Canadian Library Squelches Rumors of a “Don’t Be an Idiot” Campaign
With the fall election season gearing up across North America, it seemed that the staff of the Calgary (Alberta) Public Library was doing its part to get out the vote when the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported August 25 that the library had launched a “Don’t Be an Idiot” PR campaign to promote its upcoming mayoral-candidate forums and political resources.
Although the brief CBC report stirred a lively online debate, with 73 comments on the pros and cons of participating in the electoral process, the library was quick to deny creating any formal campaign. Acknowledging that the slogan “caught a lot of people’s attention,” including tweeters and some who took offense, Calgary Public Library spokesperson Gerry Burger-Martindale said in the August 27 Calgary Metro News, “If people read beyond the headline, there’s nothing to be offended about.”
Burger-Martindale explained that the confusion stemmed from a well-intentioned August 17 post to the library’s Slice of Calgary blog, in which the unidentified poster offered this etymological and civic lesson:
“Although we typically think that ‘idiots’ are individuals who suffer from an excess of stupidity, the original meaning of the term was a bit different. In ancient Greece, an idiot was a person who failed to involve himself in civic affairs. With Calgary’s civic election on the not-too-distant horizon, it’s more important now than ever to avoid being an idiot. And your Calgary Public Library is here to help!”
The unorthodox post concluded on a most traditional note: “In terms of protecting democratic societies, the public library is a crucial institution. We’re affordable and egalitarian. We celebrate diversity in both people and ideas.”
American Libraries, Wed, 09/01/2010 - 12:19