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.


Happy Halloween

In honor of Halloween, I ask you --

What's your favorite scary movie or TV show?

Of course, it's hard to pick just one. I love the giant ants in Them! And I also remember some gruesome movie set in a girls school, were the girls were missing, the headmistress insisted they were running away, but it turns out that her son was killing them and using various parts to assemble the perfect girl. I have no idea the title of that.

And TV wise, of course it's Buffy and the boys in Supernatural.

What about you?


Music At The Library

There are three cool programs coming up at Ocean County Library, NJ (aka MPOW) and I couldn't resist doing a bit of PR for them:

On Thursday, November 2nd at 7 p.m. at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library, there will be a the Beta Dance Troupe, an Ethiopian-Israeli dance company. The dancers represent the ancient African traditions of 105,000 Ethiopian Jews now living in Israel. Their unique style of dance is rarely seen in the U.S.

On Monday, November 13th at 7 p.m., my branch is having an evening of Irish Folk Music with The Snakes. The Snakes are a six piece band whose members hail from across NJ. They play an interesting blend of traditional Irish folk songs and pub songs. Using accordion, banjo, tin whistle, mandolin, and fiddle, the band offers an authentic sound that will put a smile on your face and a song in your heart! It's at the Waretown Branch of the Ocean County Library.

Also on Monday, November 13th at 7 p.m. at the Toms River Branch, is Evelyn Glennie, a Grammy winning classical percussionist who is also deaf. There will be a free film screening of a movie about Glennie called Touch The Sound, a short performance and questions and answers.

If you end up going to any of these, tell them Pop sent you! (And if you're visiting me down at Waretown for the Snakes, let me know you're coming!)


Fantasy Moguls: Join Today! Seriously, Join Today

Thanks to Bookpusher for pointing out Fantasy Moguls, a site that lets you play movie mogul for a few months. According to the site's About page, the game is

Similar to fantasy football, but instead of being a "general manager" of a fantasy football "team," you are the "CEO" of a fantasy movie "studio." You and your friends will draft movies for your fantasy studios and how well these real movies perform in certain real-life statistical categories (like total box office and review score) is how well your fantasy studio performs against the other fantasy studios in your league. For example, when Talladega Nights makes 51 million over the weekend, it makes 51 million for your fantasy studio. If you were smart enough to draft it.

100% FREE to play, the game takes place over the Holiday season and you can join a private or public league.

Sadly, I missed my opportunity to join Gregg's league, but I'm inspired to start one for Pop & its readers. I've never played in a fantasy league of any kind before, so don't be shy about joining if you've never played, either! It'll be a learning experience for us all.

I know so many people (okay, so far, they're all guys, but maybe Susan will change that!) who love playing fantasy sports, and it's a world that's always fascinated me, so if you're tired of being on the outside & looking in, here's your chance! Instructions may be found here, and an exhaustive Draft Kit (for the obsessive) is here.

Cribbing shamelessly from Gregg's instructions, here's how you join our strictly for fun & pop culture edification league:

1.) Go to the site and sign up. Use your real name (I did), use a fake name, use your grandmother's name -- makes no difference to me!
2.) Choose “Join a Public League”
3.) Scroll down all the way until you find “Pop Goes the Library” as a league name. That’s ours.
4.) That’s it. We technically “draft” our movies for the holiday season tonight at 8 PM EST, but the system automatically drafts the highest rated movie on the board if you’re not present, so you don’t even have to worry about it if you don’t want to. We’ll all have our movie slate on Friday, and it keeps track of our box office numbers until the end of January.

Smack talking, as always, is encouraged. The frillier & more anachronistic, the better.

By the way, that Wikipedia article linked above contains the following tidbit, emphasis mine:

It's estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that 16 million adults in
the U.S., age 18 to 55, play fantasy sports
. Fantasy sports is also popular
throughout the world with leagues for soccer, cricket and other non-U.S. based

I wonder how many of them are library users. Does your library have materials on fantasy league play? Does your library permit online access to or block fantasy league websites?

If this looks fun to you, you could play at your library, either as a staff project, or (much better still) as an extension of any movie-related programming you run at the library. It's a great way to keep the discussion going outside of the library & library events. I bet teens would love it, too.

Fear and Fiction: Where are the Librarians?

I attended a conference this past Saturday called Fear and Fiction: The Power of Children's Books and the Inner Life of the Child. Authors discussed books, then analysts discussed the books. My full report is here, here, and here.

What I heard & learned & observed that librarians should know:

The term bibliotherapy was never used; not once.

As befitting an event organized by the Yale University Child Study Center and the Anna Freud Centre, whenever books where mentioned within a bibliotherapy context, it was with therapists/psychologist/psychiatrists.

My conclusion about the role of librarians: not to act as bibliotherapists (the letters after our names are MLIS or MLS, not DSW, MD, PhD, MSW, DPsych); but, rather to get the books into the hands of the therapists/ psychologists/ psychiatrists who will be using these books.

