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.



Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving can be found in pop culture -- usually it's a good reason for a family to get together in a movie or TV show. It's a lot harder to find historical references. As a lover of the History Channel and other quasi documentary / educational channels, I always hope for a TV show about the various historical aspects of Thanksgiving, Plymouth, pilgrims and puritans.

Some movies:

Dear America: A Journey to the New World, based on the book of the same name;

Plymouth Adventure, with Spencer Tracy, Lloyd Bridges and Gene Tierney;

Mayflower: The Pilgrim's Adventure, with Anthony Hopkins.

Some books:

Constance by Patricia Clapp, a fictionalized account of the founding of Plymouth from Constance Hopkins' POV;

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret Bruchac with the Plimoth Plantation (this is a gorgeous book)

A round up of links:

The History of Thanksgiving by The History Channel; (BTW, this is the only program I see THC running -- I don't see anything about the Pilgrims, Plymouth or the Mayflower.)

Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum with great information; is affiliated with the Smithsonian; and has an excellent book store;

Oyate: has resources about Thanksgiving myths and "books to avoid";

From the Boston Children's Museum, information on the Wampanoag Indians;

Snopes gets to the truth about the myths and legends of Thanksgiving

and a round-up of urban legends and myths of Thanksgiving.

Anyone else have a favorite they want to recommend?


Listen to Gwyneth

The December InStyle arrived today, and since it's the holidays it has the ever interesting "Ultimate Gift Guide".

The good news? The kids/babies "perfect gifts" include books.

The bad news? All 3 are "celebrity" authors.

Marsupial Sue Presents the Runaway Pancake by John Lithgow;
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee; and
New York State Of Mind by Billy Joel.

If, like me, you are disappointed about the children's books being all celebrity, never fear. In the same issue, Gwyneth Paltrow talks about being a mom and mentions the following books that are popular with her 19 month old daughter: Goodnight Moon; Maisy's Bedtime; "More More More" Said the Baby; and Hippos Go Berserk!

If you're looking for a book a toddler would like -- I'd go with Gwyneth's choices.


What Is Your Library Doing About Hurricane Katrina? Part 2

Earlier I posted about Ocean County Library (NJ) and Hancock County Library (Miss) and their Partners in Caring response to Hurricane Katrina.

Update on Hancock County Library: MSNBC is doing a series, Rising From Ruin, about 2 towns in Mississippi hit hard by the Hurricane. The area is the area serviced by Hancock County Library, and one of the bloggers keeping people up to date about the current situation is an HCL librarian.


Bookstore Or Library?

Rochelle over at LISnews pointed out this letter to an editor in a newspaper, "For-profit bookstores should be our libraries." The letter writer argues "In this age of information, giant bookstores with coffee shops and reading areas, why do we need public libraries that suck up taxes instead of paying them?"

Other highlights: "They have lots of books, they could put in a bank of computers for public use, expand their reading areas and they certainly already are able to access any reading material the public libraries can;" "All we have to do is examine what it is that makes our public libraries valuable. Put that in a contracted mandate to a profit-driven firm that is already more proficient at economically providing books, magazines and other information services -- Yes, they could provide a book- lending service. They would be no less convenient, plenty of parking spaces, serve better coffee and since profit is their goal would undoubtedly achieve and surpass the performance of our current library system."

Rochelle replies by pointing out the services libraries offer beyond books, librarians have advanced degrees, and that those unable to pay would be most hard hit. Other comments at LISnews include that price-wise, what someone pays in taxes for their library is probably less than the cost of a book. (I imagine if that contract truly included all that public libraries do, the bookstores would either declare bankruptcy or change much more for their services than what people pay in taxes already.)

David Rothman over at Teleread: Bring the E-Books Home sees the issue as one of using technology to give customers and taxpayers even more bang for their buck so they keep the funding coming.

Have I made the confession before that between college and going back to get my MLIS, I never used a public library? And chances are I wouldn't currently be a user if I weren't a public librarian?

So based on living years without seeing a need for public libraries, here's my take on the bookstores v. public libraries debate. Part of what is happening is that people don't know what libraries truly offer. Just look at the letter-writer: he only mentions borrowing books, coffee, and parking. Throw in a few computers and a bookstore becomes a library. And -- like Rochelle -- we could go on and on about what else libraries offer. Out of print books, databases, search experts, etc.

But if a tree falls in a forest, and there's no one there, does anyone hear it? And for most library services we offer --- there's no-one around to hear. We tell each other, we tell ourselves, we tell the people who are coming in the door anyway. Whose fault is it that the letter writer doesn't know what libraries offer?

I say its not his fault. It's our fault.

Recently, I've heard people say that within 20 years there will be no more public libraries. My yes is qualified; because I don't believe that public libraries are "dinosaurs" that will die off if they don't change dramatically in mission and services. Rather, I think public libraries will die off if they continue to be "the best kept secret." And I'm not talking about doing a poor job of advertising a storytime or a film festival. I'm talking about the failure of the public library to communicate its core values and mission to the majority of the public.

The other part of the problem? The failure to convince those with enough money to always use the bookstore that the government needs to maintain libraries for the benefit of those who cannot afford a computer, database access, or books.

Our professional organizations should be getting that message out to the public -- what are libraries have and offer. Why it's important. Tell the public why public libraries matter -- what public libraries offer -- instead of assuming that the public should know, that the public should value the institution just because we do. A real advertising campaign is needed, on a national level, at the same professional level of advertising as for-profit companies.


