I just ran our Friends of the Library table at our local festival on Saturday and Sunday. The weather started off miserable when we were setting up on Saturday morning (pouring rain!) but by the time the crowds showed at noon, it was perfect all day.
At our table we had lots of library info, lots of info re: how to get involved volunteering with our Friends group, and some candy. We also had a number of Friends LOGO items to sell. So many of the other booths had "free" stuff that people showed up at our table expecting that the LOGO items were free too! The items had prices, there were signs for the prices, but people still tried to take off with them! For the occasional person who asked, "can I have a T-shirt?" we would tell them it was a fundraiser for the library and they'd say okay, and not purchase.
So, I was thinking about what this teaches kids. If every booth at a festival gives you free Made in China junk that will pile up under your bed until your house explodes, should you exercise any self-control at all and say "no thank you?" There was no cost to attend the festival. There was live music at three locations, and three headliner events, including an acrobatic circus. All free. Food was very inexpensive as were children's rides. Children AND adults were acting like it was Halloween! No wonder people expect the government to give them everything - we're teaching them if they just show up and breathe they are rewarded!
I had to laugh rather than cry. Next to our booth was the local delegate to our legislature. He gave us a whole bunch of pens with his name on them for us to use for people signing up to volunteer. By the time we closed on Sunday evening all but 5 had been swiped. During the day he and his folks were standing out in front of his booth offering "free" maps of the state. At one point when it was quiet I said, "you know, those maps aren't free." He looked at me and said, "yes they are." I said, "No, I already paid for them with my taxes. Why don't you say, 'get some of your tax money back' when you offer them?" He laughed, a bit uncertainly I thought.
Now how many of those people are going to go home and throw a lot of the stuff from the festival away in the first month of having it? The landfills will groan even more. One of my volunteers said, "we should have something better to give away than candy!" I told her I don't want to contribute to the greed or the landfills. I don't think she got my point.
On the other hand, we got LOTS of kids to sign up for the summer reading program, and gave lots of newcomers to our town a Welcome brochure designed by yours truly that invites them to get involved with a meaningful venture - increasing literacy! Woot!