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.



There are those who get really into Halloween and those of us who, well, not so much. I've never been someone who gets all excited about the costume thing. Come Halloween, I'm wearing my Target T Shirt that says "Spooky."

But, being the dork that I am, I love the history and background of the holiday. And being the ex-lawyer I also find some of the disputes interesting.

So here are some interesting Halloween links that have nothing to do with costumes.

The History of Halloween from The History Channel, including origins;

An urban legends round-up from Snopes.com, letting you know what is true and what is not;

The Fantasy And Folklore of "All Hallows", thanks to The Library of Congress;

Information on Samhain and more information on Samhain;

The Myth of Samhain;

"All Saint's Day" from the Catholic Encyclopedia;

and finally, Banning Halloween from belief.net.


Popular Culture in Libraries Discussion Group

Thanks to Melissa for finding the Popular Culture in Libraries Discussion Group.

From the website: The ACRL Popular Culture in Libraries Discussion Group is devoted to the general discussion of popular culture materials and all types of libraries. Although the discussion group is housed in ACRL, discussion and membership is open to all types of libraries.

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).


How many complaints...

How many complaints does it take to get a school to change an assignment?

At one school, it appears that the magic answer is two.

Think about it: a small, small fraction of parents voice a complaint about an assignment, and that is what controls.

Eighth grade honors students were asked to look at a list of banned books with their parents, and with adult input, pick one title to read. (From reading the article, Views of the Few Send a School Into Retreat, my educated guess is that this ALA list was the source list used.)

This assignment had been done the year before without problems; was repeated this year, with school approval; and despite some parents liking the assignment, it was cancelled due to the complaints of "less than five" (and perhaps, only two.)

What else could the school have done? It didn't dictate that any one book be read. It put the control in the parents hands, so that a book appropriate for the child could be selected. Parents were involved.

The paper says that the objecting (and triumphant) parents said, "there were titles on there I did not need my daughter exposed to" and "I am going to assert myself as I see fit to protect my child from premature exposure to inappropriate material."

But the parents were in a position to guide what their child was exposed to: no particular title was required, and what was selected was up to the parent and child.

So what was really being objected to? The titles. The titles alone, without the context of the book itself, was the problem. Apparently, even reading the title "Daddy's Roommate" was too much exposure.

And the entire assignment was cancelled.

Leslie Burger's blog has a letter from a parent who liked the assignment. Unfortunately, this parent, and others like her (or him), don't matter.


Food, Glorious Food

"There was a recipe on this show I was watching...."

And now it's your job to try to track down the recipe. If you're lucky, the customer has the exact name of the cooking show, the network it's on, the name of the program, the name of the recipe, and the date she saw the cooking show. And this customer is now your favorite customer in the world because it's so easy to make her happy.

But probably your customer is typical of most of us, and has a general recollection of those details.

Places to go to figure out the show: TV and Radio Cooking Shows and TV Cooking Shows. And don't forget TV Guide's Listing Grid when the customer remembers the day and time the show was on, but not the name.

Most TV shows have websites that include recipes; and most TV chefs also have websites with recipes and links to their shows. So once you know that, it's simple to go to the website and find the recipe.

Some places to track down the recipe:

The Food Network. Go to the "TV" tab on the menu at the top of the screen to get to the TV portion of the website. At this point, it's pretty simple to find the various shows and schedules.

Another network that keeps all the recipes together is HGTV, Home & Garden TV.

If the recipe was something Martha Stewart did, start with Martha's website.

National morning TV shows have their recipes on their websites: Good Morning America; The Today Show; and the Early Show.

If the customer is uncertain about the name of the recipe, now isn't the time to have an unpassable boundary between the two of you. If your library isn't set up so that she's also looking at the computer screen, either turn the screen so she can see it or invite her back behind the reference desk so you can scroll through the recipes together.

OK, now I'm hungry. Where is that pumpkin soup recipe?


Teen Read Week, Part 2

In honor of Teen Read Week, here's the question that sounds easy. But isn't.

What do you mean by "teen"? What do you mean by "young adult"?

Every profession has its jargon. And to make it that much trickier, every library has its own spin.

According to YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association), a part of the American Library Association, "young adults" are aged 12 to 18. Yet even YALSA uses the less cumbersome "teen." Which some people are surprised to know includes twelve-year-olds, because -- well, because they think "teens" are people whose age ends in "teen". But for YALSA, teens start at 12. And ends before you hit 19.

