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 about Comics in Libraries

Thanks to Kat Kan on GNLIB-L, I came across this column, which is a really interesting read. It looks at a comic professional's view on comic books in libraries, and identifies how the comics industry needs to branch out into other markets that are eager for comics material.

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Books For Teenage Girls Are A Little Too Popular

The New York Times weighs in on the Gossip Girl series with the article Books For Teenage Girls Are A Little Too Popular. (Interestingly, it appeared in the Around the Region section.)

The point of the article isn't so much that the books are eeevil, but rather that younger and younger girls are "clamoring for the books, too, upsetting parents and leading some bookstores to move the books out of the children's section."

So? I'm more concerned that the books weren't in the YA/teen area to begin with. To be honest, I've often wondered at the number of teen titles, including older teen titles, that I've seen in the children's section of bookstores, sometimes spine to spine with picture books or chapter books. Moving books for teens to a separate section: It's a good thing.

It's unclear from the article what the booksellers use to guide their initial placement judgment; but the article repeatedly refers to age of the intended audience according to the publisher. (I hesitate to use the booksellers names, knowing how out of context quotes may be.)

Librarians (and many booksellers) don't rely ONLY on what the publisher has to say about a book. Most professional reviews provide a better, and often less broad, age guideline, as well as additional information about the plot and content. And these reviews aren't top secret. Any librarian or bookseller should know about them. And if you're interested, as a parent, then Barnes & Noble online is your new best friend, because B&N includes the text of these professional reviews. Looking for guidance on what Mallory or Matthew is reading? Go to B&N.

B&N shows that for Gossip Girl, Publishers Weekly says ages 15 plus; and School Library Journal grades 9 plus; looking at the third book, Kliatt says Senior High and School Library Journal now says grades 10 plus. The text of the reviews is also included, so you can see why the reviewer attached a certain age to a book. Similar age recommendations are given for the A List. What that tells most book professionals is that these books don't belong in the children's section. (Oh, and just so you know -- many of these reviews may be very spoilerific. Which is a good thing if you're using them to guide you on what is right for what age and what child or teen, as opposed to your own personal reading.)

One of the bookstore owners says that fourth and fifth graders want to read these books. The bookseller tries to steer the girls to more age appropriate books. But the girls "are adamant." Not to be rude, but so what? These books are intended for an older audience; and just because ten year olds want to read them, doesn't mean that all books intended for a senior high audience should also be OK for their younger sisters. Some books are meant for high school students. Deal with it.

I do sympathize with the parents who are trying to keep up with the literature; one mentions that she thought the A List covers were young. While I disagree with that (I think that the photos of older teens in bikinis and evening wear says older teens, and are similar enough to adult chick lit titles to almost be shelved in adult), I appreciate the parent who is trying to keep on top of what her child is reading, and is concerned. To this parent, I say: use me. Use my young adult colleagues. Come in, ask for me, tell me what your child is reading and what she likes and let's see what we have to make you both happy. We can exchange emails, I'll look out for books she may like, we'll talk about what worked and didn't.

If your local library does not have a young adult/ teen specialist, ask the library why not?


Benefit Concert, Silent Auction

MPOW has partnered with Hancock County Library, Mississippi in Hancock County Library's Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. More details of the origins of this here.

Some of the folks from HCL are coming up to the library this September, so Ocean County Library is having a party: specifically, a benefit concert and silent auction. My branch's contribution to the silent auction? A basket -- the theme? Superheroes.

More details here and here on this combination of libraries, programming, and community.

My visit in June to Hancock County.


Children's Book Reviews

I blog about children's and young adult books over at A Chair, A Fireplace And A Tea Cozy. The many book reviews that appear in the children's book blogosphere (aka kidlitosphere) are great fun; yes, many of us also read the reviews in the professional reviews, but blog book reviews may be longer and more detailed, often have great links to interviews, author sites, discussion guides, and the like, and often appear before reviews in traditional sources.

