Vegetarian Action

By Jim Corcoran

The importance of educating the general public about going vegetarian cannot be overstated. My wife and I try to do anything to enlighten more people on a daily basis. About three years ago I read in this magazine about a great way to do it and we've been doing it ever since. We design displays in local institutions where people gather to research, read, and, most importantly, learn.

Most libraries and colleges have display cases that are available in busy corridors and rooms. Over three years, we have filled dozens of cases. Every day our exhibits attract, educate, surprise, entice, and often delight the passersby with books, pamphlets, posters, magazines, videotapes, bumper stickers, poems, food props, fact sheets, and cartoons.

Responses have always been favorable. Here are portions of some of the unsolicited letters we have received from librarians and staff:

"[Y]our display on vegetarianism . . . really sparked an interest in our community. I personally benefited from the material, having a daughter who declared herself a vegetarian at age 4, saying 'I can't eat anything with a face!!'"

" . . . [A] most informative and interesting display on vegetarianism. Circulation staff observed many patrons who spent considerable time "digesting" the presentation. Librarians at the reference desk showed more than a few patrons how to access your website."

"Thank you for conveying the information about vegetarianism to library patrons in a very attractive format. [Y]our exhibit attracted notice because the books I placed for checkout with the display were quickly checked out."

A display can be inexpensive, fast, and highly effective, and anyone can put one together. Materials for the display can be obtained through vegetarian organizations, such as The VRG, and animal rights groups. Most of them have inexpensive or free materials to send to you. It is important not to display anything that may be offensive or controversial. Our website has documents that you are welcome to download and reformat for your own use.

If your community is large enough, there may be several libraries (or branches) and a college or two within a short commute. Start by going to the blue section of your phone book under government listings to locate libraries. Expect to schedule the case 2-3 months in advance, since demand may be high, although we have called and gotten one immediately. With few exceptions, we have found that cases can be rented for an entire calendar month. After calling community libraries, try local colleges and universities. Start with the libraries first, and then ask about any other display cases. Since most public colleges and universities are tax-subsidized, they may already let the general public use their cases. It does not hurt to ask. Don't be afraid to talk to a private school either, as we have been successful with them as well.

When you arrive to set up, it's a good idea to bring some cleaning products to prepare the case for your display. If you'll need tape, a stapler, tacks, or anything else, you should bring it along; however, in a pinch the library may cheerfully provide needed materials or shelving. Since each case is different in size and style, it's challenging to fill and decorate it. It can get very elaborate or be as simple as a tasteful display of a few of your favorite vegetarian books. Don't get overwhelmed your first time out. Build and change as you go. It will give you a fresh look each time you return.

We recommend that you create a small handout with phone numbers and websites for further information. We leave about thirty small handouts with a librarian and place a note in the display case directing the readers where to obtain the information. That way, viewers have something tangible to take with them and a way to learn more. A sample of our handout can be found at our website along with photos of some of our displays. For those of you not on the Net, just go to your local librarian for help getting to our site through their computers.

Doing a display every month is personally very satisfying and all it takes is a couple of hours. Whenever I'm at work or goofing off, it's comforting to know that I'm still making a very important difference in this world!