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.


DOPA Round-Up

Courtesy of Librarian.net. We're working on a modest satire of DOPA & National Library Week 2007, but the bloggers Jessamyn has rounded up say it darn well: this is a scary, overly broad law written by people who don't really understand The Internets, or technology in general, at all. They didn't get the memo about the Cluetrain, and they don't really care. The implications of this thing are staggering, and terrifying. Call, e-mail, and fax your senators. Don't let this bill pass both Houses, because you know the current President will not veto it.


They Might Be Geniuses: Amplified Library

My music geekery knows no bounds. Or so I thought. There's a newish library + music = true love always blog in town, The Amplified Library, that is so, so worth reading it is not even funny. If you have any interest in popular music of the last, oh, century, this is a blog for you.

Jaina and Erika are the smart, smartypants proprietors of The Amplified Library (whose name is not, it seems, a reference to a Guided By Voices lyric) Recent incisive, useful, yet chuckle-inducing features have included Readers' Advisory For Rockstars, which suggests some self-help books and biographies of dead rock stars for Keith "I Defy Death" Richards, We Read Vibe So You Don't Have To (they also read Mojo and Spin-- any others on deck, ladies? Blender? Rolling Stone? Uncut? The NME?), and in-depth reporting & analyses of tools like Pandora & LaunchCast. The writing is sharp but intimate. Amplified Library is like that cool girl on the schoolbus who you admired but were just a little bit afraid of, because maybe she wore really heavy eyeliner, but then one day you found yourself chatting with her in study hall and she turned out to be really nice & approachable and into all sorts of things you were into, and you became friends. Unmissable, in other words.

Also, they love Pop Goes the Library. Even if they didn't, though, I would still love them from afar. If I weren't so distractible and into all things Pop, I'd be writing a music & libraries blog. Now I don't have to! Thanks, Jaina & Erika!

Our British Doppelganger!

So, I subscribe to a feed of all mentions of the phrase "Pop Goes The Library", as tracked by Bloglines. It's a fun way to see who's talking about us, and when. Today, I found something quite unexpected: Retro To Go, "a guide to all things hip & retro", reports that no less an institution than The British Library in London is hosting a listening exhibit of the most popular music of the last half-century. The title of that exhibition? Pop Goes The Library. We are touched. We are honored. We wish we could go have a listen to the 10,000 songs on display. We are not sending a cease-and-desist letter.


RIP: Teen People Magazine, 1998-2006

According to a memo from honchos forwarded to the YALSA-BK listserv, venerable teen periodical Teen People is ceasing publication.

From the memo:

We will continue to invest in the brand through TeenPeople.com, which shows promise and growth. Teen People's groundbreaking launch in 1998 as a magazine and website was an industry first, and one that we remain proud of.

It's not really that surprising that TeenPeople.com is more successful than the magazine's print incarnation, for two reasons.

First, there are so many teen magazines glutting the market right now that it was inevitable some would start dropping like flies. I predict teen celebrity magazines like J-14 and Right On! will remain popular, and that even a more niche titles like Teen Vogue and Sweet 16 will survive. Meanwhile, adult titles with high teen appeal, like InTouch and USWeekly (to say nothing of gossip sites like Defamer, Perez Hilton, Pink Is The New Blog, and Go Fug Yourself) will continue to drain readers from more traditional titles like Seventeen. I suspect that's the primary cause of Teen People's downfall.

Second, TeenPeople.com is an online community, which as we all know, teens flock to. MySpace, LiveJournal, Xanga, Last.fm, Facebook, you name it, they're there. (Side note: Is anyone tracking teen membership & involvement at Flickr? I bet they're loving Flickr.)

So, Teen People, the magazine, is dead. Long live TeenPeople.com!

Summer Reading Lists

The Wall Street Journal has stepped into the "bash current books for kids/ young adults" arena with its editorial, Literary Losers : Summer reading lists are filled with uninspired choices. (Why do they think that they have to compete with Slate?) How's this for a nice slam at librarians:

But there are consequences. "Child readers haven't cemented their tastes," says Ellen Fader, president of the Association for Library Services to Children, which does not recommend many classics on its Web site. "Adults serve as intermediar[ies] in introducing books to young people." Which may explain why we're raising a generation of cereal-box readers.