Ok, so that's a wee bit of a plug for my site (and the blogroll there) but the REAL purpose of this post is to let you know about how to find these reviews. Children's Book Reviews is a wiki that was recently begun by Kelly H. at Big A little a. If you're looking for a book review published in a blog, it's a great place to start. It's fairly simple, divided into age groups and searchable by both author and title. And, if you blog about children's or teen books, let Kelly know if you're interested in having your reviews included in the wiki.


A Love Letter

Dear BBC America,

I've always really liked your channel. I grew up watching Are You Being Served? on my local PBS station, so having a whole channel of British television shows was brilliant in my book. In the past, I've especially loved Cash in the Attic, Changing Rooms, What Not to Wear, and the dearly departed Ground Force.

But now I've started having a great appreciation for the dramas on your station. This is thanks primarily to Life on Mars, which is just a fantastic show, and I can't wait to find out what's really happened to Sam Tyler--I'm hoping to catch some new clues during the marathon of the first four episodes on Sunday. The commercials for Murder City, which premieres tomorrow night, look really good. And I've admired the chutzpah of retelling Shakespeare, as you've done with Shakespea-Retold. Even the New York Times agrees with me on that one.

So, in conclusion, keep up the good work. You've now become one of my desert-island channels. I hope libraries jump on this bandwagon and make sure to get DVDs of British television shows. My local library has done this, because one of the many DVD sets it has is all four seasons of my new addiction, Coupling. In fact, I'm off to browse the BBC America shop now.

Much love,


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"Meebo? What's That?"

If you take a look a bit further down at our sidebar, you'll see a little doohickey inviting you to Meebo Me. It's not dirrty, I promise. So, what the heck is Meebo, you ask? Meebo is, as Time puts it in their 50 Coolest Websites of 2006 feature,

a one-stop shop for all your instant-messaging needs. Which is to say that Meebo puts all your IM clients — the individual programs that make instant-messaging services incompatible with one another — into one browser window. There's no need to download all the different apps (MSN, AOL/ICQ, Yahoo, Jabber/Gtalk) to your computer to have any and all types of IM conversations. Available in four dozen languages.

Pretty sweet, huh? (Emphasis added, btw.) I use both AIM and GTalk, and I love not having to mess around with downloading them to my home or work computers. I can log in to Meebo from any internet-capable computer, and because I signed up for a Meebo account (you can use the site without one, which is nice -- a try before you buy feature), the service saves all of my chats, in every platform, with whomever I chat with.

MeeboMe is Meebo's additional service that places a Meebo interface (or widget) right on this blog -- so if you're visiting and see that I'm signed into Meebo, you can IM me! It's just another way of keeping in touch with our Gentle Readers. C'mon, you know you wanna!

New Magazine Review: Blueprint

You know how Martha Stewart Living makes you feel like a total slacker for not knowing where to put the shellfish fork when you're laying a place setting for a formal dinner? Well, Blueprint, a new magazine from Mrs. Stewart's publishing empire, assumes you don't know about shellfish forks, egg cups, and the like, and cuts you a nice, big length of slack while educating you about what they're for and how to use them, if you want. Where MSL believes its readership all own summer homes in the Hamptons and wear nothing but Lilly Pulitzer in the summer and Brooks Brothers in the winter, Blueprint figures its reader is either a new homeowner of a single dwelling (or even -- gasp! -- a renter), and that we wear a mix of what's on sale at H&M and Old Navy, with a smattering of chic vintage pieces from our grandparents' closet and the local thrift shop.

Don't get me wrong: Blueprint is still an aspirational lifestyle magazine, packed with swanky-lite accoutrements, accessories, and knick-knacks, but unlike the grande dame of Martha Stewart Omnimedia's print line, Blueprint is loose and even funny as it helps you, the readers, "design your life." Articles about designing a living room with all machine-washable furnishings; realistic approaches to etiquette; suggestions on how to hire a floor refinisher and create an desk-drawer stain remover kit; layouts featuring fashionable dresses suitable for office or play -- all of these sit comfortably alongside classic Martha features like how to select personal stationery; how to throw a chic dinner party for eight; and Good Things-esque ideas like individualized door numbers and creating modern updates of charm bracelets.

