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.


New York Comic Con

Melissa R. and I went to the New York Comic-Con on Saturday.

We were lucky; we had bought our tickets ahead of time over the computer and we got to the convention center well before 11. Once there, we quickly found out that "con" stood for confusion. We went looking for the Express Badge counter, and were told to get on the line.... the very, very long line.... the only line. The line for people who were waiting to buy tickets. No separate line for those who bought ahead of time. But then we stumbled upon a staff member with a scanner who scanned the tickets and gave us our bracelets so we could go in; but, we literally just happened across her and other people likewise gathered around her. So disorganized; Melissa and I kept comparing it to ALA, and ALA is so much better organized.

Then there was the separate line to get into the Exhibit Hall; again, we were lucky because we didn't really have to "wait", the line was moving, and we were in shortly after 11. But it wasn't an easy line to find, and it had artificial twists and turns that made me think I was in some kind of science fiction story.

This was my first Comic Con, and I enjoyed looking at all the exhibits and booths and just people watching in general. We met up with a friend who was smart enough to wear a T Shirt that let the world know she was a librarian. Translation? The exhibitors were very friendly to her, getting chatty about different things. They had a lot of respect for the librarian! So next time, I'll do likewise and advertise that I'm a librarian.

It was very crowded, both too many people and not enough aisle space. We stayed for a few hours and then went to lunch. Some articles about the crowds: Crowded Out At The Con and Crush catches Comic-Con by surprise. It turns out we were very lucky to even get into the Exhibit Hall.

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Blatant Self Promotion

I'm announcing the launch of The Edge of the Forest, a new an online monthly journal about children's literature. It's a place for KidLit and YA bloggers to "present more reviews, less news, and in-depth consideration of children's books to readers." TEOTF was created by Kelly H. over at Big A little a. And the blatant self promotion bit is that I'm also involved, and have a few reviews in the current edition. More info is at my blog, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy.

We now return you to your regular library reading.


Looking for a good graphic novel to read?

For teens (or for those who feel like teens at heart), there's a new resource that's being developed: Great Graphic Novels for Teens. This YALSA committee is working to create a list of teen-friendly, diverse, and engaging graphic novels. The first list will be presented in January 2007, but you can check out the current nominations.

Some of the GNs I've enjoyed from this list include:
Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer
Fruits Basket Vol. 12 by Takaya Natsuki (Okay, I haven't read this volume yet, but this is a super-popular series that is great for teens and adults)
Ex Machina Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

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Aaaaaand The Winner Is...

Greg Schwartz, of Open Stacks fame! Greg was the first person (after me) to sign up for the new Pop Goes The Library feed in Bloglines, and so he is the lucky winner of a free subscription to Entertainment Weekly, aka Sophie's Weekly Bible.

Congratulations, Greg, and thanks for reading!


Attention Library Zinesters!

Via Nexgenlib-l:

Are you a zinester librarian? Do you make a zine about your life as a librarian, about your library or about what you do when you are not busy daydreaming about Dewey?

I am in the process of creating a fully cataloged zine collection at the School of Library and Information Studies Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that is entirely devoted to works by, for and about library workers and libraries. This collection will work to share information by and about librarians and library workers for the students of our library school and with the greater library community.

Please send a brief description of your zine as well as ordering information to: aasellie@wisc.edu.

Also, if you are aware of any titles that you do not create but that I might want to add to this collection, please get in touch as well.

Thanks so much!
Alycia Sellie
SLIS student

Mailing address for the SLIS Library:
SLIS Zine Collection
SLIS Laboratory Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison
4191 Helen C. White Hall
600 N. Park Street
Madison, WI 53706

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Feed = Fixed

I figured it out my ownself this time! Gentle Readers, kindly grab the feed here. Or click the Sub Bloglines button over in the right-hand sidebar. First person to write to me with the news that they've subscribed to the feed wins a free subscription to Entertainment Weekly, home of the ever-excellent PopWatch! My subscription renewal notice came with an offer of a free gift subscription -- consider it our reverse housewarming gift to you.

