When librarian Rachel Garman put the word out about her project Sexy Lady Bookworms, the response from people who wanted to be involved was overwhelming. The idea was to take sexy photos of women who love to read, and create packs of playing cards and calendars to sell, with the proceeds going to a local literacy organization. The only problem was, the word sexy seemed to turn off local literacy folks, even though all of the women are fully clothed. For more info on where to buy the SLB merch and help the Phoenix-based Kids Need to Read, visit sexyladybookworms.com.
Are you from Tucson?
I've been in Tucson for 12 years, but grew up in the South, in Arkansas. I transferred here to finish college, and it just felt like home.
Which library branch do you work at?
The Wilmot branch, in the children's department.
Do they know about the project?
They do know. I was at a meeting with the library director to meet staff, and when I introduced myself, someone mentioned my project. It totally caught me by surprise. But it was all positive.
So how did the project idea start?
It started with my friend and I teasing each other. ... He sent me a picture of a librarian stereotype. I told him, "But we don't look like that stereotype," and he said, "You know, what you should do is get librarians together and take pictures after hours and use the proceeds for charity."
And that's kind of what you did?
Although we didn't use just librarians. I wanted to open it to every woman who likes to read. We put the call out on Facebook on a mad whim. I wasn't sure it would work. I was overwhelmed. We had dozens and dozens of people volunteer their time. Wonderful people who did hair and makeup, photographers who came through, and models. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity in Tucson. It was all amazing to me.
What was your vision?
We started with idea of a deck of playing cards and have each card be in homage to the 1950s pinups, but of women reading in bookstores. The first shoot came together, and more and more people started showing up. We realized we had more photos than we needed, and we decided to put together a calendar.
Why the pinup and card idea?
We wanted to get across that reading is sexy and cool and fun and attractive, and we thought that playing cards would be a nice way to do it, and a chance to use as many models as possible.
Where can I pick up the cards and calendars?
We're selling them online on our website and local stores, like Antigone, Mostly Books, Toxic Ranch Records and other local places. The entire list is on our website, too.
How did you pick the charity?
I wanted the proceeds to go to a local literacy charity. A lot of them turned us down because they didn't want to be associated with sexy. It got disheartening, because we're not that sexy. The models are fully clothed. Then I found Kids Need to Read. They saw what we were doing, and ultimately they said "You know what? We think this is cool, and we think kids should see that it's not just grandmothers and nerds who read." They are based in Phoenix, but are a national organization that gets books into underfunded libraries and schools.
It's too bad a local group didn't want to be involved.
I felt the same way. But still, it's an Arizona-based charity that is focused on literacy for kids.
How many photo shoots did you do?
We put together several photo shoots at different locations, 12 photo shoots total. Initially we were working around everyone's schedules. These are all volunteers. We spread it out over three months. We started in May, and I had the project done by September.
Is there another project in the works?
Sexy Gentleman Bookworms.
Good. I have some guys at my office I will recruit for you.
There's interest. We had guys volunteering at the photo shoots for Sexy Lady Bookworms.
Maybe by then, local literacy groups won't be too scared.
We heard back from Friends of the Pima County Public Library, but it was too late. We had already announced the charity for this project. But I think that's who we will do this for next.