This is particularly true of young adult books; the analysts speaking about the YA books clearly enjoyed reading them, saw them as valuable literature both as a story they enjoyed reading but also as something that is useful and beneficial for teens to read. "These books show [teens] that they aren't truly alone." It was also clear that this conference is what introduced YA books to the analysts; and both the speakers and audience members asked, "how do we find out about these books?"

And that is where we come in. One member of the audience stood and plugged librarians as a resource; so what else can we do? Who better than librarians to connect the books with the people who need and want those books, and just don't know it? My scribbled notes say, "we (librarians) still need to make people aware of what is out there." We speak with kids about books; with parents; and sometimes, with teachers.* But what about other people who work with children and teens?

I'm mulling over how this would best be done. Is it something that is library by library, librarian by librarian, grass roots as we contact people we know in our towns? Or is there something that can be done on a bigger scale, with regional, state or national organizations helping with targeted resources and suggestions on how to reach people who don't even know that what we offer is something they need?

* One of the analysts went to her child's private school and asked the English teacher about the books they use; the teacher responded that they don't know about the YA books because they don't know how to find them/ have time to read. Before public schools start congratulating themselves, another audience member pointed out that many schools don't have school librarians and the state of school libraries is less than great. And before condemning teachers, I know plenty of teachers who do keep up to date about current books.


We Are Marshall!

It is a rainy Saturday night in North Carolina on November 14, 1970. Shortly after take-off a twin-engine DC-9 plane carrying West Virginia’s Marshall University “Thundering Herd” football team crashes into a hillside. There are 75 people on board including players, coaches, fans, and crew. There are no survivors. It is the worst disaster in NCAA college sports history. The movie, We Are Marshall! by Warner Brothers Pictures (opening at theaters nationwide on December 22, 2006) is about the tragedy and the coach, Jack Lengyel (played by Matthew McConaughey), who is determined to rebuild the Marshall University football team. The movie also stars Matthew Fox, Ian McShane, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara, January Jones, Brian Geraghty, and David Strathairn (who played Edward R. Murrow so well in Warner Independent Pictures “Good Night and Good Luck” which also happens to be my favorite film of 2005). For more information on the 1970 Marshall University Football Team visit the virtual museum at the Marshall University Library’s Special Collections.

Hey, You Got Library Thing on Your Web Site

So, a few months ago I start seeing some talk about Library Thing. If you don't know what it is, it's a very easy-to-use, online catalog for your books. After I created an account, I felt like there was more I could do with it than catalog the books on my shelves at home (and since there are...shudder...thousands of books at home, I didn't really want to go through the steps of actually cataloging them all).

Then I saw a few friends of mine who do reviews using Library Thing to list books on their blogs. I decided to use Library Thing to create a recommended reading list for my young adult patrons. If you scroll down, you'll see my Library Thing thing on the left-hand side (unless you're blocking Java Script, then you won't see it).

Well, turns out Library Thing saw what I was doing and thought it was cool and mentioned it to SLJ who was writing an article on Library Thing and its uses in the library. SLJ then contacted me and asked me to record a podcast about what I'm doing. Click on the image below to go to the podcast and you can hear the dulcet tones of my voice:

School Library Journal mash-up image

I have to say that I was a little overwhelmed when first contacted by School Library Journal to create a podcast. I had never made one before, and wasn't sure that I had 3 - 5 minutes of material. Well, I had 6, and a friend of mine puts out his own CDs, so I had the technology. The rest is history.



Why I Love Miss Snark

Miss Snark is a literary agent who blogs. Yes, she is snarky; but she is also honest.

She gets all sorts of questions, and the most recent one was asking her how to find a specific type of agent. Miss Snark's general reply to this type of stuff, as long time readers know, is along the lines of "I'm busy being an agent! You, as the writer, should be the one finding this stuff out. I don't have the time to track this type of stuff down."

In this post, Miss Snark is not the reference librarian, she advises readers: "your librarian is your friend."

How can you not love her? Note she didn't say "the librarian", but rather "your librarian." Check out the question and ask yourself: could you answer it? Would your answer be different from Miss Snark's?

test post for NJASL Conference attendees

fruits for pimm's cup
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio.
This is just to show you how a Flickr photo will appear at a blog when you blog directly from Flickr. See how easy (and snazzy-looking) this is? You can totally do this!


Welcomes & A Reintroduction

I am so pleased to welcome Susan Quinn and John Klima to Pop Goes the Library. One of my favorite aspects of working on this blog is inviting guest contributors and new contributors to the fold. In part, this is a selfish thing -- more contributors means less stressing over how frequently I post. Life with a very newly toddling toddler can be hectic and sometimes, I just don't feel terribly inspired to post. The bigger part of why I like adding new contributors, though, is all about you, the reader -- I like knowing that the Mavens of Pop are providing you with a broader range of posts on many topics.

With John & Susan introducing themselves to you in the last week, I'd like to take this opportunity to re-introduce myself.

I'm Sophie Brookover, and I launched this blog in April 2004, which was not all that long ago, really, but feels like several lifetimes ago in some ways. I was working at a different library, I was renting an apartment with my husband and was not a parent. We now own a home and have a lovely 13 month-old daughter. Back then, I'd sort of, kind of thought a bit about teaching workshops on technology & pop-related matters; now it's a big part of my career.

