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.


Oscar Coverage 2007: NY Times' Carpetbagger Blog

Good gravy, is it Awards Season already? Where did the year go?

While I'm busy recovering from Golden Globes/Oscar/Independent Spirit/Grammy/Latin Grammy/Soul Train/BET Awards whiplash, please amuse & educate yourselves by checking out Carpetbagger, which describes itself as "a seasonal blog that covers all things Oscar -- the news, the nonsense, and the players that drive the campaign."

In addition to the awards show programming & display ideas we've suggested in the past, would a library consider blogging the awards shows the way Carpetbagger does -- as a separate, seasonal (project-specific, if you will) blog? Several libraries have separate gaming blogs for teens -- why not awards-show blogs for the fashion and celeb-culture conscious?


Totally Wired = Totally Necessary

Anastasia Goodstein of YPulse fame strikes again with Totally Wired, a bloggy complement to her forthcoming book of the same name (which is at the top of my 2007 shopping list). The subtitle of both blog & book is "What Teens and Tweens are Really Up To Online", and boy, does it deliver the goods:

What I like so much about Anastasia's blogs is that she puts everything she writes about into a clear, broader context (essential for reaching her adult audience), she knows her audience isn't just marketers (note plenty of librarian-friendly content), and although she is generally quite sanguine about teens & tweens, she isn't afraid to call them out on their excesses when she sees them.

Attention, teachers, parents, librarians, guidance counsellors, and group home staff: Totally Wired is a must read in every way.

Interview With John Green

John Green is the author of last year's Printz winner, Looking For Alaska, which is about Miles "Pudge" Halter's year at boarding school, the fascinating and sexy Alaska, and how our choices impact others in big and little ways; and this year's An Abundance of Katherines, about a former child prodigy who has always dated girls named Katherine and is looking for meaning in his post high school life.

John is also part of that new breed of YA authors: cool, funny, and cute. And I'm not just saying that because he has been incredibly patient despite the delays in our interview and it getting posted here. And, I almost met him in person at ALA, except he was sick (yet still gave a great speech at the Printz Awards) and I didn't want to be a total fangirl groupie stalker.

Why is John Green so cool? Well, read this interview and find out!

Liz B: I always love to hear the background of how a story got written. Are you a plunger (just sitting down and plunging ahead with the writing) or a plotter (with a color coded outline?)

John: I am a plunger, and then later I am a plotter. I think a lot about a book before I actually start writing it, but I don't think about plot so much. I think mostly about the people in the book, and what they should be like, and how they should relate to each other, and for me the plot arises out of that. And then I write a first draft without any kind of outline, but because I revise so much (I spent more than a year revising both "Katherines" and "Alaska"), that first draft becomes a kind of outline for me. Generally, little or nothing survives from the first draft, but it does serve as a skeleton. A nd in revisions, I certainly focus a lot more on plotting a story than I do in the first draft, when I'm mostly thinking about people and their interactions.

Liz B: Colin in An Abundance of Katherines is a former child prodigy who doesn't have much smarts about social situations, especially when he was younger. While I was reading, it sounded almost as if Colin has Aspergers -- do I win the prize for overreading?

John: No, you don't win the prize for overreading. I think it is actually a very good observation. These days when people talk about autism they talk about "the autistic spectrum." There are all kinds of people who are now considered to have mild forms of Asperger's than 10 years ago just would have been considered awkward. (I have close friends who might have been said to be very mildly autistic, for instance.) I wanted Colin to be the kind of person who doesn't excel at social interactions but who does care deeply about people. That may put him on "the autistic spectrum," but the overriding point of the book is that he, like a lot of very smart people who have social difficulties, is actually pretty normal.

Liz B: An Abundance of Katherines was just published this fall and you've been busy promoting it (both online and in the real world.) Have you started on a new book? Can you tell us anything about it?