To those of us in library-land, it makes sense: if we are a YA Librarian or a Teen Services Librarian, our customers are in Junior High, Middle School, High School -- basically, 7th to 12th grades. But instead of using grades, we use the ages, 12 to 18.

As I said, every library has its own spin. Its YA section may begin at 6th grade, because the local Middle School includes 6th grade. Or its Teen Section may be for those in High School. And while the collection may be for one age group, programming may be something different entirely.

So what does YA/Teen mean in your library? What ages and grades are you buying materials for? Where do you go to do your outreach? Who is coming to your programs?

And, now that you've grown that loyal teen following, what happens once the teens are over 18? How are you and your library adjusting, if at all, for these older teens -- the ones who are "young adults" because they are in their late teens and early twenties?


Speaking of TV...

The Parents Television Council has come up with its Headlines and Highlights: Top Ten Best and Worst Shows for family viewing on prime time broadcast television.

As I'm sure you all know by now, I like TV. And as for who is watching what on TV -- that's up to you and your TV. And if you're a kid, you, your TV, and your parent.

But one thing I've learned in talking with people about books, TV shows, and movies -- it's very, very subjective, how people look at story. What bothers one person very much doesn't register for another.

I can't help thinking, as I read this list, seriously -- who is going to be watching CSI with their five year old? Did someone really need this list to let them know this isn't for little kids?

And as for the "best" list: I watch 7th Heaven. And given the recent storylines, including Mary's abandonment of her family, Ruthie's oversexed look and obsession with boys, and the latest who's the daddy pregnancy story -- I'm very surprised that it made the list. Similar topics have been handled much better and more responsibly on Degrassi.

Maybe we're watching different shows?

And that's the thing. As parents, as consumers -- be aware of what is out there. Make up your own minds about what is right for you and your family for viewing. You have your opinion, I have mine. That's cool. Just be careful about someone else doing the thinking for you.

Teen Read Week

It's Teen Read Week! This year's theme is "Get Real @ Your Library".

This is an ALA/YALSA initiative to promote teen literacy. Check out the FAQs.

Are you saying, if only I'd known, but it's too late for my library.... It's never too late!

Your teens may:

Vote for their favorite book for a YALSA's Teens' Top Ten list;

Take a SmartGirl Survey;

Put together a book display using these booklists related to the "Get Real" theme.

Browse the program ideas and create a program that can be put together ASAP, such as "vote for your favorite book"; put out some old magazines and other materials and create a teen drop in craft to "share what's real in my life" with a cool collage.

Resolve to incorporate the spirit of TRW into your year-long library planning. If you are fortunate enough to have (or be) a full time Young Adult Librarian, you're already doing it! If not, include YA books in your book displays; have a Teen Movie Night; add one new Teen Magazines to your collection.

I feel that with so many talented and dedicated librarians out there, librarians should never have to reinvent the wheel. In addition to talking to your teens about what they would like to see at the library, find out from other librarians what they are doing successfully... and do it, "tinkering" to make it just right for your teens and your library.

Share your TRW programming ideas!


I Watch TV, And I'm Proud

Walt at Random has a few things to say about TV and people who pull the moral high card of "I don't watch TV."

What prompted him to write his defense of TV watching is this: "I’ve been struck over the past few days by several people (librarians, librarian bloggers) pointing out that They Don’t Watch TV, Don’t Want to Watch TV, Don’t Even Own a TV." And while I missed these posts and comments, wherever they are in the blogosphere, I've had my share of comments made to me along those lines. And I'm not talking the ones about taste -- the people who just don't watch TV because. I'm talking about the ones with the tone -- you know it, and it looks like Walt knows it.

As Walt says, watch or don't watch. It's your call. But, "your choice to opt out of an entire slice of contemporary culture doesn’t give you moral superiority. "

As someone says in the comments, "I don’t think a public librarian can afford to be format prejudiced if he or she is going to be working at a busy reference desk."

You can read the full entry, TV or not TV, here.


Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a claymation film.

Nick Parks' Wallace & Gromit return in a feature length film. Wallace is an inventor who loves cheese; Gromit is his much smarter dog. I was first introduced to W&G by a friend, whose young son adored them. Having dinner at their house always included their son toasting "to paying guests."