My areas of interest/expertise, and the issues you'll see me posting about most frequently are music, movies, TV, magazines, and technology, particularly as they relate to services to & collections for teens. I occasionally post on parenting-related matters, as well.

I love writing this blog, and having such fine contributors as Susan, John, as well as veteran Pop-ers Liz & Melissa, helps keep the whole enterprise as fun, fresh, and inspiring as it was two and a half years ago. Thanks, guys!

Child & Teen Safety on the Internet

This is essential reading for any librarian working with children, teens, and their parents. "11 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of Your Children" is a commonsense guide to and rationale of participating in your kids' online lives. I receive many questions from parents, often whispered to me while their teens & tweens are browsing the stacks: "I know my daughter's on MySpace, but I don't want to pry." "My son is 12 and wants a blog -- is he too young?" "My kids are constantly IMing and I'm not too sure about some of their friends -- what can I do about it?" I am planning to offer a workshop on this topic for parents at my library this winter, and I will be using Vicki Davis's excellent post as the basis for it. Via the ever-useful Lifehacker.


Hello Sports Fans

I would like to thank Sophie for inviting me to join Pop Goes the Library! My name is Susan Quinn and my background as a librarian is in youth services, young adult, and reference and instruction. This is just a quick post. Right now there is a commercial break in the NFL football games between the NY Jets and Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (I flip between games). Later it will be more football and the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. This week I stayed up until midnight with countless others watching game 7 of the National League Championship Series. I was rooting for the New York Mets but it just didn’t happen for them this year. Speaking of this year, not only does New Jersey have a good library school it now also has a winning college football team. Rutgers is 7-0 in the Big East (along with Louisville and West Virginia). Go Scarlet Knights. Oh yes, I will be writing about sports for Pop Goes the Library, among other things. More later. Back to the games.


Nontoberfest: A Guest Entry by Rochelle Hartman

[Note from Sophie: Rochelle Hartman of Tinfoil + Raccoon graciously agreed to write this thoughtful piece about Oktoberfest in her community, La Crosse, WI. Many thanks to Rochelle! This is cross-posted at Tinfoil + Raccoon.]

After posting a picture of “Accordion Man” on the blog Sophie Brookover contacted me about writing a piece for Pop Goes the Library about La Crosse’s Oktoberfest. She and co-library popper Liz Burns are working on a book on pop culture and libraries, and Sophie thought I might have something to contribute, in that I am a librarian in town that boasts the biggest Oktoberfest in the US. I was game. After all, I’m a Wisconsin newbie, have some German heritage myself (who doesn’t), and have a fondness for public spectacle that involves liquored-up people in costume.

The library tie-in? Um….I did see people in the library who dressed funny that week. And I worked with one patron who smelled strongly of fresh beer and who wanted a Chilton manual. He was also toting a huggie that held a foamy canned beverage. Finally, I had to ask, “Dude, are you drinking beer in the library?” As he slowly moved the huggie behind his back (slick move if you are in 3rd grade), he said, “No, but I was drinking earlier.” Mind you, it was about 1 pm. But, hey, it was Oktoberfest, so I let it slide.

There were a couple Oktoberfest events at the library--a photo show and a needlework display--neither which were library-sponsored programs. I did make it downstairs to the photo show, hoping to find tons of photographs of Oktoberfests past and recent. But, it was a community photography contest, with few Fest photos. Here’s what I learned from the photo show: people sure love their cats (and their dogs to a lesser degree). Disappointingly, none of the cats were sporting lederhosen or jaunty Bavarian caps.

Aside from doing a count of sidewalk puke splats on my downtown lunchtime walk, and having a delightful evening of brats, beer and conversation at the Director Goddess’ house, we completely missed the Festing. I missed the Tapping of the Golden Keg. I missed the two parades. I did not make it down to Fest grounds for schnitzel or polka music or beer.

A couple weeks before the start of Oktoberfest, I decided that I needed to stop drinking for awhile. The alkie gene is strong in my family, and I have danced closed to the edge a few times in my life. I moved to La Crosse having heard about its reputation as a Town that Drinks, and honestly, was pleased to know I’d be among my tippling tribe. If Virginia is for Lovers, Wisconsin is for Lushes. I’ve heard plenty of jokes about drunk driving being the state sport, and have a neighbor who had offered me the key to his garage in case I needed a beer or snort of Jim Beam.

In fact, Wisconsin is the number one state for gout (still looking for this stat), largely owing to its fondness for beer (although I imagine that the prevalence of head-sized apple fritters makes a significant contribution to state’s goutiness). After a couple dry weeks, I decided that I was not a candidate for AA, and made the decision that I would only drink socially. Shortly after I decided to quit drinking, a study came out showing that social drinkers have a much higher income potential than teetotalers. Honestly, I couldn’t jeopardize my family’s well-being, and decided that I could be a moderate, occasional social drinker. My father was “only” a social drinker, which is why he was pretty scarce at home. Since I don’t venture out or entertain much, I think my decision is a sound one.

