BEAVER, Oklahoma. The “panhandle” region of Oklahoma has been occupied by humans for millennia, but it has been losing population in recent years, a fact that puts a strain on public services. “When people call to say they got a house on fire, I have to tell them to wait until the next budget cycle,” says Cimarron County Fire Chief Mel Orthwein, shaking his head sadly. “Also that they should show up to vote in case it’s a close call.”
But when officials called for a 10% across-the-board cut to regional services, the overwhelmingly female employees of the twelve largest libraries in the area’s three counties adopted a fund-raising technique that has been successful in other, more populous areas of the country; a calendar that mocks the pin-up versions often seen in gas stations and other predominantly male workplaces by depicting women of a certain age and physique in alluring poses and varying states of undress.
“We wanted to do something, not just hang our heads and say is ‘Woe is me,’ or rather ‘Woe is–are?–us’,” says Emily Nostrand, who runs the library in Balko. “We decided it should be both educational as well as embarrassing.”
And so “The Girls of the Dewey Decimal System” was born, after a relatively uneventful gestation period. “For some reason, there was no shortage of volunteers to display their, uh, wares in an effort to get people to read more,” says Nostrand.
The chosen theme was drawn from the Dewey Decimal System, a library classification method devised in 1876 by Melville Louis Kossuth “Melvil” Dewey, an educator who also established the standard dimensions for catalog cards. “Dewey assigned a number to just about every possible topic with a prurient interest,” says Gosling Rutherford, who is writing a biography of the man credited with opening library “stacks,” once accessible only to librarians, to the common man. “You’ve got 306.7 for Sexual Relations, 616.8583 for Sexual Practices Viewed as Mental Disorders,” Rutherford notes. “He really covered the waterfront.”
The initiative has been a moderate success and has put reading on the radar screens of many males whose interests had previously been limited to football, fishing, spring football, rodeos and more football. “It really opened my eyes to a whole different world,” says Del Furnell, a 33-year-old bachelor who lives in Texhoma. “I’m gonna drop by the library today and check out Jane Austen’s latest.”