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Aaaaand We're Back

Well, here we are at the new domain. Isn't it pretty? It's the same template, but it somehow looks all spruced up. We're still settling in -- there's something wrong with the feed (namely, I can't get it to show up in Bloglines -- any help that our gentle readers can offer will be much appreciated) -- but I like to think we're mostly unpacked. Welcome, welcome, and don't forget to re-subscribe in Bloglines or whatever aggregator you like to use.

Many, many thanks to Melissa, who held my hand and helped me figure out which rassin' frassin' file folder the FTP path should be.

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Still Here

You may have noticed that we're not at the new domain. On this subject let me say only that FTP is a little more complicated to this first-time user than she had expected. I'll finish moving us over to the new domain tomorrow.

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Resources for Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga

There's lots of people--librarians included--who don't know much about comics. But even if you consider yourself an expert, here are some resources that can come in handy when people start talking about Civil War (no, nothing to do with the North vs. the South) or whether Batman Begins or Hellboy is the better movie.


There are several professional journals that review graphic novels and manga, like Library Journal and Boolist. I really like Voice of Youth Advocates, because not only do they review several graphic novels in each issue, they also have a GN column, called "Graphically Speaking," written by expert Kat Kan.

Another good resource is the comics magazines themselves. Wizard has tons of graphic novels and comics news. It's truly one of the best places to get news about all facets of comic creation.

For the anime and manga folks, there's Newtype USA, which has all the newest manga and anime news. While pricey, this magazine is worth checking out occasionally--and the teens at your library (and maybe even some adults) would love to see this magazine, too. Wizard also produces an anime magazine, called Anime Insider.


In the "more information than you ever thought was available" category, there's
Comic Book Resources, which presents a seriously dizzying range of news and information. This would be a great site to steer people to, who want more info on comics, graphic novels, and manga.

I'm a huge fan of comic book movies, or movies that have been made from comic book stories. I'm not alone in that, as so many movies within the last few years have been adapted from graphic novels. E.Favata's Comic Book Movies site helps you keep track of what's been released and what's coming, including plenty of interesting rumors.

Finally, there's two sites that are helpful for us librarians who are looking for info on what to buy for our libraries. No Flying, No Tights, run by librarian Robin Brenner, has three separate sub-sites, reviewing graphic novels/comics/manga for teens, for children, and for older teens and adults. There's also the Diamond Bookshelf, from Diamond Comic Distributors. Diamond is the one that supplies comics, graphic novels, and manga to pretty much any retail outlet that wants to sell comics, as well as to wholesalers like Baker & Taylor, BWI, etc. The Diamond Bookshelf features reviews and other information on including graphic novels in your library. They even have an e-newsletter now, called the Diamond Bookmark.

Hopefully, this is enough to get you started, either researching for yourself or for passing along to patrons. Have fun!

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Investing in the Children's Section

There's an interesting article in this month's Bookslut about libraries: Investing in the Children's Section.

The article is packed with food for thought, and Sophie and I e-mailed back and forth about it quite a bit. The good (and there's lots of good to be found here): someone who is not a librarian writing positive things about libraries. Yay! Finally!

Some of my favorite quotes included this one: "But [children's books] are also investments in the future, and vital if we want libraries of the future to be anything more than Internet cafes."

When the author, James Stegall, mentioned the things he loves about his current library, I wanted to both cheer and take notes. About displays: "[displays are] awesome for a parent like me who can't watch an overactive toddler and browse the stacks at the same time. . . . I usually grab books as I go past." He talks highly of the toys available to keep kids occupied, the artwork that is inspiring and entertaining, puppets, comfortable chairs, and discovery boxes that can be checked out.

I wanted to cheer; yes, the customers get it. They value what we are doing. They are sharing it with others. We aren't the "best kept secret."

Then I read the second part of Stegall's article and realized that if librarians are accomplishing stage one -- libraries no longer being the "best kept secret" -- we still have work to do on stage two: funding and money, and having customers realize that how we are funded matters and that we need money to keep being a wonderful resource. Because if a supporter like Stegall doesn't get it, it's not his fault. It's ours, for not speaking up.