Oktoberfest began on a Friday, September 29 at 11 am with the Tapping of the Golden Keg. On Sunday afternoon several UW-L students reported that one of their friends was missing. He had last been seen around 2 am Sunday, drinking at downtown bars. Even before the sniffer dogs came out, I’m sure the decision had been made to focus on the riverfront. Since 1997, five young men, last seen drinking and highly intoxicated at downtown bars, have disappeared, only to be pulled, dead, from the Mississippi. After three or four of these deaths, there were murmurs about a serial killer, and police were bashed about not doing enough work to solve these cases. All you need to know is what I’ve already told you. All were college-aged men, drinking and drunk at the time of their disappearance. The body of Luke Homan, 21, was pulled out of the river the first Monday morning of Oktoberfest, becoming number 6. An autopsy showed that he had a blood alcohol level of .32 at the time of his death.

Midweek, the La Crosse Tribune ran an article with the headline “Has Oktoberfest Finally Grown Up?” citing fewer arrests, and lauding the fact that crowds have gotten much less rowdy since the Fest’s early days in the 60s, which were characterized by near-riot conditions. On Friday, Oct 6, one of the front page headlines was “ER Doctor Calls Oktoberfest Drinking ‘Worst in 32 Years.’” The article mentioned the flood of young people who were admitted to both city hospitals, some critically ill due to alcohol poisoning, some who required trach tubes to keep them breathing, a blood alcohol level high of .42, and many students who literally could not identify themselves to ER staff. This happens every weekend in local ER rooms, just not on the scale prompted by Oktoberfest.

This Thursday's Tribune had a story about a young man who was picked up for resisting arrest the night Luke Homan disappeared. He was apprehended on the riverfront walkway, highly intoxicated, and said that he was headed home. Although his address was for a residence south of where he was picked up, he pointed to the river, insisting that’s where his house was.

The city has an Alcohol Oversight Committee, formed in 2004 after an alcohol-related drowning. Shortly before Oktoberfest, there was an article in the paper about how the committee had not been able to accomplish much due to lack of participation. Its last recommendation, from July of this year, was to put up a barrier at the levee. La Crosse is a tourist town, and few people want to see the Mississippi fenced in. The latest proposal is for motion-sensor lights and video cameras to be placed along the river. It’s an expensive proposition, offered late in a tight budget year. The library is a unit of city government, so it’s quite possible that we could be affected by any big-ticket solutions to the prevention of drunk drowning.

Do I blame Oktoberfest? No. Oktoberfest is simply an expression of deeply-held cultural tradition. Unfortunately, one component of that culture is binge drinking, which is subversively endorsed through finger-wagging lip service. I’ve been a witness to this myself. I grew up in a neighborhood where most of the adults would run through a case of beer—each—every weekend, then display crocodile tears when their kids came home drunk (okay) or threaten military school when they found a bag of pot tucked inside a sock (not okay). My enthusiasm for participation in Oktoberfest was certainly dampened this year, though, given the recent evaluation I applied to my own cultural and genetic heritage of addiction, juxtaposed against the truly sad ending of Luke Homan. I was not feeling particularly festive that week.

Aside from my personal issues with drinking, I have been very thoughtful about how the library can be an active participant in Oktoberfest next year. My first thought was to provide displays and information about alcohol safety. But, really, how After School Special and utterly useless is that? For us to focus on that one aspect would make us an accomplice to the pervasive notion that Oktoberfest is all about the beer. It’s also about the lederhosen, the dirndls and the oompah music. I’m hoping that next year I can work with our crackerjack Archives staff to dig past the stereotypes and offer at least a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage that remains after the last stein is emptied.

(If you run into me at conference, I’ll still let you buy me a drink. Just one, though.)

Catch Up With Heroes

If you were intrigued by my previous post on the excellent new show Heroes' many amiable qualifications, but forgot to watch or set your recording device of choice this week, fear not! NBC is rebroadcasting a mini-marathon of the last 3 episodes on Sunday, from 8-11 PM (EST). Via PopCandy.

Creating a Place for Teens to Hang Out

This morning, as I was cruising through my feeds to see what had happened while I slept, I came across a post on Steven Cohen's Library Stuff that referred to this article. The Oshkosh Public Library (from my home state of WI, home of Oshkosh B'Gosh bibs, etc.) revamped its teen space. From the article:
The new teen center in the Oshkosh Public Library opened on September 5. It provides area teens with a safe place to do homework after school, socialize with friends, or simply unwind.

“We’ve been excited to see the teens,” said [Adult and Teen Services Manager, Janice] Dibble. “Sometimes there are attitudes expressed by people that teens are noisy or they’re just goofing around. Sometimes you hear adults say stuff like that, but I think the adults get a chance to see that students come here and they do relax and have fun and check out DVDs and things, but they also are coming to do their homework.”

It's good to read articles like this. After a Teen Read Week I'll be happy to put behind me, it's nice to see articles about people who are making a difference with their teens and the teen spaces in the library.

Something this article talks around, but never comes out and says, is that it's nice that the teens have somewhere to go and be. We live in a world where the ability of teens to go somewhere to hang out is severely limited and restricted. And it's not just the standard misapprehension that adults have towards teens, sometimes it's done to protect teens (i.e., protection from sexual predators). With these restrictions, it's not hard to see why services like MySpace become popular with teens. They no longer have a physical space to hang out, so they hang out wherever they can.

