Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Gwyneth Paltrow, Your Library Director

A few months ago, the New York Times had an article, Martha, Oprah ... Gwyneth? on Gwyneth Paltrow's website Goop.

Ah, a chance for me to be snarky, I thought. I mean, Goop? From a person who named their child Apple? A person like Gwyneth telling a person like me how to live my life.... she has a personal trainer, a chef, a rock star husband, etc., etc. Because blogging and librarianship aren't in the same tax bracket as movie star, we don't have much in common.

Sophie rightly said to wait and read before unleashing my talents of critical discourse, er, snark.

So after briefly looking around the website and not getting why Gywneth is doing this, I signed up for the weekly email newsletter (also available at the website).


I still have no idea why Gwyneth is doing this. And it doesn't matter.

Because her newsletter is brilliant. And it's something that every library could, and should, be doing. Who knew? Gwyneth's Library Lessons could get added to her Goop website.

Once a week, the newsletter comes in my inbox. Each week, the topic is different: "See", "Do", "Make", "Be." There is a breezy, short, friendly intro from Gwyneth. Gwyneth doesn't hold herself out as the expert; so the main part of the newsletter is from others. This past week, it was "Party Jams", lists of songs to play at parties from various people in the music industry. Another week, "Five Minute Do-Overs", all DIY, by various make-up people.

Gwyneth isn't pretending to be the expert; she's bringing the experts to her readers.

And isn't that what libraries do? We are not the experts. But we help connect our patrons with information from experts, whether the information is found in our materials, or via the Internet, or from the programs we offer.

Why not use the Goop newsletter model for weekly library newsletters from the Library Director? Just as Gwyneth writes the intro, so, too, could your Library Director. Content can come from various people. Fitness tips from the health teachers and coaches at your local schools. Staff members could contribute favorite recipes from the books on your shelf. Health ideas from the local hospitals. Auto maintenance from local auto shops. Information on colleg applications from the local guidance counselors or college admissions people. With a wide variety of people contributing, no one person or department gets overwhelmed and burnt out with the responsibility. Keep it short and sweet, with a couple of library materials referenced, whether it's books, DVDs, games, or databases. And, like Goop, all also posted on the library website.

Yes, it would be easy to mock Gwyneth and Goop and the newsletter. But it's much more productive to be inspired.

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  • At 9:05 AM, Blogger mstohl said…

    I totally agree. At our three schools, (elementary, middle, high) we hear from the librarians exactly once a year for the summer reading list. The librarians are fabulous, and it's a great list, and everyone reads all summer and talks about what a great list it is, and then reading and the relevancy of the library disappears until the next summer. On the other hand, my local library, which is my home away from home, seems to focus on good coffee and star power speakers. I would love a local library web feed that browsed its own shelves and posted online. Virtual stacks. You guys should do that on this site as a test run! Great article.

  • At 9:07 AM, Blogger mstohl said…

    BTW, that said, can we still mock Goop? It's fun to mock and it's called Goop? :)

  • At 3:30 PM, Blogger Kristi(e) said…

    Do we know why she chose to call it Goop?

  • At 4:45 PM, Blogger abcgirl said…

    I appreciate the idea that Gwyneth is gathering information from various experts and disseminating it to her followers, but it seems to me that your assertion that no one would get overwhelmed or burnt out is a little short-sighted. Who is soliciting all of these experts to write articles?

  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    I subscribe to Gwyneth's newletter too and was shocked when it wasn't ridiculous. It's called "GOOP" because that's what she thinks her initials "GP" sound like when you say them out loud. It's a super-nerdy name for someone normally as poised as she is so, props to her.

  • At 8:55 AM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Some libraries already do weekly newsletters; some don't. What libraries can and cannot do definately depends on the size of the staff and what they are invested in. A weekly newsletter with 52 issues can be divided among several departments in terms of "responsibility" for either contributing to the newsletter or getting content for it; perhaps a smaller library may have it easier because the staff is more familiar with local experts. Ending a newsletter with a request to suggest someone to be a future contributor helps get the community involved but also helps the library with the task of finding new things.

    One of the beauties of the Goop is that it isn't long. It doesn't say too much. Each one isn't all things to all people. And it rotates themes -- so, say for a library newsletter, if once a month the newsletter is about new books from that month, that's 12 taken care of. Once a month can be other media (music or DVDs). Now you've taken care of half the newsletters total. Once a month highlight a program being offered with resources. Now you're down to recruiting from outside the library one person a month; something that isn't as time consuming as getting people once a week.


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