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.


More on Millennials -- Gaming & The Workplace

I don't always agree with Lisa Belkin, but I like her conflicted parent take on gaming and her tween/teen kids. From the article:

gamers are 50 percent more likely than nongamers of the same age to describe themselves as "a deep expert in my work," a somewhat arrogant worldview for people in their 20's. The flip side of this arrogance, however, is a willingness to take a chance (60 percent of frequent gamers, compared with 45 percent of nongamers in the same age group, agree that "the best rewards come to those who take risks") and a view of failure as just part of the game.

Fascinating stuff, from both a managerial perspective (these kids are very likely to be ones whose managers will have to read & apply the principles found in How To Manage Smart People, which I found via Jessamyn's librarian.net.) as well as a public service perspective. More info on Beck & Wade's Got Game can be found here, here, and here.

College Financial Aid for Dummies

Many public libraries provide substantial print & electronic collections for both teens & anxious parents about the college applications process, and most also provide copies of the FAFSA for their patrons. How many offer classes (either in conjunction with local school guidance departments or independently) on how to decipher and accurately complete those blasted forms? The Washington Post has a very interesting article detailing the problems facing the well-meaning people who are in charge of these forms: "the problem is not just providing enough financial assistance for college, but making sure the red tape to apply for the money doesn't lead the poorest applicants to quit before they get started." While the good people at The College Board continue to work on this problem, what role can public, school, and college libraries play together to ensure that those who need financial aid most aren't giving up on the process before they even begin? Via The Kept-Up Academic Librarian.


The New Philly Sound

Will be wi-fi, not hi-fi. Well, it will be if Mayor Street approves the business plan for a city-wide wi-fi network that he received this week: "if approved, the the system could be fully operational by mid-2006." Nifty, eh? (In spite of that "could" in there, I'm optimistic.) I'm sure other cities are working on or have already taken this step. If your city/town/hamlet is involved in a wi-fi project for all of its citizens, let me know and I'll be happy to post a compiled list.


More on Millennials, With a Side Dish of IM

I know that by now, many of you out there will have read and thought about Born With The Chip, by Stephen Abram and Judy Luther, but it's worth re-reading and discussing and using in the library setting. When I read the terms Abram & Luther use to describe the Millennials -- Format Agnostic, Nomadic, Multitasking, Experiential, Collaborative, Integrated, Principled, Adaptive, and Direct -- I see a sharp image of my youngest sister. She's 19 years old, a freshman in college, and is the embodiment of most (if not all) of these qualities. And her friends (all gazillion of them -- I've known many of them since they were five and I sometimes find it hard to keep up) are all these ways, too. They are serious, goofy, iPod using, Napster-Kazaa-iTunes hopping, online gaming, do-it-myself searching, standing-up-for-the downtrodden, sharp as a tack instant messaging tech gurus. Only they don't see themselves that way, because technology has always been a part of their lives. And they are changing the way we work.

For more on Instant Messaging, the thoughtful and smart folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project have published a fascinating report called How Americans Use Instant Messaging. The summary links not only to the report, but also to the questionnaire the researchers used. This warms the very cockles of my heart, and would no doubt please my Research Methods professor.


Millennials & Libraries

Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, where I was treated to this impressive & rich presentation on the Millennial Generation by Richard T. Sweeney. The presentation (dig in there -- I plan to feast on the cited articles for weeks & months to come) was followed by a panel discussion with eight Millennials from local colleges. When asked how frequently they used their local public libraries, most reported that they didn't read books for leisure that much (but they do read lots of magazines!) and don't use their libraries that often (there were two notable exceptions -- both young women who said they used their public libraries because they loved to read but couldn't afford to buy books or magazines). When asked what would draw them into their public libraries, they all said the following:
  • Wireless internet access
  • Remote/electronic access to all library materials
  • A more comfortable environment -- couches, coffee, and food all ranked highly
  • "More staff who are helpful and who show you where stuff is" -- a direct quote
  • Better marketing -- tell the public about what you've got going on!
  • More choices in materials
  • A movie screening room (this recommendation from an aspiring filmmaker, who was also the only panellist to indicate an interest in becoming a librarian)

What establishments (public or otherwise) in your community are already providing these resources & subtleties? Visit these places, watch their employees, learn from them, and use their ideas at your library. Better yet, conduct your own focus group with a group of local Millennials from your community. It doesn't have to be formal -- you can strike up a conversation with one or two at your local wifi hotspot, or at a major bookseller, or anywhere you see them having a nice time while they go about their business. These are friendly, nice, articulate people who, according to Sweeney's research (and by their own admission) assume that their opinions are valuable & interesting! Take advantage of this fact & use the information they give you to make your library & its services better.


