Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Booze for Books

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.



  1. This should be especially appealing to libraries in Michigan where penal fines collected by the state for violations such as DUI’s are a source of library funding. A word or two with the state police and they should be able double their profits.

  2. I’ve got a great idea! Rather than call it “Booze for Books” or “Drugs for DVDs,” why not call it the “Whitney Houston Memorial Fundraiser”?

    Booze is fun.

    Drugs are fun.

    Ask Whitney!

  3. Oh my, 6 years! Many have been reading you for even longer! Congrats!

    I think the gimmick will annoy people but may attract others. But I’d like to see it called “Books for Booze.”

    Now we know it’s anything goes for the ALA. So perhaps the OIF can have a “Books for Boobs” fundraiser, or “Publications for Porn.”

    You know, Anthony Marx, the President of the NYPL with the famous lions, plead guilty to a misdemeanor for driving drunk (0.19% BAC) and smashing the library-owed 2009 Audi. And he got lots of praise and was allowed to keep his job where he makes, including perks, about 3/4s of a million dollars — from a “public” library. He is literally part of the 0.19%. So why should there be a problem with “Booze for Books” if you can smash the library car while drunk, get praise, and get to keep your 0.19% job?

  4. The Librarian With No Name says:

    When I read the title, I had visions of those Cash for Guns drives police departments do in some areas. Even after reading the article, my original interpretation seems like a brilliant idea.

    Maybe I’ll subtly spread the word that if a patron brings in a pint of decent non-Canadian whiskey, I’ll bump them up to the top of the 300-person waiting list for The Hunger Games.

  5. Pat Weaver-Meyers, ALA Councilor, Oklahoma Chapter, wrote the following to the ALA Council listserv called alacoun:

    I am somewhat surprised that recent posts to the listserv suggest that Council doesn’t have the right to have an opinion about a campaign that is represented on the ALA website and that, by being on the website, reflects on all members of the Association. I understand that the Council cannot dictate what the divisions do, as defined by bylaws. But, if Council isn’t even suppose to share opinions and concerns about the quality, content and public face of our organization, then I think Council is an obsolete institution, as has been suggested by some earlier task force documents. I have assumed that my job is to represent the people who elected me. Sharing my opinion on this issue is reflective of the opinion of many of my constituents.

    Many times Council has stood up and voted to support all kinds of issues related to individual rights and these included insensitive wording on policies, documents and other materials. Why is that kind of discussion ok, while a discussion about “booze for books” being insensitive is off-limits? It seems some are confusing unfashionable with insensitive.

    I spent my entire weekend asking friends and acquaintances what they thought of “booze for books.” Virtually 100% of the time eyebrows immediately shot upward when I said this was an American Library Association campaign. Some thought it was funny, some not so funny, but all thought it contrary to what they perceived to be the American Library Association. That could be bad or good, depending on the image we as a group want to convey.

    I think this is an insensitive and crass phraseology and reflects poorly on our organization. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Others can and clearly do feel differently. No problem. But, I do have a problem with the suggestion that this is not the purview of the Council or the constituents who we represent.

    Pat Weaver-Meyers
    ALA Councilor, Oklahoma Chapter

    • The Librarian With No Name says:

      Of course the Council has the right to express an opinion on ALA campaigns. Others participating in the free and robust exchange of ideas then have the right to point out that this opinion is stuffy and petty. The Council, of course, retains the right to become butthurt and self-righteous, and to express these feelings as well. This, then, naturally devolves to the natural right of random jerks on the internet to make snarky comments about their butthurtedness.

      It’s the natural cycle of intellectual discourse, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness in the wild.

    • @ Librarian w/ no name….
      Thank you! for the laugh. That was fantastic. :)

  6. I think this is very appropriate. I mean who needs to drink heavily after work everyday more than librarians?

    • I like the way you think ME.

      As long as we’re sticking with the assonance/consonance theme, here’s my contribution: ”Alcohol for Accessioning.”

  7. I rewrote the YALSA announcement as something else that seems to get caught in you spam trap… B**bs for Books. and I apologize to everyone who reads it.

  8. Overworked Librarian says:

    The name was in poor taste. I am a bit surprised by YALSA. But I don’t think people should get all bent out of shape about it. It would be nice of YALSA to have non-alcoholic drinks available also.

  9. librarEwoman says:

    I’m not sure why this is all that surprising. There’s an ongoing trend of associating books for young adults with booze. See this as an example:

    The Forever Young Adult site coordinates book clubs around the nation in which adults (mostly female librarians, I think) get together to read and discuss YA books while enjoying booze. They frequently take photos of themselves meeting to discuss YA books while drinking booze, which then get posted on the Forever Young Adult site. It’s the hip thing to do right now!

  10. One of the strangest things about the libraries I’ve voluteered at over the last 6yrs; I don’t get why the staff would appear to be populated exclusively with fiction-readers?? Not one has ever been able to answer the most basic questions about current events books (other than to say, “they should be in new releases”(I guess I couln’t figure that out by myself), much less anything regarding history. Everyone in the business of books, used or new, knows that NON-fiction readers are the ones who support your business, or library. Quit stocking the latest on military history, political biography and the envoirnment–and we’ll go back to the internet. It’s not JUST thats challenging the business: its stupid decisions on buying and promoting books people actually READ. Wake up, librarians!

  11. Not one to be left behind when they mix Pina Colodas, but whoah, librarians!

    It is a rather tacky idea ‘booze for books”, seriously? I think even the in hip and trendy-setting librarians would give you a pinched ‘ew’ look.

    The “liqqer for libraries” party also leaves out the 18-20 year olds cohort-hey, those are young adults! They are probably not folk that will GIVE money or books, but one thing they are is future readers and future millionaires.

    so, my twisted two-cents.

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