John: I have been pretty busy with traveling and stuff, but I started my new book several months before "Katherines" came out, so I have at least gotten a start. I find it really difficult to talk about books I haven't finished yet, because I always sound like an idiot. When I used to tell people about "Alaska" before it was done, I would say, "It's about a girl, and a boy, and a boarding school." And people would say, "Oh, that's great," and then turn on their heels and find someone else to talk to. So I guess the new book (which is untitled; feel free to email me title suggestions) is about a boy, and a girl, and then after a crazy all-night adventure, the girl disappears.

Liz B: I'll be cross posting this at Pop Goes the Library, which is about pop culture and libraries. What is your pop culture area of expertise?

John: Are conjoined twins part of pop culture? If so, definitely conjoined twins. Also: I know a lot about CSI: Miami, because one time my wife and I watched about 20 CSI: Miami episodes back-to-back. (In our defense, we both had the flu.)

Liz B: Thank you, John! And here at Pop, you never have to defend your viewing choices. In honor of you:

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like A DVD Set?

Now that you all know what DVDs I want in my stocking, what about the library?

When adding TV series to your library, here are some things to consider:
  1. Cataloging! TV series? Television program? What terms will help your patrons find these DVDs?
  2. Split up the series. While Melissa and I adore those TV marathons, we also know that you cannot do that all the time. Whether its one or more seasons in a pack, split them up.
  3. Name the series correctly! The set may have been sold as Firefly: The Complete Series, but your customers will be looking up Firefly. And not finding it. This is why records have alternate title.
  4. When you split the discs up, catalog and label them, be consistent! How easy will it be for the customer to find the fourth disc in the third season? Are you using the same series name and method for labeling for each disc? Is it easy to find in the record?
  5. Is the entire series connected by a series note?
  6. Respect all tastes, for you may not know everything. Just as I was going "why Combat, who would watch that" it was explained to me (kindly) that Combat invented the type of episodic TV I adore and that it has an impressive list of writers and directors.
  7. How have you advertised to let people know you have DVDs?

I'm happy to say that my library has TV series; and the customers love it, but all for different reasons, and those reasons vary widely, from nostalgia viewing to people who don't get cable who want to know what the fuss is all about for shows like Deadwood.; from people like Melissa and I who want to watch multiple episodes to those who want to watch TV without commercials.


The Ultimate DVD Sets

Thanks to the November 20th issue of TV Guide magazine, I know my dream vacation:

Box sets of TV shows plus plenty of popcorn equals TV marathons. Seriously, there is nothing so awesome as indulging in non stop viewing.

Anyway, the DVD Gift Guide in that issue listed 20 picks for presents. From that list, here is my dream list:

MASH, The Martinis and Medicine Collection. 199.98. Includes the Altman film. I loved this show growing up and can remember watching the end of the series.

Alias: The Complete Collection. 199.99. I never watched this show (I know!) but I have friends who adore it, so what better way to fall in love than non stop viewing?

Homicide, Life on the Street: The Complete Series Megaset. 299.95. Includes some of the cross overs and the final movie. My love for this series is so great, that this is the one most likely to be a Christmas present to me.

Now if only thirtysomething was available.... and why isn't Ally McBeal in the US?

Edited to add: Hey, the first season of Life Goes On is available!


Find of the Day: BuzzFeed

Via Lifehacker, of course. BuzzFeed wants to "help you find movies, music, fashion, ideas, and technology that are on the rise and worth your time. Our approach combines buzz detection with editorial commentary." What a fantastic tool for trend-watching librarians! At the very least, there should be cocktail party conversation fodder to last straight through the holiday season. I just subscribed to their feed. Woot!

