Scribbling Good: Make the World a Better Place
June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Lately I’ve come across a number of letter writing-related opportunities to do good in the world. As a result, I’ve added a new page to the blog so I can compile projects into a quick reference for anyone looking to do a daily good deed while also writing notes, sending packages, and generally spreading sunshine.
Without further ado, I am pleased to announce:
Take a look, let me know about other great projects I should add, and make today’s daily good deed a postally inspired one!
USPS: Protecting Your Privacy for Over Two Centuries
May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
You might not know this, but we’re in the middle of Choose Privacy Week, which is an initiative of the American Library Association.
The right to privacy is a big deal in the field of librarianship. Working in a public library, I spend a lot of time thinking about privacy issues––protecting users’ privacy, advocating for continued strong privacy practices, providing materials that will help users make informed choices about their privacy, etc. I also spend a lot of time considering both logical and unexpected ways in which things can be grouped together. This goes with the territory of librarianship, but it’s also something my brain does naturally. I thrive on finding points of connection. Thanks to these factors, my mind managed to work its way around to pondering the intersection of privacy and letter writing.
Based on my gut instinct, I quickly came to this conclusion: when the news is full of stories about how online privacy can only ever be semi-achieved and even that requires constant individual vigilance, it seems that the tried and true pen to paper, tucked inside an envelope, sealed, stamped, and sent is a hands-down winner for sharing your thoughts discretely.
Then, lo and behold, on the first day of Choose Privacy Week, I found myself at the National Postal Museum (check that off my list of Things to Do in 2012!) studying an exhibit panel entitled Freedom of Speech in the Mail.
It turns out that privacy was one of founding principles of the U.S. Postal System.
For anyone with a smidgen of knowledge about the American Colonial times, it will come as no surprise when I say that the original 13 colonies were under British rule. What you may not know, though, is that the colonial British Post Office was not run with an eye to the privacy of letter-writers. In fact, it was quite common for agents of the Crown to scrutinize the mail looking for hints of treason. The wrong words in a letter could result in a death sentence. Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well with the feisty revolutionary minds of the day, many of whom resorted to engaging private carriers in order to ensure that their personal correspondence and the latest newspapers were received. In 1774, William Goddard, a printer who had “formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a paper sympathetic to the revolutionary cause” presented a petition to the Continental Congress (Pope, 2006). He was motivated by a local postmaster who took it upon himself to disrupt Goddard’s mail delivery and prevent him from receiving newspapers containing critical information. Goddard’s proposal made the case for founding a postal system that would be an alternative to the colonial British Post Office and would be based on the “principles of open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the guaranteed free exchange of ideas” (Pope, 2006). Less than a year later, the Constitutional Post was up and running and the foundation of what would become the USPS was in place.
You may be thinking, “But that was centuries ago!”
True. However, the USPS hasn’t backed away from making privacy central to its operations. In the Ponemon Institute’s 2007 Privacy Trust Rankings of U.S. Government Agencies, the USPS, for the third year in a row, ranked #1 out of 74 agencies that collect information about individuals. 83% of respondents perceived the USPS as trustworthy when it came to safeguarding citizen’s privacy and personal information.
And so, in celebration of ALA’s excellent initiative and the USPS’s longstanding record on protecting your right to communicate freely and without interference, here’s my advice to you: Choose Privacy–Write a Letter
Sources for Info about USPS & Privacy Protection
American Society for Public Administration. (2007, March). 2007 Privacy Trust Rankings of U.S. Government Agencies announced. PA Times, 30(3). Retrieved April 29, 2012 from MasterFile Premier.
Hentoff, Nat. (n.d.) Case in point: Freedom of speech in the mail. National Postal Museum exhibit, Washington D.C. Visited May 1, 2012.
Pope, Nancy. (2006). Goddard’s petition to the Continental Congress [National Postal Museum online exhibit]. Retrieved May 3, 2012 from http://arago.si.edu/index.asp?con=2&cmd=1&id=76935&img=1&pg=1
Postcards Seeking Adventure: Adopt One Today!
April 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
Yesterday I received an unexpected piece of mail from PostMuse.
When I opened up the gorgeous envelope two things happened.
First, I was tickled to discover that it was made from an old calendar page (note to self: spend some time making envelopes), which made the back of the envelope make sense.
Second, I was reminded that, in fact, this was an expected piece of mail. I had offered to adopt a couple postcards from PostMuse’s Orphaned Postcard Project and she had sent them my way.
If you haven’t heard of this project, here’s the gist. Several years ago, PostMuse decided that she wanted to do something above and beyond accumulating dust with her enormous postcard collection. So, she created an amazing database to inventory her collection and invited people to adopt postcards that they relate to in some way. I trolled through the list, found two that appealed to me, and sent her an adoption request. Now that they have arrived, it’s my job to write and mail them back to PostMuse. One more way to achieve Action #7 for 2012.
Intrigued? You, too, can adopt postcards and be a part of this neat project! Even if you’re not interested in participating, take a look at the Orphaned Postcard Project blog to see a selection of the postcards that have been sent out, had a postal adventure or two, and returned with stories to tell.
Postal Packin’ Mama
February 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
For all of you who love getting mail and want to keep the USPS going strong, take a look at (and a listen to) what Postal Packin’ Mama has to say about the USPS’s current financial situation and the proposed fix that doesn’t include cutting jobs, facilities or delivery days.
Then get in touch with your congressional representatives and urge them to support H.R. 1351.
The Most Awkward Note
January 28, 2012 § 4 Comments
Never think, because you cannot easily write a letter, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note that can be imagined is better than none…
~Emily Post, 1922
I found this quote on A Month of Letters and it struck a chord. I sometimes delay writing letters because I feel the need to create The Perfect Letter. What is The Perfect Letter? Who knows?! Despite aspiring to it, I can’t even define what it is I have this notion I “ought” to be creating. This is why the the idea of an awkward letter being an appreciated gesture appeals to me. And to take Emily’s thought a step farther, I’d say that the perfection of a letter is likely best determined by the recipient rather than the sender. Therefore, any letter has the potential to be perfect…except for the one that is never sent.
To encourage myself not to put writing on hold until the days I feel capable of perfection (they are so few and far between), I’ve signed up for A Month of Letters, which invites participants to write a letter a day for the month of February. Having done–and loved–a 30 Day Challenge last October (the end result of which was the beginning of this very blog you are reading), I’m looking forward to success and enjoyment with this month-long letter writing challenge. Intrigued? Take a look at the details and join the fun if it appeals to you!