People tend to forget the crux of teen society is sociability. No matter how angsty or mopey a teen may be, he or she would be happier being angsty or mopey with another teen. Or two. A big concern of being a teen is feeling accepted, feeling wanted. To do this, they need to be able to congregate and hang out, whether it's online or in a physical space.

And that's where we come in. As librarians, we can make both the physical and online space for teens feel safe and comfortable and inviting. I can't tell you how often I see piles of teens on the floor near the Manga books just sitting there and reading. Again, from the article:
“Libraries are not always just a place to get your books, and your DVDs and your music, or to look up stuff for homework,” [Reference librarian Ruth] Percey said. “One of the services that a library provides is to provide a meeting space where people can socialize. So I think that’s one of the things that is attractive about this space.”

My library is going through a major renovation, and the teens will have their own room when it's done. I'm excited to create a new space for the teens and have it be something that's different from the rest of the library. This isn't what I'll be doing, but wouldn't this be cool for a teen space?

JK (John Klima)


Hi Everybody! (shouted like Dr. Nick)

My name is John Klima, and I've been invited to join the Pop Goes the Library blog by Sophie. Before I get into mad posting, I thought I would quickly introduce myself (you may find that I don't do any 'quick' posting; I'm trying to cut back on the wordage, I'm just verbose). I currently work as the Young Adult Librarian and Systems Administrator for the Franklin Township Public Library in Somerset, NJ. (I'm also part of the reference staff and the webmaster) I'm pretty new to librarianship--I never worked at a library until I was in my Master's program, and I just completed the program this last year--so I'm filled with ideas of things that libraries could and should be doing (i.e., better marketing).

At some point in my recent past, I worked for science fiction publishers like Tor Books and Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with virtually every science fiction and fantasy author that I liked. Once I left publishing to become a computer programmer (librarianship was my next, and hopefully last, career stop) I found that missed it, so I started my own magazine Electric Velocipede. I've been publishing it for a little more than five years and ten issues (#11 coming out next month). To tie this into the library world, I'll be making an 8-page zine out of one sheet of paper later this week with my teens as part of Teen Read Week.

I'll be the Pop Goes the Library science fiction and publishing expert. I'll post about science fiction stuff (like the World Fantasy convention I'm going to in a few weeks) as well as describing the process of creating a zine (and why you'd want to do one in your library). I may even get into why science fiction people hate 'sci fi' and why it doesn't bother me.

OK, confession time, I don't watch a lot of sci-fi television. I've caught a few episodes of BSG (see previous post) and am dying to see more. On the whole, I don't watch it. I always get asked for my opinion on sci-fi tv since I've got the background with science fiction publishing. I have BSG, Dr. Who, Firefly, and Heroes (I consider superheroes science fiction) on my 'must-see' list, but it's tough to catch up. I suppose now I'll have to, right?

JK (John Klima)

Battlestar Galactica Prequel Comics Forthcoming

Please pardon a moment of squee, for I cannot help myself. ICv2 reports that Dynamite Entertainment will publish a four-issue graphic novel miniseries called Cylon Wars, which "will examine how the sentient robots acquired weapons and turned against their human masters, how the humans fought them to a draw, and what happened during the 40-year truce that followed the first Cylon war."

If you don't watch Battlestar Galactica, you really should. Yes, really. Yes, even if you don't consider yourself a scifi person. Yes, even if, like me, you think "frak" is the silliest faux-expletive ever.* If, like me, you are languishing in a world without cable (which is a post unto itself) and cannot watch the third season currently being aired on the SciFi Network, you can still watch the miniseries, which introduced the re-imagined BSG, and seasons one and two on DVD. I defy anyone interested in artificial intelligence, evolution, ethics, slavery, rebellion, human behavior during wartime, and the meaning of what it is to be human in the first place to read EW's All About Battlestar Galactica and not seek this show out. For those more visually oriented and unafraid of seeing spoilers galore, you can also download BSG: The Story So Far for free from the iTunes store.

*Full disclosure: I ribbed my husband six ways to Sunday over his devoted BSG viewing for nearly two years before I was converted. I admit, initially I found the whole enterprise (no scifi pun intended) to be silly and self-important, and the word "frak" (the show's substitute for a saltier expletive) played a big part of that. I got over it, and I'm really glad I did. We are currently watching the second half of Season Two (aka Season 2.5) on DVD, courtesy of a very generous DVD-sharing colleague.


Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

Hey, according to Blogger, my CBGB post was #301 for this here blog. Whoot! To celebrate, I'm offering 5 vouchers for 50% off a year-long subscription to Library Journal. I was given them to give away as part of being selected as a Mover & Shaker this year, and I have to give them away by the end of 2006. First 5 takers -- post to the comments, please -- are the lucky ducks! The catch (there's always a catch) is that you have to be a first-time subscriber to benefit from the discount. Let the coupon-claiming begin!


