Chocolate Library gets OK; can Candy University be far behind?
Byron Bennett wants to sell candy from a shop in lower Manhattan. He has an idea: lots of different kinds of chocolate from all over the world, including the obscure, the hard-to-find, the hand-made. He decides to call his shop “The Chocolate Library.”
Enter the Department of Education. NO! They decree. “Library” is a protected term, along with words like academy, museum, university: these terms can only designate institutions and entities that promote education and learning. Which seems, in principle, a good idea. Mr. Bennett may be offering many things, but an actual library is not one of them.
Do our laws leave room for metaphors? Mr. Bennett thought so, and so did a reporter for the New York Times. Power of the Press! The Times ran a story in its on-line Diners Journal, The Chocolate Library got another look, and the state bureaucrats decided to give him a pass, so long as he promised to confine his activities to retailing confections. The relevant NY Business Corporation law says that if you are not an educational institution, you cannot use terms like “library” or “school” or “college” if they would “mislead or confuse” the public into thinking you are offering educational services. Everybody put their heads together and concluded that “The Chocolate Library” was obviously a place to BUY chocolate, not a place to borrow chocolate for two weeks and then return it or risk overdue fines.
Since Mr. Bennett had never intended to operate or maintain a library in the traditional sense of the word, much less a school or museum, promising never to do so was an easy concession. But I can think of several chocovores who would contest the notion that eating one’s way through the chocolate catalog is not inherently educational.
The whole episode got the Candy Professor team thinking. Once we get the Candy University off the ground, we’re going to need a Chocolate Library. Also a Caramel Library, a Licorice Library, and a Gum Drop Library. And many, many librarians.
Here’s the whole story (and hats off to Bao Ong for his journalist activism on behalf of the candy-eating public):
Bao Ong, No Chocolate in the Library, New York Times Diners Journal, 10 Dec 2010
Bao Ong, O.K., You’re a Library, State Tells Chocolate Shop, New York Times Diners Journal, 1 Feb 2010
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