Fresh, funny, stylish, and perfectly aimed at the young woman (men might read this magazine, but I think most of them will be reading their girlfriend's copy) just striking out on her own, watch for this one to be paired up with Domino and Lucky in the handbags of your twenty-, thirty-, and even fortysomething patrons.


When Did You Last See A Movie In A Theater?

Thanks to IMdB, I came across an article in the LA Times: Far Removed from the Multiplex.

This article talks about the ways that teens and young adults approach movies in theaters differently from other age groups, and about the technology shifts that help these teens watch movies differently.

For example: Going to movies at theaters still has appeal, particularly for younger teens, but among respondents ages 21 to 24, 56% said they wanted to see the new movie at home, and only 9% said they would rather travel to a theater.

I don't know if this is a price thing or if it's an indication that we're becoming more and more insulated--that it's harder to have those kinds of big planned moments that connects a large portion of society. I remember reading once that during the series finale of M*A*S*H, sewer systems up and down the East Coast were overtaxed because everyone was using the bathroom during commercial breaks. I doubt something like that could happen nowadays. I'm not saying that this is a good or bad thing, but it's something to think about.

The article also cites some interesting technology tidbits: Nearly half (47%) of respondents ages 12 to 17 say they would watch a movie on a PC, well above the interest in doing the same on a cellphone (11%) or video iPod and similar devices (18%). A similar share of those 21 to 24 said they would watch movies on a computer, although they are much less willing to do the same on a cellphone (6%) or video iPod (7%).

I think this poses something for us librarians to think about, since we can see that there's definite interest in using technology to see movies. Wouldn't it be great if the movie industry would allow new releases to also be available on DVDs or digital downloads, that were only available at your library? I could see how this would be a nightmare for librarians, but imagine what a huge change that would be for libraries: we would be at the forefront of people's minds when it came to entertainment.

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Problem With Summer Giveaway: More Info UPDATED

Highsmith's own testing confirms that the bendable cats and dogs have five times the lead allowed by law.

While I have not yet seen a Press Release from Highsmith about this (and didn't find one when I searched the Highsmith site earlier today) this information appears in the following news reports, which reference the Highsmith Press Release: Lead-contaminated toys being recalled and Library toys tainted with lead and National warning goes out about “criminal critters,” children toys with high lead amounts . This second article confirms that this includes toys sold by Oriental Trading.

Toy Risk Feared includes the following: "Worry about the toys began when Indiana librarian Stephanie Holmes learned Bloomington Hospital found high lead concentrations in a batch of the toys in 2005." So, apparently in December 2005 the lead problem was raised with one vendor, who discontinued the item; yet the items remained available via other vendors. Also, per this article, Fox Cities libraries recall lead-tainted toys, Highsmith's October 2005 tests said the toys were OK.

Other links: The State of Oregon has a press release that includes guides for parents and a parents.

Updated: there was some interesting discussion over at LISnews about the giveways. Check out this post in particular, which addresses the question of the primary distributor.

I haven't seen any press releases from Oriental Trading; and as of this morning, the company's Safety Page does NOT include these toys.

I also couldn't find info on this on Highsmith's page, but I am aware of the press releases the company have released (quoted above).


[Sophie and Liz B. had planned a post that discussed DOPA and unattended children in the library. Upon reflection, it was the sort of snark that worked well as an off the cuff discussion, but failed on paper.]

What we want to say in a nutshell about DOPA:

We believe that parents and the public continue to operate under the misunderstanding that the library is a safe place to send children to spend endless hours.

We believe that DOPA came about because of fear and concern about children and the Internet; and was drafted by people who are honestly concerned but who do not understand the nature of today's technology, especially the positives to be found in Web 2.0.

