over the nonexistent danger to intellectual freedom posed by book challenges, by all means wear a sweater vest next Sunday. If instead you’re proud to know that those freedoms are fully protected regardless of the occasional library book challenge, don’t wear a sweater vest. Commit to the full wool.