Author gets extra bonus points for using Fader's own words against her.

Shannon Hale takes the WSJ to task in a wonderful post that addresses reading for fun, different reading interests for different kids, and the odd notion that the only good book is an old book in her blog post, The Older The Better. Don't forget to read the comments, where one poster points out that any book boiled down to one sentence will appear to be bad/ depressing/ boring/ fluff.

Shanon and many of the commentators don't bash the older books; in point of fact, not only do some of them talk about particular older books that they loved, Shannon also says that she agrees that classics have a place on summer reading lists.

Summer reading lists are a tricky thing. I read constantly as a child, and while I participated each summer in the local library summer reading program, I read because I loved reading. It wasn't to get the trinket or invite to the end of summer pizza party. I read anything and everything, classics included, finding them thru gifts, books at home, books at the library. If a character in a book read something, I wanted to read it.

I think summer reading is important to show kids that reading isn't just for school. It can be fun; and I don't mean fun books, because a classic or a tearjerker can be fun reading. I mean, that it's something you do because you want to. It's not something that one "has" to do but rather something that one "wants" to do. And it's my belief that the more a kid reads for fun, the more they want to read; the more they want to read, the more books they will read; and so for the non-reader, a classic isn't a good place to start; especially if it's a classic that was not written for kids. (And, for the record, not very classic lover will love all classics. I adore Austen and Bronte, yet cannot finish a Dickens novel to save my life. Give the wrong classic to a kid, and they may be turned off all classics.)

With that in mind, I don't like summer reading lists that are "musts", because what one kid will read and love, another kid will read and hate. Nothing kills the joy of reading quicker than having to read a book you don't like. Summer is about building the joy of reading. The best mandatory summer reading lists I've seen are the ones that have pages and pages of options for kids. Some examples: here (pdf file) and here (pdf file).

At my library, we don't have any "must" books for summer reading; I cannot speak for those libraries who do require a certain book to be read for the program, except to say that I disagree with that philosophy.

At the library, we create summer reading lists with suggested titles related to the summer reading theme; and we also do other book lists during the year. When the list is in paper book mark form (as opposed to online), I'm limited to the number of titles (16 max) that can appear. As a general rule, I don't include classics. Not that I have anything against classics; I also don't include popular titles. The reason is the same for both: I don't think Harry Potter needs me to promote it to get kids reading it; and I don't think Little Women needs me to promote it to get kids reading it. I see a list as being about getting kids (and their parents) aware of titles that they otherwise wouldn't know about. As I read the editorial, I look at it from the other side: the belief that an omission means that I don't like the book or that I don't think the book is worth reading. Which, personally? I think is overreading suggested lists.

In a nutshell, what I consider when creating a list:
  • Find books for the theme of the list.
  • Does the book "need" promoting for it to find readers? If it's a classic or very popular, I'll leave it off (as I discuss above).
  • Have I covered all interests? Even with a theme, is there a mix of contemporary, science fiction, historical, sports? Because I tend to prefer certain books, have I inadvertently created a list that reflects only my likes? Do I need to expand beyond the books I know? What about nonfiction?
  • Is the list diverse? Have I unintentionally created a list where only certain people show up in the books? Will the kids looking at this list fail to find something that reflects their world?
  • Are all reading levels covered? Usually, the list is geared towards age of the child; so do I have books that cover the wide range of reading levels that may occur in one age group?
  • How many copies are available at the library? Will there be enough to meet the need created by the list and to do displays around the list? If the library doesn't have enough copies, can we get more copies? Is it still in print?

What about the classics?

The library owns them. There are lists out there that are specifically about classics, or what books every high school student should read, etc. In doing one on one readers advisory, as I learn a child's unique tastes, I will recommend certain classics. They aren't being ignored.

For those of you who put together lists, whether for the library or your blog, what do you consider when putting together lists? For those of you who use these lists, what do you assume a list means? Have I left anything off the above considerations that I should be thinking about?

Thanks to Jen Robinson for highlighting this post and editorial.

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.