Thanks to Wallace's wacky inventions (think Mr. Potts in Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang), he & Gromit are running an "Anti Pesto" Security Service. If rabbit pests are getting into your garden, Anti Pesto will get rid of them in a humane fashion. But one of Wallace's inventions goes a bit wacky, and a giant were-rabbit is created. Will Gromit save the day?

The good about this movie? Everyone will enjoy it, regardless of age. How many G movies are true family films -- meaning not that they are suitable for a 2 year old, but rather the entire family will enjoy watching it? (No, Shrek was PG.)

I went with my sister, and her 2 year old and 5 year old. My sister had no familiarity with W&G at all, but she loved it. It's full of jokes and puns that are for grown ups; a couple of times she gave me a "did they just say what I think they said" look. At the same time, both kids enjoyed it. The humor, action and adventure appealed to all of us. I'm amazed at the number of expressions Gromit had and kept on reminding myself -- only clay. After the movie the kids loudly repeated their favorite part: the were-rabbit howling at the moon.

W&G have previously appeared in three short films: A Grand Day Out (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993), and A Close Shave (1995). The last two won Academy Awards; all are available on DVD. Parks also did the claymation Chicken Run, which you can also get on DVD for your library.

There are many, many, many book tie-ins for Wallace & Gromit which you can purchase for your library, including a graphic novel of the movie that uses movie stills.

Since W&G:TCOTW-R continues to be number 1 at the box office, your patrons are going to be familiar with this film. Once the W&G related items are off the shelf, other related display ideas include: gardening; rabbits; vegetables; claymation; and inventions.

One of the reasons I like Parks: Peter Sallis continues to be the voice of Wallace. Another reason: upon being told that his warehouse had been destroyed by fire, Parks' responded "in light of other tragedies, today['s news of the fire] isn't a big deal". The only items saved are those that were part of an exhibit so were not at the warehouse at the time of the fire.


Superheroes for New Readers

So, you're thinking to yourself, "I'd like to get into reading comics, but I just don't know where to start." And that's an understandable reaction. After all, in terms of when they were created, Superman and Batman are senior citizens and Spider-man should be going through his mid-life crisis. These characters have been around for a long time, and how could a new reader ever hope to untangle all those years of history?

Believe me, the comic companies don't want you to flounder and then give up. Both DC Comics and Marvel have developed ways to introduce new readers to their most popular, most established characters.

At DC, the reinterpretation of Batman has helped kick off a series of books. When Frank Miller wrote Batman Year One in the 1980s, it was designed to reimagine the origin of Batman, to retell how Bruce Wayne became Batman. To say it was a huge success, both critically and commercially, is to put it mildly. Frank Miller's work on this book and on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns really changed the way Batman has been written in the subsequent years. When you read Batman Year One, you'll probably go, "Hey! This is just like Batman Begins!" And Batman Begins is definitely inspired by Frank Miller's work more than the original work of Bob Kane.

So, Batman Year One was very successful. So, DC has reused the idea several times, for good effect in my opinion. Focusing fairly tightly on the Batfamily, we've seen Batgirl Year One (my personal favorite, because, come on, Batgirl!); Robin Year One (love this one because the narrator is Alfred, who just doesn't get enough attention); and the newest treatment, Nightwing Year One, featuring an all-grown-up Dick Grayson, aka the first Robin. There's also a JLA Year One, for those of you curious about DC's superhero team-up.

Marvel has taken a different approach to their characters' history. The Ultimate Universe is where the origins of several different superheroes are retold, made all modern for today. So, for example, in Ultimate Spider-man, Peter gets a job at the Daily Bugle as a website designer, rather than as a photographer in the original stories. Ultimate Spider-Man kicked off the Ultimate Universe, and it's been a huge success; Spider-man One and Two definitely have more in common with Ultimate Spider-man in terms of the relationship between Peter and MJ.

Marvel has broadened the Ultimate Universe beyond just Spidey, though. There's Ultimate X-Men, which is seriously essential for anyone who wants to get into the X-Men comics, because they have, in my opinion, the most confusing history of any superhero comic. This is understandable when you consider how many different X-Men series there are and have been; I recommend that you should start with Ultimate X-Men before going any further in the X-Men universe.