My Big Project

So, I've been kind of busy working on this big project. Meet my daughter, Nell Slade. This photo is a couple of weeks old now, but you get the idea.
Posted by Picasa


What Is Your Library Doing About Hurricane Katrina?

The current poll over at LISnews is "How has your library/school responded to the Katrina/Rita disaster?"

Here's how my library, Ocean County Library, NJ, has responded. And I'm really excited about what OCL is doing -- especially the partnership aspect and the fact that it is ongoing, not a one time thing. Which is why I'm putting up so much information.

In an initiative called "Partners in Caring," OCL has partnered with Hancock County Library, Mississippi. It is an ongoing project will lend support to Hancock County Library and staff while building lasting relationships between both communities. Part of the objective of the initiative is that OCL is not going to do just one thing: raise a collection, collect books, etc. Instead, working with HCL, things will happen throughout the year. Also, staff at both libraries are going to try to get to know each other better, to make this personal. It's not about institutions; it's about people.

The current part of the project is A Fine Way to Help. For the month of November, customers pay half the fine; OCL waives the other half; and all monies collected, minus collection fees, will be sent to HCL. In October, OCL staff contributed money to a fund that was used to buy debit cards for each HCL staff member.

Why Hancock Library? Both OCL and HCL are shore communities. OCL's Assistant Director, Mary Ellen Pellington, was Mississippi State Librarian for several years so had direct contacts and personal knowledge of the affected areas and of Hancock County.

Future Partners In Caring projects: T-Shirt sales using this logo:

and a Cookie Sale for Valentine's Day. Plus, "we're getting to know their staff" says Bonnie Mullane, an administrative secretary for OCL. Explains Elaine McConnell, Library Director: "This personal touch, you just really can see you're making a difference. The personal connection will keep us involved and keep us interested."

Local news coverage in the Times-Beacon and the Asbury Park Press.


Teens' Top Ten

As Pop mentioned in October, during Teen Read Week teens had a chance to vote for their "top ten" books, sponsored by YALSA.

The results are in:

Girls In Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

The Truth about Forever
by Sarah Dessen

Looking For Alaska by John Green

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

The Gangsta Rap by Benjamin Zephaniah

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

The Garden by Elise Aidinoff

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater by Marc Acito

So now that we know that, other than seeing what ones we've read (2 out of 10!) and what ones our library owns (9 out of 10), what can we do with this information?

Programming ideas: take this list to your TAB or Book Discussion Group and find out if they agree! Discuss with your teens whether they want to use the original YALSA list for voting for local TTT or if they want to just vote.

Do you have adult book discussion groups? You can promote this to adults -- "what are teens reading today?". What a great device to start dialogue between the generations.



For those readers in the US, a reminder to vote tomorrow!

A brief history of voting in the US, including who was allowed to vote. From the Library of Congress.

Urban Legends about the "ballot box" from snopes.com.

Why are elections held on the first Tuesday of November? Slate has an answer. As does infoplease.

More information on elections from Wikipedia.

Here's my question of the day, for all you history majors: What is the earliest known instance of people voting for their government officials?

Library ideas: displays of books and movies about voting. Two recent favorites about women's suffrage are With Courage and Cloth by Ann Bausum and Iron Jawed Angels starring Hilary Swank. Also, holding "mock elections." At my branch, we're going to be voting on favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite sport. Since we're a small branch, elections run all month. I'll let you know the winners!



I've just discovered Sudoku, a Japanese logic game. As with all good logic games, the rules for Sudoku deceptively simple. There is a grid of nine boxes by nine boxes, made up of nine three by three "subgrids." So picture one 3 by 3 grid; now picture nine of them, in a square box. The rules: enter digits from 1 to 9 into the blank spaces. Every row must contain one of each digit. So must every column, as must every 3x3 square. No repeats.

You can play online; print games off the Internet; or buy Sudoku books so that you're not computer bound. And daily Sudoku puzzles appear in some newspapers (not mine.)

More on this puzzle fad. I'm not surprised to see all the buzz about this (just check out the stories at google news). Just remember, as you're playing on line, and happy that on the Internet the software checks out what you're doing, is keeping your time, and just makes playing more fun -- those are some of the same reasons that teens enjoy playing online games.


The Supremes

One of the best things about going to law school: I was then a federal judicial law clerk for the late Hon. Joseph L. McGlynn, Jr., of the the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It was fascinating, educational, and fun.

So with all the Supreme Court buzz going on, here are some resources:

Best book about the Supreme Court is The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong.

Best look at the stories behind the cases is In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action by Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy.

Favorite movie set in the Supreme Court is Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh in First Monday in October.

Oyez, with Supreme Court multimedia, has a good bit of information about the Supreme Court, including podcasts. I also like findlaw's Supreme Court center.

One strong recommendation if you're looking into judges and cases: read the opinion. Do not rely on anyone summarizing that opinion. Most newspapers do not do a good job of relating what a case actually holds. For example, a denial of cert is not a judgment. MSN Encarta's article is fairly straightforward in how the court works.

I was surprised at how many Supreme Court trivia spots were about. Court TV looks up to date. Also The Washington Post, from a year ago.

It's been almost five years since I've done anything law related, so if you have any books, movies, or sites you like, please let me know!