Robert Altman, RIP Roundup

The legendary filmmaker passed away yesterday. Herewith, some Altman-ania from around the tubes of the net:

  • PopWatch's elegy
  • NY Times obituary
  • Meryl Streep & Lily Tomlin's tribute to Altman at the 2006 Oscars, via YouTube (of course) -- isn't it amazing how it looks so natural & spontaneous? It took quite a bit of rehearsing to make their performances look like that.
  • Clips from 1990 BBC interviews
  • Fresh Air interview, again from 1990

I'm not really a fan of his early stuff (I found Nashville almost unwatchable, actually, though I stuck with it till the end), which I know is sort of sacreligious. I do love Gosford Park and The Player, though. Maybe an Altman retrospective is in order over this holiday weekend.

Three Things About Tom & Katie & Libraries

Unless you are rigorous in your avoidance of celebrity gossip, you could hardly remain unaware of the Cruise/Holmes nuptials of last weekend. What does this have to do with libraries? Well, plenty.

  1. First, there's the opportunity to address the now-commonplace issue of interfaith marriage. This is a topic well covered by Jewish authors, but it's not just of concern to my fellow MOTs. It was reportedly a big issue with Katie Holmes' parents, who are Roman Catholic, as she was marrying the world's most famous Scientologist. Interfaith marriages of all kinds are increasingly common, and now is a good time to display all of your "Introduction To World Faiths" books & videos.
  2. Big, splashy celebrity weddings are hardly a new thing. I am of the opinion that most people just like weddings, plain & simple, and the opportunity to attend vicariously a very schmancy wedding without the obligation to purchase a correspondingly schmancy gift is close to irresistible. Why not create an event around reminiscences of weddings? These could be landmark weddings, like those of Princess Grace and Charles & Diana, and they should include weddings of regular people like you, your staff, and your patrons. This has the potential to be a wonderful intergenerational program, as well -- get your Greatest Generation WWII brides to talk about their plans alongside today's brides. Ask everyone to pull their gowns out of storage & display them, too!
  3. Then, of course, there's the fashion aspect, which intersects tightly with the celebrity gossip aspect, all mixed up with the fact that neither of these things are what you'd call new. My first interest in the TomKat nuptials (okay, my second interest -- first, I'd like to read the prenup, which I'm sure will hit The Smoking Gun soon.) is what Katie wore. Most of my fellow female celeb gossip addicts take the same view: the wedding wardrobe sends a message about...well, about everything: the couple's wealth, their taste, their view of what weddings and marriage are. Somehow, we all feel we have a stake in this big wedding, and a right to comment on it (see: this here blog post). If your library has a collection of celebrity gossip magazines of the day, and if you can convince your patrons to rummage through their attics for their vintage ones, well, you've got another fun and informative display on your hands.
Other ideas for connecting with your patrons using the year's biggest celebrity wedding? Leave 'em in the comments!


Teens And Kids

A bit of self-promotion here.

I have an article in Reflections, the Newsletter of the Children's Services Section for NJLA. Elsworth Rockefeller and I wrote "Teens and Kids: Perfect Together! Joint Teen/Kid Summer Programming". It's in the current (November 2006) edition. It's available here. (This is a PDF of the current issue; and is only available online until the next (spring) edition is printed.)

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.


Life Hacks: My Enduring Obsession

So, as many of you alert readers already know, I am the kind of person who often has, shall we say, quite a few irons in the fire. As of my most recent count, I am involved in three blogs, one YALSA committee, two NJLA sections, will be presenting at a handful of conferences in 2007, and am co-writing a book with Liz B. And oh yes, I'm a parent to the most charming child who ever lived. I love my work, I love my family, and I want my family to keep on loving me, which means I need to watch how demonstrative I am with my work love.

Enter life hacks. Life hacks, as blogged about at Lifehacker.com, Lifeclever.com, Lifehack.org, and DavidSeah.com (among others -- these are just my favorites), are about cutting through the mental, physical, and emotional garbage (for lack of a better word) that holds us back from Getting Things Done (lots of people are fans of GTD, so I'm linking to it here, but it's not really for me) in our work and personal lives. Got an inkstain you're terrified to tackle? Lifehacker can help. Need to revamp your resume but don't know where to begin? Lifeclever to the rescue. Recently appointed to a management position? Lifehack.org has your back.