We would like to remind parents and the public that DOPA or no DOPA, that when you send your child to the library for the day, your child is spending hours in a public place; that any member of the public can and does spend hours at the library; and that no one in the library is a licensed, degreed, or trained child care provider. DOPA or no DOPA, your child isn't being supervised.


Problem With Summer Giveaway UPDATED Again

I just saw this on LISnews and wanted to pass the word. It's from the Star Press, a paper in Indiana.

State warns of lead in toys given by libraries. "INDIANAPOLIS-- State health officials today issued a consumer health alert for bendable animal toys that were given away at libraries around the state, including the Muncie Public Library, during summer reading programs in June and July." The complete story is here.

The paper is silent about the vendor for the bendable animal toys; there is a photo with the article. The toys sound similar to items sold by both Upstart and Oriental Trading.

I AM NOT SAYING THAT THE TOY IN QUESTION IS FROM EITHER OF THOSE VENDORS. But, if your library has bendable animal toys that look like dogs and cats, you may want to investigate further to see if you have the same items that the Indiana libraries purchased.

Other reports on the toy: WTHR, noting an Indiana distributor for the toy; the News Sentinel; another item from the News Sentinel with a different photo of the toys in question.

UPDATED: I just found the Indiana State Department Of Health News Release, here. It specifically states: The toys were recommended as prizes to other libraries through a Web site run by the Collaborative Summer Library Program.

UPDATED AGAIN: When I can find links, I will add. The Indiana toys were NOT purchased from Highsmith/Upstart; but Highsmith may have had the same original source for the toys. There is a question about change of original manufacturers. Highsmith has a certificate showing the toys they sold were tested and certified safe; and they are independently testing the toys. Also, the lead is from the paint on the toy, not the toy itself.


We Empower Teens

Judy Macaluso is the Teen Services Coordinator for Ocean County Library, aka MPOW. Judy is incredibly dedicated and driven about teen services, the importance of teens in the community, and the need for libraries to reach out to teens and to empower them. Just one example of her success: in 2002, OCL had two teen librarians; now there are twelve.

Judy has an article that discusses her vision for teens and libraries and how she made it happen at OCL. It's ""We Empower Teens" @ Ocean County Library (pdf) in the August 2006 issue of VOYA. Check out the photo on the fourth page; I'm the one on the left.


DOPA Resources

Worried about DOPA, but not sure what to do about it? You've blogged about, commented about it, ranted with your coworkers, but feel like there's more to do? Click over to the YALSA blog for DOPA information and resources and 6 Steps to Save Your Library from DOPA.

Did you know that YA lit is bilge?

Thanks to YALSA-BK, I read the following column in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Parents, Beware: Some Books are Full of Bilge.

First off, "bilge"? Who's been reading Patrick O'Brien novels, I ask you?

This is my response to the author:
As a librarian who has worked with children and teens
for over five years, I am very disturbed by your
recent article, entitled "Parents, beware: Some books
are full of bilge", which I read in the online edition
of the Philadelphia Inquirer. By only presenting one
side of an argument, you are doing a great disservice
to both the books you mention, as well as the great
literature that exists for tween audiences.

Instead of saying that parents should review their
children's book choices in order to share the
experience of discovering new worlds and great
stories, you promote a message of fear and distrust.
By characterizing books such as Peaches as "bilge",
you overlook the fact that this book is not suitable
to your child's maturity level, so it is little wonder
that you found it unacceptable for your daughter.

Peaches has been reviewed as appropriate for grades 8
and up. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has
been recommended for grades 6 and up. Although your
daughter, and other 10 year olds, might be capable of
reading this book, that does not mean that they should
be reading it.

I am very aware that parents have the right to monitor
what their children read. In fact, I encourage
parents to be aware of what their child is checking
out of the library. I have often recommended to
parents that they should take a look at their
preteen's choices, to the point where I have said,
"This book might be too mature for your child. Why
don't I suggest some different books?"