CBGB: The End of an Era

After including a CNN piece on the close of punk landmark club CBGB in my round-up yesterday, I decided this end of an era in live music required an individual round-up post of its own.

  • Today's elegiac coverage of the last show at CBGB -- a lovely piece by the always-excellent Jon Pereles (you can never tell if he doesn't like the music he's writing about, but when he does like it, the affection shines through). Check the sidebars for a slideshow of photos from last night's show and some assorted vintage shots of The Ramones and Tom Verlaine (ex of Television).
  • Interview with Legs McNeil, co-author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. I recommended this book yesterday, and I want to put a finer point on it today -- this is the essential book to read and to recommend to those seeking to understand where punk (the NYC version of it, at least) came from, why it was important, and why it's still resonant today. There's a reason bands like Green Day, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! At the Disco speak so clearly to their passionate audiences -- they understand and deliver the urgent, loud, searing message of punk. Purists can debate the meaning of punk, who's really punk, and who's not ad nauseam, but that's not what matters. Fans know what matters.
  • NY Post coverage, including their own oral history of CBGB. Nice.
  • Later, that same day...But wait! There's more! EW's PopWatch has two posts about the club's close, here and here. The latter post is from September, 2005, when news of CBGB's close first broke.
  • And, finally, you can view some footage of performances at CBGB at YouTube.


Pop Culture Round-Up

Taking a page from Steven Cohen's book, I think I'm going to use this style of posting more often. This is a period of change in my life -- I came back to work full-time two weeks ago, and am still finding my way towards a sustainable balance between home & work, and Liz & I are working on a big, er, project together -- and while I certainly don't want to ignore Pop, I can't post as often as I'd like, either. So, I'm embracing the round-ups. Please join me.

Nielsen is starting to factor into its ratings formula the effect of time-shifted watching of shows recorded to TiVo and other Digital Video Recording (DVR) devices. Unsurprisingly, this yields quite the boost in ratings for many shows, especially non-watercooler shows like CSI, House, and The Office.

CNN (among other outlets) reports the closure of CBGB, ground zero for live performances on the New York punk scene of the 1970s and early 1980s. Of course, CNN wrongly (and very annoyingly) refers to the landmark club as CBGB's. Gah. Apparently, owner Hilly Kristal is off to reopen the club in Vegas, taking the original building with him. Which, in strange way, is pretty punk rock. If you are at all interested in the history of punk, hie thee to the local library to check out Please Kill Me and We Got The Neutron Bomb, excellent oral histories of the New York and LA punk scenes, respectively. If nothing else, you'll learn that the East Coast/West Coast rivalry didn't start with Biggie & Tupac.

Jill Stover offers some excellent, time-saving marketing tips at Library Marketing: Thinking Outside The Book. My favorite:

Set realistic expectations: We don't want to promise too much or too little to
our patrons when it comes to how much time something will take.

Finally, newlywed Librarian in Black Sarah Houghton-Jan (congratulations, Sarah!) rounds up the best in resources about online safety for youth. This is a must-use resource for those of us planning workshops demystifying MySpace for our communities.

Excellent New Shows: A Series

First up, Heroes. I love this show so, so much. It's kind of a variation on the X-Men theme: a disparate group of people begin to realize they have powers no-one else has. Eventually, they come together to use those powers for good (or possibly evil -- I guess it'll depend on how many seasons the show survives. Inevitably, a good guy goes bad, at least for a while.), and possibly to save humanity and get the girl or guy of their choice.

There's so much to enjoy about the show -- the characters as they discover and then begin to test the limits of their powers; the deliciously, creepily evil bad guy (who is -- ulp! -- the adoptive Dad of one of the Heroes); and the many ways all of their lives intersect & intertwine. This is a cult show, to be sure, and NBC is marketing it just the right way to its key demographic of fans & fans-to-be.

NBC is allowing viewers to watch episodes online if they miss them during the week; they're rebroadcasting the episodes on Friday nights on the Sci-Fi Channel (right before returning cult favorites Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica, and oh, my goodness could I talk about the genius of Battlestar for hours, but that's another post); the show's breakout character, Hiro, has a blog; NBC is offering an online version of the comic alluded to in the show; and there's even an unofficial (but pretty darn spiffy) fan site, 9th Wonders (named for the comic). Rich, rich content, served up in a most tantalizing style. Well played, NBC. Now, just don't cancel the show. Nothing irritates fanboys & fangirls more than the untimely demise of a show that is going somewhere.


Interview: Adrienne Furness and the Discerning Meat Cleaver

I forget exactly how I stumbled onto the Discerning Meat Cleaver; at first I thought it was a children's lit blog, discussing books and the like. But then I read a few posts, and quickly realized that this was something so much more. It's a library using a blog to communicate with each other; to keep each other up to date on everything from books they like to how sign ups for story times are going to where the craft materials are.

I was mighty curious to learn more about the Discerning Meat Cleaver, so contacted the person who runs the blog, Adrienne Furness; she is Children’s and Family Services Librarian at the Webster Public Library, part of the Monroe County Library System. Adrienne agreed to an interview with Pop.