Herewith, a round-up of some truly wonderful sites and tools I use daily to keep my life on the path towards sanity:

  • Lifehacker.com -- the Grandaddy of them all, Lifehacker's cadre of editors trawl the web for the best in tech, diy, career, food, and more. Updated seemingly a billion times daily, this is the desert island life hacking blog. If you had internet access on a desert island, I mean.
  • Lifeclever.com -- This one is new to me. I discovered it when Lifehacker blogged their excellent piece on resume refining.
  • Lifehack.org -- This is a whole community, with articles, discussion forums, and a blog. Their focus is as much on emotional well-being as on straight productivity, which is smart. After all, emotional well-being is both an end-product and goal of true productivity (or, at least, it should be). I found one of my favorite tools, the Task Flow Worksheet, here.
  • David Seah -- especially his Printable CEO (TM) Series and his Productivity feed
  • 43 Folders -- like I said, I'm not so into Getting Things Done: The Branded Philosophy, but I do like this blog, and when I remember to read it, I'm always glad I did. Tips galore, and there's always food for thought.

Is anyone out there offering time management/lifehacking programs to patrons at their libraries? This might be a real draw, especially if you marketed it as a skillshare. There might even be enough material for a 2- or 3-event series here: a skillshare one week, a presentation by lifehacking library staff the next, and maybe a nascent support group for your new hackers.

Please share program ideas & favorite lifehacky links in the comments, and have a wonderful weekend, all!

MTV's Gamers' Week

The old line about not being able to see music videos on MTV anymore still gets a knowing smile (if not a hearty chuckle) because it's mostly true: MTV is now Youth Culture Central, and youth culture encompasses not just videos, but fashion, total self-makeovers, over-the-top party planning, trainwrecky male bonding behavior, and, of course, gaming. So it makes sense that MTV would be celebrating Gamers' Week. They're counting down the greatest games of all time (a great primer for those of us who are not so game-literate -- I count myself in this group), previewing, and reviewing new releases. The minisite requires Adobe Flash.

Updated to add a link to Jenny's post encouraging us all to take a break and play a game. Amen!


Tech & Teens Round-Up

  • MySpace = So Last Year, according to the Washington Post. First it was Xanga, then MySpace, now Facebook. By this time next year (or sooner, more likely) , it'll be something else. Question: do teen-serving librarians migrate along with their users to the next hot online location? Answer: maybe. It depends on what your specific users are doing. If your teens are still hot for MySpace, stick with it. If they're moving on to Facebook or whatever thing is next, move with them. As Stephen Abram always says, you've got to go where your users are.
  • Entrepreneurs see a Web Guided by Common Sense -- a NY Times piece on Web 3.0 (link doctored for permanent readability). We knew this was coming, but didn't know when. Get ready, people! If you don't think this will have a serious impact on the field of librarianship, think again:
    "[I]n the future, more powerful systems could act as personal advisers in areas as diverse as financial planning, with an intelligent system mapping out a retirement plan for a couple, for instance, or educational consulting, with the Web helping a high school student identify the right college."
  • The Overconnecteds -- another NY Times piece from a few weeks back. This one is about the effects, positive and negative of our Totally Wired (TM Anastasia Goodstein) youth. Their brains really are wired differently from ours.
  • The Not-so-Sunny Side -- LA Times article on Laguna Beach, MTV's wildly popular & increasingly catty real-life soap opera, which bills itself as "The Real O.C." (in response to Fox's dying-a-slow-and-painful-death teen soap, The O.C.)
  • Did I mention Anastasia Goodstein? She's going to dominate this last bullet point, with her summary of What Teens Want West (hint: authenticity is a big theme -- Library 2.0, anyone?), Going Where Teens Are or Going It Alone (see above re: MySpace vs. Facebook vs. whatever's next), and Are Teen Magazines Really Just Tween Magazines?

