Western MA Libraries Organize Community Alternatives to Holiday Consumerism and Consumption

Holidays are a Time to Give and Regift

Western MA libraries offer youth patrons a chance to focus on giving and not just receiving during the holiday season.

During the holiday season many Western MA libraries organize community alternatives to holiday consumerism and consumption while enabling their youth patrons to think about giving rather than just receiving for the holidays.

For over 20 years the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield has hosted an annual Children’s Holiday Bazaar for their youth patrons. For several months leading up to the bazaar the library asks town residents to donate small items to be regifted during the bazaar (donations of gift bags, wrap, tags and tape are welcomed too). On the day of the bazaar the children’s room is transformed into a pop-up shop where kids ages 5-11 years old may shop for their family. All gifts are 50-cents,  gift wrapping included. During the bazaar parents are not allowed into the room and younger children are escorted by their very own personal shoppers – 6th graders and National Honor Society volunteers.  This year the Children’s Holiday Bazaar happens on Saturday, December 8th from 10am-12noon.

Newer to this regifting tradition is the Meekins Market at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, now in its fifth year!  All patrons are welcome to both shop at and donate to the Meekins Market, which begins in late November and runs through December.  The market is a special in-house tag sale where families will find lots of small (and not so small) inexpensive recycled gifts to give friends and family. It’s a great place for children to find presents to give their parents, grandparents and teachers. Library patrons can stop in and shop (or donate items for regifting) any time during library hours. For more information call: 413-538-6489 or 413-268-7472.

Does your library have a holiday tradition, new or old, you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear!  All of these great traditions and ideas are an inspiration for communities both in and outside our region!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sarah Parrott]

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood
New Documentary Film Premiering in Northampton (2009)

The consumer embryo begins to develop during the first year of existence.  Children begin their consumer journey in infancy.  And they certainly deserve consideration as consumers at that time.

– James U. McNeal | Pioneering Youth Marketer

This unsettling quote by a “Pioneering Youth Marketer” opens the critically-acclaimed new documentary film, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood. Produced locally by the Northampton-based Media Education Foundation (MEF), Consuming Kids zeroes in on the increasingly brazen practices of the multibillion-dollar youth marketing industry in the wake of deregulation, exposing how marketers have used the latest advances in psychology, anthropology, and neuroscience to target American children and transform them into one of the most influential and profitable consumer demographics in the world.

I was glued to my seat as I watched a review copy of this film, feeling the heat of anger rising up into my cheeks as I learned how marketers are scheming to influence my kid (our kids) to consume their products… for life! My family doesn’t watch commercial television in our home, so it shocked me to see the different television ads aimed at marketing to children, trying to sell them everything from junk food to the family car. But as the film reveals, advertising to our kids isn’t found just on the TV, it’s also found on the school bus, the classroom, cell phones, the internet, movies, and even churches. It’s insidious!

Offering a time-line tracing the evolution and impact of this unprecedented phenomenon, Consuming Kids illustrates how the childhood of American kids has become commercialized and explores how the effect of hyperconsumerism impacts the actual lived experiences of our children.

I think the thing that upsets me the most is that it’s not just products that are being marketed to children, but values. And the primary value that’s being sold to kids over and over and over again is the value that things or stuff or brands will make us happy.

– Susan Linn | Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood


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Video Review: The Story of Stuff

The Story Of Stuff: Online Film Details Costs
and Consequences of Consumer Culture

As the holiday shopping season passes us by, a lot of families were discussing their concerns about giving their kids more “stuff,” especially “toxic stuff.” The Story of Stuff, a new short film released online, takes viewers on a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture, exposing the real costs of this use-it and lose-it approach to stuff.

Last year Americans spent $456.2 billion during the holiday season, and this year sales are predicted to rise 4 percent to $474.5 billion**. “The Story of Stuff” reveals that holiday consumption is not a seasonal phenomenon, rather an American maxim that has devastating consequences for our environment, third-world nations, working class Americans, personal health and even the general state of happiness in America.

Here is a sneak peak at the first chapter of this short film. The entire film can be viewed for free at www.storyofstuff.com. Parents should view it first and decide how to share this video with their kids. Click here for a fact sheet (pdf).

Throughout the 20-minute film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. Her illustration of a culture driven by stuff allows her to isolate the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The “Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism — and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.

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