What do I mean? Stegall suggests that smaller, less funded libraries can have "reading and craft hours run by volunteers, art by local kids on the walls. These activities are something money can't buy." He also notes that "Libraries are constantly in need of volunteers, and it's at the smallest and poorest that an individual can have the most impact." And suggests that "Small libraries could also use all the beautiful children's books your kids are tired of now."

Prior to some of these suggestions, Stegall asked "What can make a great children's section in your library aside from a big budget?" and those answers show that he's thinking of answers other than budget.

Libraries don't need "big budgets". But they need a budget big enough so that the library is staffed by librarians have MLIS degrees. They need a budget big enough to pay these degreed professionals salaries sufficient to support their families and pay their bills. The library, your library, needs a budget big enough so that people willl want to be public librarians, and can afford to be public librarians, and your public library has the trained staff it deserves.

Libraries need a budget big enough so that they have the staff to interview, train, evaluate, and monitor volunteers -- because it takes more than good intentions to do storytimes and crafts. Especially with a roomful of rowdy seven year olds.

Libraries need a budget big enough so that the staff who do storytimes can go to workshops about early literacy and special education students and toddlers with ASD.

Libraries need a budget big enough to buy the supplies for the crafts.

Libraries need a budget big enough to catalog and process material donations that are in good shape.

Libraries need a budget big enough to buy new materials that they -- as trained librarians -- know are needed to make the collection wonderful and useful and timely and accurate.

Volunteers are appreciated; they aren't the answer. Libraries need big enough budgets to get the job done.

And how do we get those budgets? Customer support at elections, customer support during bond issues, customer support at every level. Customers who say, the library has given value to my life and so that's where I want my tax dollars to go. Customers who realize that there is no substitute to a good local library and will help do what is necessary to keep that library going -- with a big enough budget.

And that's our stage two.

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Boys & Books

A keen interest of mine, as I live with a former boy, and many, many books. Many of you have probably read Reading Don't Fix No Chevys, by Michael W. Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm, or are devotees of Jon Scieszka's excellent Guys Read initiative. A recent article in The New Republic (NB: registration required) covers much of the same ground -- boys don't have enough male reading role models, boys' literacy rates fall when they reach middle school, boys are expected to conform to very female modes of reading and literary analysis -- but it also contains this lovely nugget of a strategy presently employed in Maryland's public schools:

Here's part of the [Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy] Grasmick plan: Take existing comic books and graphic novels deemed to cover academic
disciplines and sprinkle them around classrooms. Let the boys believe they're
pulling a fast one on the teachers by grabbing a quick read. Sounds bizarre, but
it's based on good hunches: Boys who become successful readers in high school
often attribute that success to making a transition from comic books to school
books in late elementary school. Why not offer curriculum-as-comic books? It
just might work. It also might not. But at least Maryland is trying, which is
better than most states.

How refreshing and commonsensical is that? Go, Maryland!

Article via the latest YPulse Essentials.

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We're Moving!

Set your calendars and Bloglines subscriptions, gentle readers: On February 13th, Pop Goes The Library is moving to swanky new digs at www.popgoesthelibrary.com. Christine Borne, owner of www.nexgenlibrarian.net, has been a stellar, gracious, and generous hostess, but the time has come for us to fly the nest.

Once again, that's Monday, February 13th at www.popgoesthelibrary.com. We hope to see you there!

If the ALA Youth Literary Awards Were More Like The Oscars

Everyone jokes about how the ALA Youth Literary Awards is the Oscars of children's and young adult literature.

I was wondering: what would the ALA Awards look like if they were more like the Oscars?

* Past winners would announce new winners.

* Jake Gyllenhaal would come to ALA New Orleans.

* Winners would get gift bags worth six figures.

* Publishers and magazines would compete with offering lavish parties.

* The winners would be on the cover of national magazines.

Any other ideas?

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