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.


The Changing Faces (and Innards) of Teen Magazines

I love magazines. Actually, "love" might be a weak term for my feelings about magazines. I am a little bit, um, obsessed. I subscribe to more magazines than I can realistically keep up with at home. I love picking up old issues of National Geographic and Rolling Stone at library book sales, and of course, I could not do my job well without reading YM, US Weekly, The New Yorker, The New York Times (especially the obituaries, movie reviews, wedding announcements, science, and magazine sections, in that order), and VIBE any more than I could without reading School Library Journal or VOYA.

So naturally, I'm drawn to articles like this one, about the scrambling that so many teen-oriented magazines are doing right now, trying to reposition themselves after losing much of their audience to...well, that's the problem. They're not quite sure where their audience has gone. They might be reading Lucky and US Weekly, but they might just as easily be cutting back on print magazines altogether. For many teens, it may be cheaper, faster, and easier to get the information they want online (whether that's at home, at the library, or on their cell phones).

From a collection development perspective, it's important to note that two major teen (and for the purposes of MSN.com's article, "teen" = "teen girl", but we won't get into the problematic nature of that definition today) magazines, "Seventeen and YM have gone back to the drawing board. Both have decided to court older teens, 17 and up. [...] Just like the old YM, the new YM will cover celebrities, beauty and fashion. But the bubble-gum pink typeface is being replaced by something more sedate, and giggling stories about boys will be replaced by more soulful articles about relationships."

We're still in the very early stages of a major shift in teen magazine publishing. I predict that in the next 12-18 months, we'll see more of the generally girly teen magazines folding, and the launches of more niche publications for tween and teen audiences of both genders.


CFP: Midwest Popular Culture Association and Midwest American Culture Association Annual Conference 2004

Friday-Sunday, October 8-10, 2004
Radisson Hotel-Gateway
651 Huron Rd.
Cleveland OH 44115
216-377-9000, fax 216-377-9001

Send paper, abstract, or proposal to the appropriate Area Chair. Deadline for receipt is April 30, 2004.

Please include name, affiliation, postal address, telephone number, and e-mail address of each author/participant.

Please plan to attend the entire conference. If you absolutely, positively cannot attend the entire conference and need your presentation scheduled on a specific day, you must let us know when you submit your proposal. Panels will run 3:00-6:15 Friday, 8:30-6:15 Saturday, and 9:00-12:15 Sunday. Special events will include a reception on Friday and a luncheon and speaker on Saturday.

The only audio-visual equipment available from the Association will be a VCR or slide projector, and you must ask for it at the time you submit your proposal.

If you wish your presentation to be listed as Midwest American Culture Association (rather than Midwest Popular Culture Association), please include this request with your proposal.

All participants must be members of the Midwest Popular Culture Association/Midwest American Culture Association. Membership is $30 for students with ID, retirees, and unemployed, and $40 for all others. Membership is for the calendar year through December 2004. To join the MPCA/MACA, you may pay with your conference registration fee, or you may send a separate check at any time to Gary Burns, Communication, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb IL 60115. Make check payable to Northern Illinois University. A membership form may be printed from our website.

All participants must register for the conference. Registration is $45 for students with ID, retirees, and unemployed, and $75 for all others. There will be a $10 late fee for registration on-site or received after September 15, 2004. Some meals are covered in your registration fee (see website for details). To preregister, send a check any time to Gary Burns, Communication, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb IL 60115. Make check payable to Northern Illinois University. A preregistration form may be printed from our website.

The hotel or the Association will send you a room registration form if your proposal is accepted. Please stay at the conference hotel so that we may meet our contractual obligation. The conference hotel is the best deal we could find on a good hotel with a good location.

Unfortunately, MPCA/MACA is not able to provide financial assistance to participants to defray costs of transportation, lodging, meals, registration, or any other expense.

The conference program will be posted on our website as soon as it is finished (probably sometime in July 2004).

[via Nexgen]



Blame Erin Helmrich. Her article in the Spring 2004 (updated link forthcoming!) issue of Young Adult Library Services (YALS), “What Teens Want: What Libraries Can Learn From MTV” got me all fired up to do something about a subject near & dear to my heart: pop culture and how librarians can learn from it to make their public services better. Not more efficient, necessarily, just more current, more interesting, more appealing, more visible.

Pop culture is a huge part of what drives the public, young and old alike, to their libraries. They want to see their tastes & interests reflected in our collections and in the programming we deliver. They want to see that we take their interests seriously, that we have books about late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, that we’ve installed Jay-Z’s Black Album on our listening stations, that we circulate issues of YM, Martha Stewart Living, and Entertainment Weekly. If we don’t cater to those interests, we risk losing our audience, and with them, our relevance to the culture at large.

I’m not advocating that we relinquish our obligation to provide the highest quality services possible; I am advocating that we expand our notion of high quality service to include taking popular culture seriously. It’s incumbent upon us to give the people what they want. And it’s incumbent upon us to honor our heritage as stewards of cultural memory. Guess what? We can do both. I don’t know how, just yet, but I’m working on it.

And that’s what this blog is all about. It’ll be an ongoing exploration of the intersection of popular culture and libraries – a compendium of links to pop cult news, lists of suggested reading/viewing/listening, and discussion about how we can incorporate all this stuff, for lack of a better word, into great library service for people of all ages.

Welcome. I hope you’ll participate in the discussion.