Neighborhoodies: Clothing 2.0

Sophie is a ROCKSTAR!
Originally uploaded by mstephens7.
Ever since the photo of me wearing this sweatshirt ran in Library Journal, I've been getting questions, via e-mail and in person, about where I got it. This morning, when Michael asked me where I got it, I had a little lightbulb moment: blog the sweatshirt!

I don't know why I didn't blog this sooner: it's so easy to blog it & then send the links to folks who send me queries. Better still, it's a perfect example of what we pop culture librarians & library 2.0 aficionados are so het up about -- a deeply satisfying customizable experience.

I bought the sweatshirt as a 30th birthday present for myself last summer from Neighborhoodies.com, which bills itself, rightly, as "The most brilliant yet simple fashion idea of this decade".

For those who want to slavishly gank it, my model is a slate gray skii with light blue stitched lettering in lowercase goth. That's fine, but know that, like a great 2.0 experience online or in the library, all neighborhoodies are infinitely customizable. The company adds new fonts all the time, now offers pressed (fancy-speak for iron-on) letters as well as stitched ones, many colors, a bunch of different shirts, sweatshirts, onesies, underwear, and so on. Anything you can imagine on a t-shirt or sweatshirt is something you can get on a t-shirt or sweatshirt.

Michael & I were riffing about all the different shirts we could use, give as gifts, or make for ourselves:

"I survived Sophie's Pop Culture Workshop"
2.0 Librarian
Reference = Hot (on the front) IM Reference = Smokin' Hot (on the back)
Do You Flickr? (on the front) NJLA does! (on the back)
Got Podcasts?
Anytown Public Library Teen Advisory Board

You name it, you can have it (for a price, of course). Neighborhoodies will even let you submit your own graphics. Can you imagine your library's logo on t-shirts? Could be something fab for Staff Day, fundraisers, or prizes to raffle off at your programs! These things aren't bargain-priced, but it might be a nice morale booster (to say nothing of a wonderful marketing tool -- my Neighborhoodie is such an amazing conversation-starter!), and one your Friends of the Library group could help pay for.

How much customization of the Library Experience does your library offer? This is what people want, it's happening now, and it's not going away. Are you ready?


One To Watch: Lily Allen

My husband, who is an even bigger music freak than I am, has asked me to alert all of you with ears, and more particularly those of you responsible for music purchases for your library, to the glorious pop genius of Miss Lily Allen, a 21 year-old Londoner whose debut album, Alright Still, is chock full of smart, tuneful deliciousness. Every one of these songs is worthy of chart topping Number One-ness (and several have reached Number 1 in the UK already). You don't have to take my word for it -- listen for yourself at Lily's website, or at her MySpace. Your patrons will thank you. Tell 'em you heard it here first.

Addendum: She's already got an entry at supersite AllMusic.com, which includes a list of soundalikes influences -- essential for Recommended If You Like displays.


Cherry Hill Public Library's iTunes

While at the Cherry Hill (NJ) Public Library for Michael's workshop today, I was walking around and noticed these computer workstations loaded with iTunes. The sign next to them explains it all. They've ripped their entire music collection into iTunes and made it available for patrons to listen to (on headphones, natch) before they check out materials. Awesome! Talk about meeting a need. Nicely done, Cherry Hill!

Make My Day

My hero!
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio.
Well, that's just what Michael Stephens did this morning. I am an unabashed fangirl, and it was so touching that he, a person I consider to be fantasically significant in libraryland, was excited to meet me. Squeeeee!

Drop It Like It's Hot: Michael Stephens at Cherry Hill Public Library

My insane notes pages
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio.
Well, I've seen it with my own two eyes: Michael Stephens is a kick-ass presenter. The man knows his stuff, knows how to put it into plain English, and then manages to add in an inspiring zinger or two every 3 minutes that leaves you hungry for more. My hand is slightly cramped from all the notes I took, riffing on his ideas, brainstorming how to put his ideas into practice, sharpening my own thoughts on all things 2.0 and community related.

We haven't directly addressed Library 2.0 or Web 2.0 here at Pop, which is sort of silly, since I teach classes on Web 2.0, and Pop Culture Librarianship is a major part of Library 2.0. Let this be the kickoff, then, of our official jump on the bandwagon. It's never too late, right? Right!