Interview with Addie Swartz, Creator of Beacon Street Girls Series

Two weeks ago, I attended the New Jersey Association of School Librarians' (NJASL) Annual Conference in Long Branch, NJ. I presented twice (see handouts, posted below) and attended a variety of excellent workshops. (Side note: I've been attending this conference for 4 years now, and this was the first year I noticed a technology stream in the programming -- 2.0 stuff is really making inroads with this often isolated group!) One of my favorite sessions, Is 12 The New 18?, was presented by Addie Swartz, the creator and publisher of the Beacon Street Girls series. The BSG are aimed at an audience that is, as Addie puts it, between toys & boys -- tweenaged girls who might be the younger siblings of fans of Gossip Girl, The Clique, The A-List, The It Girl, and so on, but who are not developmentally ready to handle the girl-on-girl nastiness and sexually explicit content of those wildly popular series.

I'll admit I was skeptical about the appeal of the BSG at first, and thought that the whole idea of setting out to create an antidote to Gossip Girl was foolish, but Swartz and her creations won me over. Swartz's own 15 year-old daughter is a fan of Gossip Girl & The Clique, and as she told me after her presentation, she couldn't see keeping the books out of her daughter's hands, but she wanted to offer a healthy alternative to those books for younger readers. Based on the series' success, I'd say that that's quite a healthy niche market. The idea is to catch the readers when they're about 9 or 10, and hold onto them until they're 12 or 13. Swartz is realistic about how aspirational tween girls are -- they all want to look and act older than they are (so true -- even I subscribed to Seventeen when I was 12, but by the time I was 17, I'd long since moved on) -- and about the virtual impossibility of appealing to a girl who, at age 11, is already a fan of The Clique.

Addie Swartz was kind enough to submit to an e-mail interview with me. Our exchange, and links to other materials with tween girl appeal follow.

Sophie: How did the Beacon Street Girls series come to be? What was the spark of inspiration that gave you the idea, and how much research did you do before launching the series?

Addie: The Beacon Street Girls were born, in, of all places, the mall. While shopping with my eldest daughter and her friends one Friday night, we were confronted with a huge photo of an almost naked woman just inside the door of Abercrombie’s. The girls looked embarrassed. One of my daughter’s friends said to her, “Why do they have to do that?” Right then, I recognized the “Wake Up Call”. How could girls not feel inadequate and insecure looking at such a public display of sexuality -- just when their own bodies were changing so fast?

I started thinking about what kind of company I could start that could offer girls an antidote. What kind of a company would give girls strategies for navigating through adolescence . . . while helping keep their self-esteem intact -- role models that were more realistic and attainable, that supported who girls really are.

I did a lot of research. I spoke with school librarians, teachers, parents, and of course, lots of girls. By 2002, I had my concept: a character-based brand with a book series as the foundation – a kind of 21st century Nancy Drew. And, in order to reach girls everywhere, the company would also offer gifts and an interactive website with all the bells and whistles to encourage girls to read and explore the positive world I was creating.

Sophie: Each title in the series addresses issues that tween girls may face in school or at home -- the changing terrain of friendships, obesity, alcohol use, bullying -- how do you make sure that these issues are dealt with authentically and not in a preachy way?

Addie: We work with a panel of world-renowned experts to create the story lines for each book, based on current issues and strategies for building self esteem. In addition, a lot of our ideas come right from the girls on our Tween Advisory Board and Club BSG, our free online club for girls under 17. They write to us and to the characters; they respond to surveys and our requests for ideas – they share the issues they struggle with every day, and we embed them into the stories. And while we have a higher goal and mission for the company (e.g. providing girls with positive role models and impacting their behaviors in a positive manner) we remember that reading should be also fun and entertaining.

In addition, our website offers educators, librarians and after school program leaders a wealth of free downloadable educator activities. The activities are designed for school teachers, grades 4 through 7; librarians, guidance counselors, scouting and after-school program leaders to complement and support the Beacon Street Girls book series. The guides are designed as print-ready pages and include discussions, group activities, and art & writing projects. Designed by teachers, the activities fit right into various curricula, and are designed to be both fun and meaningful for girls.