Liz B.: First, of course, I'd love some details about the blog. What was the original purpose of the blog? (I'm asking because it looks like you guys are communicating internally, but I'm not sure if you're at different branches, different shifts, or what.)

Adrienne: I'm really glad to talk about this, too, because it hasn't been without controversy, even in our own library.

Here is our story. :)

Webster Public Library is a suburban library serving a population of about 40,000 people. The Children's Department is currently comprised of two full-time librarians, one half-time librarian who works exclusively on a homeschooling grant, two half-time library assistants, and a half-time clerk. Depending on the time of year, we're open between 55 and 62 hours per week, and our schedules are all over the place -- swinging around to accommodate programs, evenings, weekends, etc…. Department meetings are nearly impossible to schedule, and we were having a lot of difficulty communicating. We were trying emails and notes, but often people were feeling out of the loop. While *I* see pretty much everyone on the children's staff every week, many other staff members can go months without even seeing each other. Being an avid blogger myself, I thought one day, "Hey, maybe a blog could solve this problem."

I brought the idea up, and a couple members of the department weren't too thrilled about it. But, a few months later (in light of a fantastic display of miscommunication), they reconsidered and we started the blog. All six official department employees are members of the blog, as are several other WPL staffers. And we've done our best to let everyone on staff know it's there and that they are welcome to become members -- so you will see occasional posts and several comments from staff from other departments. The idea is that we use the blog to communicate about day-to-day things, to help us all keep informed about what we're all up to and what needs doing.

Well, that's a pretty long answer to a simple question, but it gives us a place to start!

Liz B.: You mention that you were already a blogger when you brought this idea up. Did you do any type of training with your staff? Has this inspired any of your staff -- or any one else in the library -- to blog?

Adrienne: No one in the Children's Department was blogging when I set up the blog, so I helped some of the staff out with setting up IDs. It was very informal: one-on-one with two of us standing at the computer in my office or at the children's reference desk. After getting their accounts set up, they really just figured it out on their own. I was surprised at how easily and quickly they took to it, but, as far as I know, none of them have started blogs of their own. The people outside the Children's Department who are contributing to the blog were all already blogging, so they didn't need any training or anything. Most of the outside staff who *aren't* bloggers aren't, to my knowledge, reading our department's blog.

I feel like I just wrote variations of "blog" about 50 times in a row. ;) No way to get around it, I guess....

I should probably add that I've been itching to do some training on blogging and to try to get more staff involved in our blog and possibly blogging themselves, but I think there are quite a few people who really don't want to do it -- and I hate to be the person ramming something down someone's throat.

Liz B.: I know what you mean about blogging and training -- I'm very enthusiastic about the possibilities that blogging presents, which is one of the reasons that I love your blog. It's taking new technology to do something we've always done -- and making it better; communication within a department. But I also firmly believe that it can only work if people want to do it; forcing it won't work.

Does your library have any type of official blogging policy?

Adrienne: We don't have an official blogging policy right now, although I keep thinking it's only a matter of time. It's one of those things that worries me because I blog so much, even in other places. For instance, our local newspaper has town bloggers. Yesterday,* the Webster blogger wrote about some of our preschool programs, so I popped on and commented, addressing a complaint and providing a link directly into our program schedule. You can see it here

Mostly, I think this is a great use of technology, but from there, you can click to my Blogger profile. From my profile, you can find my email, find me on IM, and get to a couple of the other blogs I run. My main blog, watat.com, reveals a lot about who I am, my opinions, and etc.... It's also a way to find a lot of the other things I write. When you're publishing in the print world, people aren't necessarily going to connect something they read in a magazine to the girl sitting behind the reference desk. In the electronic world, it's a lot easier to see these connections. So, on some level, I'm a representative of the library 24/7, whether I want to be or not. I think a lot about what I write most of the time, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but one can also see where it would be easy to get into trouble.

Another example is a book-banning issue we've had in Webster with the school's summer reading list. A lot's been written about it on As If and there has also been a debate raging on the newspaper blog. I posted links to the school district lists to As If, but, other than that, I've been afraid to enter or engage the debate online. (Aside from any other considerations, things have gotten ugly on the Webster blog.)

I think you may have also noted that my Blogger profile doesn't connect directly to Discerning Meat Cleaver, a decision I made after a coworker expressed concern that the blog wasn't representing us well. We also tried to make sure that if you Google "Webster Public Library," this isn't going to be the first thing that comes up. If enterprising people find it, I'm okay with that, but I don't want this to be the first thing casual searchers find when they're looking for the library.

On some level, I think this has less to do with technology, per se, and how you want to run your library. Do you want the librarians to be people who retire into the background or do you want them to be active, expressive people that the community gets to know? The quiet behind-the-scenes librarian is more traditional and certainly safer, but it seems to me that perhaps part of the way libraries are going to succeed in the 21st century is by having librarians who are out there and engaged in our communities -- people who are recognized for energy, service, and expertise. Blogging is a natural way for us to be out there making connections even while we're in the library attending to other business in our offices and at the Reference Desk.

So, anyway, my supervisor has been completely supportive of my blogging (and writing endeavors in general), and, while I recognize the potential pitfalls of blogging, I also worry that creating a policy could invite controls and limits that could take away all the potential benefits.