Want more photos? The relevant Flickr photoset is here. More details on the day forthcoming, possibly with a back & forth between me & Liz, who went to see Michael and Jenny Levine's Web 2.0 Roadshow at the Princeton Public Library on Tuesday!


Learning from Radio

Now that I am schlepping Nell to daycare, myself to work, and then both of us home on a regular basis, I have a longer commute -- maybe 30 minutes each way (I know, cry you a river, right?) -- and I listen to the radio the whole time I'm in the car. Often, the radio is tuned to NPR, because in the last few years I have become a ravenous news junkie, but an average of 3 out of my 10 weekly trips, I'll tune in to one of the many stations the Philadelphia area has to offer and see what's playing.

Lately, actually, I've been homing in on two stations, desperately hoping to hear one of my favorite songs of Summer 2006: "Crazy", by Gnarls Barkley, "SexyBack", by Justin Timberlake, "Ain't No Other Man", by Christina Aguilera, and "Promiscuous", by Nelly Furtado (featuring Timbaland). These stations are 97.5 WPST and Wired 96.5. WPST's interstitial ads are always talking about the PST Loyal Listener Club and their Totally Interactive Night Show, and now that I've seen just how interactive their night show is -- listeners can IM, e-mail, or call the DJ, the show includes call-in games, and there's even an in-studio webcam for the truly stalkerish among their listeners -- I'm thinking that there are some useful takeaways here for libraries. Probably not the webcam, though.

  1. Members Only: Libraries already have an analog to radio's Loyal Listener Clubs -- these are our patrons, users, customers, borrowers, whatever you want to call them. [Actually, I quite like borrowers. I'm using that from now on.] Why don't we offer small prize drawings year-round for our members? These don't have to be big things. Fine amnesty, movie tickets for two, free water ice, modest gift certificates to local emporia, books, whatever! Be creative -- think about what mini-prizes get people in your community excited & talking amongst themselves. Make a banner advertising the promotion, encourage all borrowers to update their phone numbers upon checkout, and schedule a weekly drawing. Do this for 6 months. See what happens. I think your borrowers will really, really dig it.
  2. Interactivity: Libraries are, as the kids say, totally interactive once you get inside the building, but what about those would-be borrowers who can't get to the library during its regular business hours? Or those who would rather just interact electronically? Think of PST's Totally Interactive Night Show as a musical analog to your reference, reader's, and youth services. Do you offer IM reference for any age group? Do your library's web pages offer, right up front, a set of ways to get in touch with your staff and get what they need? Shinn the DJ does. Do you regularly post photos of your programs & events? PST does. Think about setting up a free Flickr account -- it's so easy to use -- and then don't rest on your laurels. Promote the heck out of it, in person-to-person interactions, and on your website.
  3. Don't Guess! Ask And Listen: Another local station, 88.5 WXPN, is a listener-supported station (meaning they hold quarterly begathons to raise money for their freedom from commercials). It was my favorite station in college and for several years afterwards. After a few years of wandering in the wilderness of frankly boring, homogenized, droney music (which no doubt they thought was what their listeners wanted to hear), they have come roaring back to much of their former greatness with a truly various playlist. I think XPN's return to excellence has everything to do with their decision to ask their listeners what they really want to hear, and then listening to that feedback, and airing it. The station honchos mine monthly online survey results (this month's is closed, but check the Sounding Board again next month), lively discussion boards, comments to a frequently updated blog, and feedback from a rebranded All About The Music Festival for information about their listeners' and members' habits, tastes, and interests. Guess what? Those tastes are far more varied and deep than those well-meaning but wrongheaded honchos previously thought! Long Tail, anyone? (btw, Chris Anderson's session at ALA was excellent and inspiring -- I have notes, and will post them here. Eventually.) Let's not wait for people to tell us what we could be doing to meet their needs and interests more accurately & more swiftly: let's ask good questions, and really listen to those responses.
  4. Go Where They Are: This is totally stolen from Stephen Abram's presentation on Millennials at ALA (again, yes, I have notes, yes, I'll post them. Eventually. Baby, remember? I like spending time with Her Cuteness & her {equally cute} daddy more than I like typing up notes from my generally illegible scrawl.) All three radio stations in my modest survey are constantly out & about in the communities they serve, making their friendly, musical presence known at events as varied as a bead show, an artist's talk, and fundraising 5K (XPN), clubs and car dealerships (Wired), and a variety of happy hours and retro dance parties (WPST). What community events does your library attend & set up a booth at?