Also in the Ultimate Universe is Ultimate Fantastic Four, showing us all about the beginnings of Marvel's first superheroes. For the sci-fi junkies out there, Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game, is writing Ultimate Iron Man, a character that blends derring-do with sci-fi gadgets.

In short, there's ways to start reading comics without feeling overwhelmed. If you're still confused or unsure, talk to the people at your local comics store. The guys at my store are great at helping newbies learn more about comics; in fact, they're so great that when I moved away, I set up mail order so I could still call them and ask questions. You can find a store near you by calling 1-888-COMIC-BOOK.



Serenity: The Review

By Liz & Melissa

"Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she outa fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home."

Obviously, we're pop culture junkies. But Liz and Melissa are also hardcore Joss Whedon fans, so September 30 was a red-letter day for us: the opening of Joss's new baby, Serenity.

Serenity is based on the 2002 series Firefly, which was cancelled after only 11 eps. We could grumble about how FOX aired the pilot last, aired episodes out of their intended order, and pre-empted the show willy-nilly, but we won't. Instead, we'll assure all of you: you don't have to see the show first to get this movie. The first fifteen minutes of the movie gives you the backstory on the world of Serenity and introduces you to the main characters. All the reports I've seen have indicated that people who are new to this 'verse have been able to follow things. Still unsure? Check out the first nine minutes of the movie, and judge for yourself.

Liz: I suppose gushing "I loved it" for an hour isn't a review? Serenity: Great, great picture. It contains all that which makes Joss great: it's witty, it's heartbreaking, it's funny, it's well plotted. And since what makes Joss great is he knows how to tell a story -- this is a great story. It's what a movie should be.

Here's a thought.... maybe, if they made more movies like this -- people would go to the theatre more often. When we went to the opening night, we ran into some people who had already seen this three times.

Melissa: I've seen Serenity twice already, and I'm planning to go back again for at least a third time. The second time, I picked up on so many little things that I hadn't caught before, and I know that no matter how many times I see it, that'll be the case.

The writing is definitely the thing that makes Serenity take shape--but it's the actors that help make the movie fly: to soar like a leaf on the wind. Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau are certainly front-and-center in this movie, and both are superb at presenting their characters, making the captain funny yet angry, making the psychotic psychic confused yet insightful.

And for fans of the show, there's little moments for each of the other characters. Adam Baldwin nearly steals the show: at all the screenings I've seen, Jayne's lines typically get the biggest laughs, even near the end of the movie during tense action sequences. Maybe that's what makes Serenity just so special: it can laugh even when it looks like everyone is going to die. How many other writers, how many other casts, how many other movies can mix things up so much, make it work, and make it real?

Liz: I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.

Melissa: I aim to misbehave.

Liz: Hell with this. I'm going to live.

Melissa: I swallowed a bug.

Liz: At last. We can retire and give up this life of crime.

Melissa: Or, we could talk some more.

(The quote game continued, but we'll spare you that. Join in with your favorite quote in the comments! Those of you with poor quote memory can refer to the Serenity Official Visual Companion, with complete original screenplay, or the book adaptation by Keith R.A. DeCandido.)
Melissa: Fans have gotta talk the movie up. Early estimates put Serenity at 10.1 million for the weekend, which is within range of expectations, but still should be better.

Liz: 10.1 & number 2, right? ahead of both Jessica Alba and Viggo Mortensen. It could be better...but I think Serenity will have legs so still do well next weekend. (Check here to see if Liz is being overly hopeful.)

Melissa: It's looking like 10.1 and number 2, yes, and number 2 in per-screen average. So not bad, and as you said, we beat Alba and Viggo, and Johnny Depp, for that matter. Go, big damn movie!

"They can't stop the signal, Mal."



I love my LibraryElf.

My Elf sends me emails about
  1. what hold's are waiting to be picked up,
  2. what's overdue,
  3. what will become due in the next 3 days,
  4. what isn't due (but what day they are due),
  5. and my holds that aren't in yet (including my place in the holds list.)

My Elf account can include multiple users, so that one email tells me about all the cards in my household, as long as I know the account number and PIN.

I love it. It's easy, convenient, a nice reminder of what is and isn't due. And, by not deleting old emails, I can use it to track all the books and DVDs I've checked out of the library.

Some libraries are including information about the LibraryElf on their website.

To be fair, some people have expressed concern about security and privacy.