Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Beware the Swag Zombies

The worst thing about going to an ALA conference is all the preconference spam that vendors send out. Somehow I must have checked the right box somewhere, because I don’t get as much as I used to. But back in the days of print spam, I’d get huge stacks of spammy postcards from vendors that I would then cut into small bits to make collages for my colleagues. Hey, I had to find something to do at the reference desk.

These days it’s all about the email, and an easy “delete” or “report spam” takes care of the problem. However, my easy resort to the spam button kept me from getting the following advertisement sent in by a kind reader with a subject line reading “No wonder librarians get no respect” and the following comment: “I am an educated professional, so I want to walk around in ridiculous headgear…”

Yep, that about says it all.

If you want to know what companies think about librarians, follow their propaganda at conferences. Ebsco, for example, gives a simple lunch where they talk about all their new products. There’s no song and dance, and the sales pitches are informative. Other companies do similar things. Lunches or coffee and a little talk about their products.

And then some companies do it differently, because they think librarians are clowns.

The latest example comes from a company calling itself W.T. Cox, who you’ll definitely want to follow on Facebook and Twitter because nothing is more exciting than the tweets and status updates of a library vendor.

I won’t quote it all, just the juicy bits. For example:

We have exciting giveaways planned and we are proud to mention… the best service standards in the industry. Read on to learn more.

1) “Wear Them To Win” Giveaway – Share your love for the library industry by donning your very own “I LOVE MY Library” mouse ears. Limited quantities are available so please pre-register using the button above to reserve yours today.

But, you will want to wear them during ALA events and exhibit hours because we will be randomly selecting winners and give away instant prizes.

“Limited quantities are available,” to go along with the limited intelligence and self-respect of the librarians who would wear them. They think librarians are clowns, or at least the person who came up with this “wear them to win” BS does.

They’re offering more than just the ability to look like a fool at a conference. Look what else you can get:

Don’t forget to come by and get the ever-popular

“I LOVE My Library” swag.

Large Tote Bags, Stickers and Post-It Notes

You’ll need a large tote bag for all that “swag.” Woo hoo! Stickers and Post-it notes! Will there be loads of really cheap pens as well? Do you have anything that glows in the dark? I love things that glow in the dark! Yayyy!!

Wait, maybe I need to back up. The mouse ears promotion is ridiculous, and aimed at fools who will do anything for the chance to win some useless junk. However, the problem might not be with the promotion. The problem might be with us.

By “us” I don’t mean librarians like me or the savvy skeptics who read the AL. I mean all those ludicrous librarians who go to conferences to load up on “swag” that sensible people wouldn’t take even if it was free. There’s a reason vendors are handing out that cheap crap. Because it’s cheap crap!

I have seen librarians pulling rolling suitcases along the convention floor filling them with useless trinkets. They have so much junk and such weak muscles that tote bags are just too darned hard to carry. It’s like they’re preparing to visit with the natives of Idiotania and want to make sure they have plenty of goods to trade with.

Or maybe they go back to their libraries and say to the staff doing their work while they’re gone, “I know you couldn’t get to Anaheim, but here’s a bouncy ball and a pen that doesn’t write to make up for it. Now get to work!”

The mouse ears promotion is aimed at librarians like that, the ones who go for cheap junk the way zombies go for human brains.

So if you go to Anaheim and see some librarians wearing “I Love My Library” mouse ears, you’ll know one thing about them. They’ll do anything to win cheap junk, even if it means they become an embarrassment to the profession.

Since librarians are too polite to point at them in mute horror as they pass, the best thing is just to ignore them. Don’t make eye contact with the swag zombies or they will try to take away everything you’re carrying and return with it to their home planet. Just stay away from them. Remember, you were warned.



  1. Bob Patterson says:

    The most embarrassing thing I saw was at New Orleans. Halfway down Bourbon St. in a trendy bar there was a gaggle of librarians. They were complete with their conference badges and bags. Many of the clientele and staff were looking, pointing and snickering.

    I can understand wearing that crap near the convention center but not on a night out!

  2. Beware everyone…this is the time of the year when AL ridicules ALA annual and all the librarians who go to ALA annual. Of course, the sweet irony, is that AL never seems to miss an ALA conference.

  3. This isn’t unique to librarians by any stretch of the imagination. Our local community puts on a state-wide/regional substance abuse conference every year. The library has a member on the planning committee (me). You’d be surprised how many mental health professionals, doctors, nurses, and PhDs would bludgeon each other for a pad-folio and lanyard.

  4. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    Remembering back to my library school days, a friend and I went to the mid-winter in Chicago just to see what all the hooplah was about and took a tour of the exhibits at the Hilton. We were picking up pens and notepads as gag souvenir gifts for friends (Who wouldn’t treasure a Wilson Abstracts notepad?). But looking ahead of us, there were a couple of nuns basically emptying each table’s contents into their swag bags. We had to jump in front of them so we could actually get something before they made their haul.

  5. Annoyed Librarian says:

    I wouldn’t miss the ALA conference, Will. I have too much fun!

  6. GetAClue says:

    Bob – I’ve been to networking events and socials held in bars and restaurants in the conference city, including NOLA. When I am at an official function and am there to meet people and learn what other librarians are doing you had better believe I am wearing my name badge and sometimes carrying a conference bag. (Although I rarely use the conference bag as I have a large, professional, basic black shoulder bag I use instead.) I take my name badge off for the walk over, and put it back on for the social. People want to laugh and point that’s their problem, but if that’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever seen at ALA I think you need to get out more. :D

    (PS I think all conferences have reputations for bad/stereotypical/tourist behavior. Even doctors and lawyer can be drunken jerks!)

  7. Paigers says:

    When I was in NOLA a couple of other librarians were in a bookstore off of Bourbon Street complaining to the owner that they didn’t know where to get a drink because they just wanted “a glass of wine.” They then proceeded to give me and my Hand Grenade a dirty look.

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