Tuesday, December 04, 2007

So, if I check out that book, I can then buy more crap?

This is certainly a ridiculous item. Let's not even consider the privacy invasion issue of the matter. Let's look at how the Leesburg (Florida) Public Library tries its hand at marketing:

"The program, Youniquely 4 U, is free for anyone who holds a Lake County Library card, and it offers personal recommendations and coupons based on what a library patron checks out, drawing from general categories of the patron's book or video selections to suggest similar events or businesses."

So, they take your private information from the book checkouts to advertise to you. As I said, I am not even going to consider the fact they are invading my privacy by sharing what I am checking out with advertisers, which by the way is none of their business. I thought librarians were supposed to protect patrons from this kind of thing. Sure, the librarians in Leesburg will likely refuse the man in the black trenchcoat and dark glasses a request for my records (unless he has a valid warrant), but they clearly have no problem letting advertisers get a look at them. So, let's leave that aside and look at what might actually happen if I did check out books from that library. What kind of advertising might I actually get? Hmm.

Here are some books I have recently read. Let's see how Leesburg's marketing would give me ideas for shopping and consumption:

  • Art Spiegelman's Maus and Maus II. Hmm, probably an ad for a local pest control company.
  • Kinky Friedman's Texas Hold 'Em. This could go a couple of ways. One could be a coupon for a casino nearby. Kinky's name might trigger an ad from a local adult bookstore or lingerie shop.
  • Kinky Friedman's Cowboy Logic. Probably a coupon for the local western wear store. After all, the book is about cowboys (ok, it's about more, but remember, this is what the ad program would think you need to buy).
  • Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements. Advertisements from various local lawyers.
  • Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. This is a no-brainer: coupons for McDonald's.
  • John Scalzi's Old Man's War. Advertisement for a local retirement community. Discount coupons for seniors and/or veterans to the local diners.
  • Brian Fies, Mom's Cancer. Advertisement for the regional oncology center, or for a cancer support group (ok, I found it kind of hard to joke about this one since it deals with a serious topic, but be honest, we are talking thoughtless advertising here).
  • Michael Jan Friedman's The Federation Travel Guide. Travel agents.
  • Wendy Northcutt, The Darwin Awards 4: Intelligent Design. Advertisements from the local nitwits advocating teaching "intelligent design" so schools teach all sides (sorry, I don't give intelligent design people the benefit of any doubt. These are basically people advocating ignorance of real science).
  • Andy Rooney's Out of my mind. Ads for local mental health facilities.
  • Maureen Ogle's Ambitious Brew. Ads for local bars and other drinking establishments. (This one actually makes a bit more sense. Harder to do in Tyler, since it is a dry county. I just drive over). You could also have ads for beer brands if there is a local distributor nearby.
  • Adrian Gostick, The Carrot Principle. Ads for the local farmers' market, or just any local supermarket (never mind the book is about management).
  • Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. Ad for local electronics shop or store like Best Buy (you know, so you can buy that scanner).

Folks, libraries are supposed to be one of the last sanctuaries of democracy. They are supposed to be the place where you can go and find information and reading material in a neutral environment with help from dedicated professionals. Now, this library is, implicitly at least, endorsing certain products and services by allowing advertising. Do these librarians really need to sell themselves off like that? If I want advertising, I will go to the local bookstore for my books, thanks.

A hat tip to Barbara Fister writing for ACRLog.

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