x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Anyone for a scoop of Gooey Decimal?

If one ice cream loving bibliophile gets his way, you could have a hand in coming up with Ben and Jerry's next flavour.

A New Jersey librarian is angling for a new library-themed Ben & Jerry's flavour and is taking suggestions on Facebook.
A New Jersey librarian is angling for a new library-themed Ben & Jerry's flavour and is taking suggestions on Facebook.

When it comes to borrowing books, you can't lick libraries. But you might be able to slurp on a library-themed ice cream if a bookish campaigner from the US is granted his wish. Andy Woodworth, a librarian from Burlington county, New Jersey, aims to raise the profile of American libraries through a Facebook group calling for the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company of South Burlington, Vermont, to create a library-themed ice cream. The group already has more than 5,500 members, and its influence is growing as an increasing number of people sign up to offer their flavour suggestions.

The motivation behind Woodworth's appeal appears to be grounded in sweet logic. "Libraries are awesome," he states on his group page. "Ben & Jerry's ice cream is tasty. Therefore, a library-themed Ben & Jerry's ice cream would be tasty awesome. Let's make it happen!" The combination of libraries - known, perhaps unfairly, for being staid and stuffy places - and ice cream might seem incongruous to most, but that hasn't stopped the ideas for icy creations with a literary slant from flooding in.

Among the better suggestions is Gooey Decimal System (a rather esoteric pun on the Dewey Decimal System of library book classification, which has been in use in various formats since 1876). It would combine dark fudge alphabet letters with caramel swirls in a hazelnut ice cream. Or what about Sh-sh-sh-sherbet flavour, which would be a key lime or chocolate/vanilla combination? And then there's Li-Berry Pie, which aims to mix lime sherbet with raspberry sauce and pie crust crumbles comprised of cinnamon sugar, butter and pie crust.

Whether the plan works or not, there can be little doubt that it's a novel and inventive way of drawing attention to the plight of libraries in the US, as funding crises and a negative dowdy image threaten their prosperity. It may be true that not everybody will be as enamoured with books as Woodworth and his followers, but there aren't many people out there that don't enjoy a nice ice cream. And while such a library-themed confection might not prompt the ice-cream loving hordes to put down their cones and pick up a library book en masse, it might make them think twice when passing their local facility to pop in and have a browse.

Ben & Jerry's is no stranger to dedicating special ice-cream flavours to those deemed worthy of the honour. In 1987, it began producing Cherry Garcia flavour ice cream (with Bing cherries and chocolate chunks) as a tribute to the Grateful Dead frontman and guitarist Jerry Garcia, and there's also the Willie Nelson Country Peach Cobbler ice cream named after the veteran country singer. More recently, worthy causes such as the Elton John Aids Foundation (Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road flavour) and the ONE campaign to make world poverty a thing of the past (ONE Cheesecake Brownie) got the Ben & Jerry's treatment. Surely a campaign to highlight widespread literacy through the promotion of public libraries should qualify, too?

If Ben & Jerry's want reminding about the allure of libraries, it needs look no further than Louise Brown, a 91-year-old bookworm from Stranraer in Scotland. Last week it emerged that she had borrowed more than 25,000 library books since 1946 - all without incurring a single fine. It is believed that she borrowed the maximum allowance of six books a week up until 1989. Then, when the quota was increased to 12 books a week, she added another six books on to her weekly tally. The only problem is, she appears to have read all the books in her local library, and even some of those she has borrowed twice. It's a remarkable feat, although if her appetite for ice cream had been as great as her appetite for library books, we're not sure she'd still be alive at 91, let alone still reading.

As self-confessed fans of books, reading and public libraries (not to mention ice cream), we can provide the "People for a library-themed Ben & Jerry's flavour ice cream" campaign with some flavour suggestions of our own. Since no library would be complete without the works of Stratford-upon-Avon's favourite son, we give you the Strawberry Milkshakespeare (strawberries, thick double cream and "Bard-shards" of frozen chocolate). To honour one of America's greatest satirists and the author of Slaughterhouse Five, we present Yoghurt Vonnegut (blueberry yogurt, vanilla swirls, cookie dough, so it goes...). And strictly one for the road, Jackfruit Kerouac (creamy vanilla, mellow caramel and pieces of jackfruit).

Yet since both Woodworth and Ben & Jerry's hail from a place called Burlington, we thought it fitting to suggest an ice cream that honours the work of a fellow Burlingtonian (New Jersey) and prolific 19th-century novelist: James Fenimore Scooper's Last of The Mohicones. As to what should go in it, we'll leave that up to the experts.