Blatant Self Promotion

I have an article in the Summer 2006 Edition of Library Journal's NetConnect: An Elf In the Library?

It's about Library Elf, on online way to keep track of library materials.


Civil War: Whose side are you on?

I'm way behind on my comics reading (I still haven't cracked DC's Infinite Crisis miniseries) but I have been following another "groundbreaking", "nothing will ever be the same!" event: Marvel's Civil War.

The basic set-up for Civil War is that two groups of super-powered individuals got into your typical battle in Stamford, CT. However, this fight became anything but typical when a school was blown up, killing more than 600 civilians, many of them children. Overnight, attitudes towards superheroes change. Anyone who wears a mask isn't trusted; how can you take responsibility for your actions, good or bad, if you don't reveal who you are? Congress takes action, and passes a Superhero Registration Act. All superheroes must reveal their true identities, register with the government, and go through ethics training. If a superhero refuses, they are considered a criminal--and anyone who helps a superhero conceal their identity is an acessory.

By the end of issue 2, we've seen the superheroes of the Marvel Universe split into two camps: those for registration, led by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and those opposed to registration, with Captain America leading the way. Probably the most talked-about development so far is Spider-Man's unmasking. While most fans are fairly skeptical about whether this plot twist will have any impact for the future of Spider-Man, the bigger issue still remains.

When a conflict exists betweens personal liberties and national security, where do you draw the line?

Civil War is a great example of how comics can comment more on current issues and events than the most high-minded and respected publications. I'm very eager to see how the writers of Civil War reach a conclusion--if any--to the debate that's confronted the United States.

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ALA 2006: YALSA Leadership Development

I'm not a YALSA Committee Chair or Member of the Board of Directors, but I attended this session anyway, because I might like to be a Chair or Board Member in the future, and I wanted to know what that commitment would entail.

Outgoing and Incoming Chairs of quite a few committees spoke:
  • Shannan Sword of the Organization & Bylaws committee explained that her committee's charge is to help committees work better by revising and updating their respective charges;
  • The Program Clearinghouse Chair (Erin Downey Howerton, I think) said that program proposals for Annual Conferences can now be submitted electronically, and noted that they're looking for proposals on working with & serving tweens for 2008;
  • Outgoing President Pam Spencer Holley informed us all that with regard to Youth Participation, there will now be more emphasis on bringing teens from the local area to Annual Conference, and that a Teen Summit is in the works;
  • Julie Bartel, the outgoing and incoming chair of Publications (on which I serve) encouraged everyone to publish through YALSA (doing so provides much-needed income for the division);
  • Amy Alessio outlined the division's business plan: we're doing well, but we're still not self-sustaining. The recent passage of our dues increase has provided funds needed to launch a YA Lit Conference and Teen Tech Week, but we still need to develop more continuing education courses, a publishing portfolio, and need to find more sponsors for Teen Read Week and Teen Tech Week;
  • Board Liaisons: these are each committee's link between the committee and the board, and help the committees take action based on their ideas. It is now possible to submit motions for the Board to consider online! Check out the Handbook section of the YALSA site;
  • Executive Director Beth Yoke spoke about working with the YALSA office staff, all of whom are friendly, super-competent, and very helpful. Please call (or e-mail to speak with Beth, Nichole Gilbert, or Esther Murphy. Beth reported that Joan Klaffee is the new director of ALA's Development Office. Joan is seeking many new grants for divisions;
  • Jen Hubert spoke on behalf of the Nominating Committee -- they are seeking the following for the 2007 ballot:
    • 4 nominees (2 to be elected) for the YALSA Board;
    • 6 nominees (3 to be elected) for the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee;
    • 8 nominees (4 to be elected) for the Michael L. Printz Award Committee.
  • Submit names to Jen ASAP so that the commitee can vet potential candidates.
  • ALA Nominating Committee Chair Allen Nichols could not attend due to weather-related travel problems, but if you are interested in serving on ALA Council, please contact him with your name. It's vital for our division to be represented on Council!