While I applaud you for suggesting alternatives, Dairy
Queen might not be the best choice, either, as it has
also been recommended for ages 12 and up. A better
option might be a book like The Penderwicks by Jeanne
Birdsall. For advanced readers in grades 4 and 5,
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale would be an excellent

In the future, I would suggest that you skip the
bookstore and come to the library, where there are
trained professionals who can help you and your
daughter select books that are both challenging and

I did get an email from the author within an hour of sending mine, which was nice, and it says all the right things about listening to librarians and such. But I can't help feeling that it's just lip service, because if she really felt that way . . . wouldn't she have written an article that reflected that?

[cross-posted at oracle]

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South Asian Literature for Children and Young Adults

Pooja Makhijani is the editor of Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America and the author of Mama's Saris (publication date 2007.)

Pooja recently wrote an essay, Here to Stay: South Asian Literature for Children and Teens, about looking to find herself in books. I cringed as I read about an elementary school librarian handing a young Pooja The Jungle Book by Kipling. "I did not identify with Mowgli, the little Indian boy who was raised by wild animals (I doubt that anyone identified with Mowgli.)"

Other resources for those who want to do better by their library patrons:

Paper Tigers, "a website for librarians, teachers, and publishers, and all those interested in young readers' books from and about the Pacific Rim and South Asia."

Pooja's website includes an annotated bibliography of South Asia and the South Asian diaspora in children's literature.

Kahani, a literary magazine dedicated to empowering, educating and entertaining children of South Asian descent living in North America.

Mitali Perkins (author of the books Monsoon Summer and The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen) has Welcome to the Fire Escape, "a safe place to think, chat and read about life between cultures," and includes a list of "between cultures" books.

Uma Krishnaswami's website; Uma is the author of several books, including Naming Maya; her site includes a section on South Asia in Children's Literature.

MTV Video Music Award Nominees Announced

Just in time to celebrate the network's landmark 25th birthday, MTV has announced the nominees for their 2006 Video Music Awards (VMAs). This year should be an even bigger navel-gazing, rump-shaking extravaganza than usual. Official site here. A complete list of nominees is here. Featured performers here.

You can view nominated videos, vote for your favorites, and most importantly for librarians with music purchasing authority, peruse the nominated artists list for gaps in your collection.

Happy Birthday, MTV!

It was 25 years ago today that a grimy, sassy little cable channel first aired The Buggles' irresistible bubblegum confection "Video Killed The Radio Star." Now, with over 50 channels to its name worldwide, MTV, as NPR drily put it this morning, is an upstart no more. Actually, NPR's coverage of MTV's first quarter-century is really good, including a 1983 interview with creator Bob Pittman and a big "Where Are They Now" featuring all your favorite VJs of yore.

MTV's own broadband internet channel, Overdrive, is chock full of retrospective coverage of the network, including rebroadcasts of the network's first days.

Library tie-in? What a great idea! Why not create an All 80s display? Pull out your "I Love The 80s" CDs, any of those retrospective "Look At The Decades" books you have lying around, and by all means, use this anniversary as an excuse to purchase some 80s shows now available on DVD!

And a solid lesson for us all to learn from MTV: Christina Norman, MTV's President, is really proud of seeking out teen input when she's working on programming ideas for the network and its many progeny. In her NPR interview, She said, "We spend a lot of time talking to young people, online, in person. It's what we do, it's our mission." Sounds like a YALSA member in the making to me!

Self-Promo: Vote for the Neighborhoodie of the Week

Remember last week, when I turned my neighborhoodie into a post about marketing here at Pop? Well, this week, my hoodie is a potential Neighborhoodie of the Week. You like to vote, right? Well, head on down to the voting page and cast your ballot. You may vote once daily. A vote for Pop is a vote for libraries! Or something.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled reporting on Pop Culture & Libraries.