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Baked goods bribery

Cookies, danishes, sweetbreads, brownies, fudge, coffeecakes, and most other sugary, chocolately, cake-like goods were a constant in my old library’s break room. Most were brought in by staff but oftentimes you would find a half empty cookie tin with a crumb-covered note written by a patron thanking the library staff or a particular employee for treating them well or being helpful.  Little did we know that these weren’t just tasty treats laid out before us but little sugar-laden ethical quandaries; gooey goodies that begged the question, “Which moral path will YOU take?”

And just in case you didn’t realize this either, no worries, the Louisiana state Board of Ethics has asked and answered such questions for you.  Apparently, it has been decided that staff members at St. Tammy’s Parish Libary in New Orleans that accept homemade or inexpensive gifts at the holidays [or at any time] are basically accepting bribes, whether either party knows it or not.  And as heard on the recent NPR story, “Janice Butler, the director of the St. Tammany Parish Library, says she has been told that even accepting a Coca-Cola will lead to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

So these are baked goods or small, inexpensive trinkets, they are not travel packages to Cabo.  Instead of seeing these gifts as ways for patrons to curry favor with library staff [to what? get their names placed higher on holds lists or waive fines or make sure the patron has an ‘in’ at the next Tiny Tots Storytime?  Are these really reasons for prosecution?] why not see them as satisfied patrons thanking library staff for a job well done?  Or for fostering a sense of community [as is part of a library’s mission!] to the point that patrons feel comfortable giving these sort of gifts as they would with a neighbor, friend, or family member?


  1. Katie wrote:

    I can relate; Austin city workers can’t accept gifts of any kind either. Sad but true, and not new…

    Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  2. bettyspiraljetty wrote:

    Personally, I’d adopt the Blagojevichian “pay-to-play” method. Patrons must hand feed me a minimum number of cookies across the reference/circulation desk before any library services can be provided. Even better if they brush away the crumbs from my lips using a delicate handkerchief.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 1:32 am | Permalink
  3. Renee wrote:

    Katie: Not fair. I hope you don’t spend too much time dwelling on the tasty Tex Mex delicacies you may be missing.

    Betty Spiral J: I like the way you think – cookies as currency. Practical AND delicious.

    Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

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