ALA 2006: Movers & Shakers Lunch

I arrived so late that I had to be seated at the waaaaay back of the room, but happily, the restaurant was adjacent to my hotel. The food was delicious, the company (in the form of Kaite Mediatore Stover of the Kansas City PL) charming, and the event fun. One of the best parts about being a Mover & Shaker is that alumnae/i are always invited to the annual luncheon, providing an excellent venue for networking. I got to meet heroes like John Blyberg, famous folks who previously were just names or e-mail correspondents, like Francine Fialkoff, Rebecca Miller, and Ann Kim, and reconnect with Kimberly Bolan, who gave two very fine presentations at this year's NJLA Conference.

I'm looking forward to the 2007 luncheon!


Primetime Emmy Award Nominations

The Primetime Emmy Award Nominations were announced today.

In Honor of The Show Left Off the List (heck, even Supernatural got a nod!) (It did so! Scroll thru the entire list, not just the actors; actually two nods, thank you very much), Veronica Mars, let's start our own Nomination list. And because this is Nominations, you may nominate more than one.


Best TV Show

Best Actor

Best Actress

Nominate away.

I'll start:

Best TV Show: Veronica Mars. Battlestar Galactica. Big Love. Rome. Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Best Actor: Enrico Colantino (Keith Mars, Veronica Mars); Ciaran Hinds (Julius Caesar, Rome); Jeremy Irons (Robert Dudley, Elizabeth I); Jason Dohring (Logan Echolls, Veronica Mars); Harry Hamlin (Aaron Echolls, Veronica Mars)

Best Actress: Chloe Sevigny (Nicollete Grant, Big Love); Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars); Tricia Helfer (Number 6, Battlestar Galactica); Lauren Collins (Paige Michalchuk, Degrassi); Polly Walker (Atia of the Julii, Rome)


YALSA Requesting Input for DOPA Hearings

Beth Yoke of YALSA is requesting input about the positive impact of MySpace and other social networking software on teens. It's for the upcoming hearings on the proposed DOPA legislation (aka the MySpace law.) Full information is at YALSA's blog, here.

Of the top of my head, I know that when MPOW had the Harry & the Potters concert, the number one way most teens heard about it was thru MySpace. (Number 2? On the radio.)


ALA 2006: Hancock County

This was my first trip to New Orleans, so I cannot compare post-Katrina NO to pre-Katrina NO. The area of NO that I saw (convention area, French Quarter) is up and running for tourists; and need the tourist dollars. People I spoke with again and again asked how those outside NO saw them, and how current events may influence people's travel plans. I was asked, would the National Guard make people more likely or less likely to come? They spoke with concern about less people shopping in stores and going on tours.

I did not do any of the NO Katrina volunteer work or NO area tours. What I did see along the route to and from the airport was debris and areas that looked like no-mans land; buildings still standing, signs up, and as you got closer, all boarded up and closed. Many of the bloggers who went to NO did those things, saw those places, and can speak about how NO still needs help.

Of course, NO is not the only place that needs help.

My place of work has partnered with the Hancock County Library System in Mississippi. My library director, assistant director, and a number of library staff who were in NO for ALA drove to Hancock County, met with the staff, and toured the area. Hancock County was directly hit by Katrina.

Imagine driving down a street, thinking, it's all trees... because the houses are all gone, just the slabs. The debris has been cleared away, but it's spooky, with the ghosts of houses. And there are the houses still standing, with the insurance companies refusing coverage, and children being bused over an hour to school, and basic services still not available. The need for aid, money, and volunteers remain.

Take a look here at the Hancock County branches before.

Now: Bay St. Louis, now open and operational (tho inside some areas are not open to the public.)
Kiln Library: fully operational

Pearlington Library (shared library with school); The building is being used to house volunteers, and they are using a bookmobile: Waveland Library:More photos here.

Hancock County Library received one of this year's Building Better Communities award from SirsiDynix.

More photos will be posted at Flickr.


The Edge of the Forest, Issue 5

The Edge of the Forest, Issue 5, is up. Pop's own Melissa Rabey has a feature article, Clash of the Titans, about sports novels.