Obviously, I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, particularly for a librarian who's not particularly techie. (You had to see me at the Reference Desk this morning singing my "I Hate Computers" song.)

Liz B.: I think what may be happening is that the definition of "techie" is changing. I don't consider myself a techie person; but because I blog, a lot of people at work think of me as the techie person. I do know about and advocate such social software tools as Flickr & blogging & RSS and the like, but to me the techie person is the one who knows how to fix a computer.

OK, final question. This blog is Pop Goes the Library, all about pop culture and the library -- what is your pop culture area of expertise?

Adrienne: I know just what you're saying about being a techie. I tend to know how to utilize things, but I know a lot less about how they actually work in a nuts-and-bolts sort of way.

It's funny because I'm the Children's Librarian, but I am a total movie freak. I generally go out to see movies once or twice a week, and, of course, I watch DVDs at home (yay, Netflix!). I'll watch pretty much anything, but I have a particular fondness for horror, sci fi, documentaries, and independents -- the weirder the better. I also love animation, from Looney Tunes right up through things being put out by Don Hertzfeldt and Jennifer Shiman today. My idea of "keeping up with the news" generally has a lot more to do with things like People Magazine, Go Fug Yourself, and the comics than world events. I've also become a big fan of TV on DVD: Buffy, Veronica Mars, The Office, Dead Like Me, Curb Your Enthusiasm. There's some excellent stuff out there.

Liz B.: Thank you very much for the interesting discussion, and for being willing to share your internal communications with the world! It's a great model. I especially like the connection between blogging and outreach; because of staffing, we cannot always physically leave a location, but thanks to blogging, we can still participate in our communities.

*This interview was conducted over a series of emails between Liz B. and Adrienne, so it was "yesterday" when the conversation was going on, not "yesterday" October 12.

Additional link: The Monroe County Library System web site features monthly columns; this month, Adrienne shares My Favorite Halloween Books.


Congrats to Carlie!

Carlie Webber won the opportunity to record a literacy message at the end of an audiobook, courtesy of Listening Library. Full details are in ALA's Press Release. The contest was part of a YALSA Preconference at ALA in New Orleans. "We chose Carlie because of her bright, clear, and cheery presentation of the material."


Fried Chicken or Chicken with Vegetables? Or, What I Learned From Flavor Flav

Last weekend, Melissa and Carlie W. kidnapped me and forced me to watch the entire season of Flavor of Love in one day. (OK, I'm exaggerating on the kidnapped and forced part.)

By the end, I had discovered a valuable lesson for librarians. (No, not about how to be a reality TV contestant who wins the attention of Flavor Flav.)

Flav's favorite food is fried chicken; so one of the challenges for the ladies is to make fried chicken. They get the recipe and a kitchen with all the ingredients.

Some jumped right in and made the fried chicken. One made the chicken but tried to dress it up with orange slices. And another... she made chicken with vegetables. As Hottie* addressed the camera, she explained** that she was a great cook and had been raised a vegetarian, and that she would make chicken and vegetables for Flav. It was healthier. And she wouldn't fry the chicken, she would microwave it because it was healthier and more sanitary. So she did. And because her dish was better than fried chicken, it would win. Flav's reaction was "the hell?", because he didn't want chicken and vegetables; he wanted fried chicken.***

The moral of the story for librarians:

Do you give patrons what they want, or do you give them what you want to give them?

Our patrons not always as specific as Flav was, with his request and his recipe. But still, Hottie truly believed that she knew what was best, because she didn't listen. She was too caught up in the story in her head about doing what was best for Flav.

Do you not offer anime and manga, even when the teens want it and ask for it, because you don't like it and are not willing to argue for it's inclusion in the collection? Or, on the flip side, do you love anime and manga and plan some great programs, but the teens in your library are just not that into it?

Do you dislike fantasy so never include it in your booktalks to schools, even tho the fantasy books at your library don't stay on the shelf? Do you say your teens don't like fantasy, but if you looked at your circ statistics, would you discover it's the most popular genre at your library?

Is your library still debating whether or not to carry DVDs, even after patron after patron asks for it?

Is your priority still paperback copies of teen books, when the teens come in asking for the brand new hardcovers they see in the bookstore?

Did you hear about a totally cool program another library did -- say, doing a library version of Project Runway -- so jump into doing that program at your library? Did you find out if your patrons even watch Project Runway?

When planning a program, doing outreach, buying materials, ask yourself -- are you thinking of what the patron wants? Or are you thinking about what you want to provide?

You Know What Time It Is!

*Flav made up his own names for the contestants, apparently because of his memory problems. Tho why it's easier to remember New York and Pumkin instead of Tiffany and Brooke, I have no idea.

**Those who watched the show know that Hottie was always living in a world of her own and honestly believed that her world was the real world.

***In trying to be entirely honest, I should add that even someone who likes chicken with vegetables would have said "the hell" because all Hottie did was shove uncut vegetables into a whole raw chicken, sprinkle it with marshmallows, and nuke in the microwave for less than a minute, serving raw chicken and veggies to Flav.