Now That's What I'm Talking About

More awards nominations -- Golden Globes, this time. And guess what? The Saint Joseph (MO) County Public Library is doing exactly what I would suggest a library do with that information. Rock on, SJCPL!


Listen Up

A host of links I've been sitting on for over a month now, most of them courtesy of the nice folks at NPR. Here we go:

First, a fascinating look at what role libraries play in the lives of people now, and what role(s) they may play in the future, on Soundprint. [Via a savvy NEXGENLIB-L member -- thanks!]

Next, a nice piece on kids' books that can help young readers sort out problems big & small, from friend issues to puberty to death, from All Things Considered.

Finally, there's been considerable flap among children's & YA specialists over Barbara Feinberg's memoir, Welcome To The Lizard Motel. I linked to an editorial of Feinberg's back when I was musing on summer reading programs, All Things Considered gave the book some coverage back in October, and Salon.com published a thoughtful, spirited rejoinder to Feinberg's arguments that YA problem novels are, themselves, part of the problem, available here. (The ad you'll have to sit through is well worth it, I promise, and not just because Whitney Joiner quotes my friend & colleague Carlisle Webber.)


Librarians in Pop Culture (Or: a bit of navel-gazing)

It's an embarrasment of riches today. Or maybe I'm just feeling verbose. You decide! So first, we have The Librarian In Black's very thorough yet funny review of The Librarian, which aired on TNT last Sunday and is therefore guaranteed to rerun pretty much ad nauseam through New Year's (starting with tomorrow night at 10:15, apparently). If you missed it, you can easily catch it again, and again, and again. I love how the words "nerdish" and "bookworm" go together so naturally in the first sentence of the movie's description. I mean, I am a nerd. And a bookworm. And proud of both of those things. I just don't like those words being applied in a derogatory manner, is all. Le sigh. Thank goodness, then, for Entertainment Weekly's reassuring sidebar on groovy librarians in pop culture.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Awards Season

At this time of year, a girl's fancy turns to those all-important end of year lists. Top 10 movies (I think I'll be hard-pressed to list a Top 5, myself), Top 10 albums, Top 10 TV shows, Top 10 books, Top 10 Doggie Treats. The nice thing for libraries, particularly libraries with smaller budgets or a minor end-of-year windfall, about this time of year is the ease with which these year-end lists can help form the basis of selection lists to bulk up your popular materials collections.

Case in point: the Grammy Awards nominations, which came out this morning. These are not necessarily the greatest albums & songs to be released in a given year, but they are cultural snippets that gained serious traction in the culture at large, and these nominations are a good barometer. Many library listserv moderators are inviting their members to submit their Best Of 2004 lists. On YALSA-BK, for example, many members have posted their Best YA Titles of 2004 lists, among them the reliable & right-on Richie Partington. Look for other listservs to do the same.

Sometimes Best Of lists get me down, because I read them and realize I've only read two or three books on them, or heard just over half of the albums on them. If you fall prey to your inner critic when you see such lists, don't! Best Of lists, especially when they're created by a critic or colleague whose opinion you trust, can be very useful -- in addition to materials selection lists, you can use them to:

  • Generate (or update) your own personalized Gotta Read That! reading list;
  • Form the basis of that parent-child reading group you've been meaning to launch;
  • Create a starting point for your library's new music listening & discussing salon;
  • Arrange Best of 2004 materials displays (if you're one of those lucky people whose library already owns all of the Best books, DVDs, and CDs)
  • And many more. I'm taking suggestions, and will be delighted to credit you in my next post.

I'll post Golden Globes, Independent Spirit, Academy Awards, ALA Notable, NYT Notable and other year-end Best Of lists here, as well.