Sophie: What role do the girls who participate in the BSG Club play in the publication of new titles in the series?

Addie: Every day we get emails and letters from BSG fans. They want to talk to the characters, ask them questions, ask for advice. Their thoughts and input are very important to us. Let me give you an example of how this works. Our latest book, Charlotte in Paris, is a direct result of input from the Club BSG members. Since the first book in the series was published, girls have told us that they want to see Charlotte return to Paris, where she lived before she moved back to Brookline. They wanted her to reunite with her best friend Sophie and find her lost cat, Orangina. So we created an “adventure series” profiling each one of the 5 Beacon Street Girls so that girls could get further connected to the characters and the world. (I won’t spoil the ending and tell you how the book ends.)

Sophie: How do you find the experts you've worked with in conjunction with researching & writing the books?

Addie: We do a lot of research to find our experts, reviewing publications and books on a variety of child-related topics. Some of them come to us through other experts we’ve worked with, or, we see a book they wrote or an interview they did. Now that we have 400,000 books in print, in many cases they approach us!

Sophie: What kind of popular culture references (if any) do you include in the books? Current references tend to make books seem dated quickly -- do you avoid them for that reason?

Addie: We include major landmarks (such as Fenway Park, Times Square, etc.) that aren’t likely to change. We rename some institutions (like the school that the girls attend) and some things we make up. We do use email and IM because kids today are accustomed to their use in their own lives. One of the girls has a cell phone.

Sophie: To what extent has popular culture -- both of tween girls and of their parents -- influenced the series?

Addie: The pace of life has accelerated. On the Internet, girls are chatting with friends or “friending” strangers via YouTube and MySpace. Reading has taken a back seat to electronic media. Sex & violence have gone mainstream, with girls being bombarded with provocative messages on billboards, in fashion magazines, in pop music, on the internet. 12 is the new 18 as evidenced by a number of articles, including "Too Sexy, Too Soon", 10/06 Family Circle.

Overall, there seems to be a disappearance of childhood. It’s more difficult than ever for girls to successfully navigate the social scene. Choices are difficult for preteens who are “between toys and boys.” The children’s section in bookstores and libraries is seen as too babyish for kids anxious to grow up, kids who may have been exposed to more mature material in other media. The Independent Reader section is still small but growing, and the YA section, striving to differentiate itself from kids’ material, is often doing so using shock value. (While not commonly found in the school library, the Clique, the A List & Gossip Girl books are often the choice of 10 and 11 year olds who are looking to emulate teens.) Earlier this year, the New York Times carried the story onto its pages – “Young Adult Fiction: Wild Things.”

What girls are lacking are messages that put more emphasis on being smart, taking risks (good risks), feeling good about who you are, the importance of having friends, a world that is cross cultural, giving back to the community… I want to encourage girls to get involved. To find something they’re passionate about. Not to give up. I want them to know that they each have something significant to contribute… That each of us has our closet filled with issues, imperfections, and deficiencies. With hope, confidence and perseverance, anything can be achieved.

I want messages that support and inspire our women of the future, and so the BSG books are designed to do just that.

Sophie: Once the Beacon Street Girls series is complete with Book 10, where do you see B*tween Productions going next? Another series for girls -- perhaps a spinoff of BSG? A series for boys?

Addie: Oh, we’ve just begun building a more positive world for girls via the Beacon Street Girls. While there are currently 10 books – 9 “Classics” and the 1st book of our BSG Adventure series, Charlotte in Paris – we have 6 new books scheduled for next year, making the series 16 strong, with many more to come. We find that once a 4th or 5th grader discovers our books, they’re hooked. Adults can sign up for our e-newsletter and kids can sign up for Club BSG on our website, if you’d like to be “in the know” for all things BSG.

Sophie here again -- here are some more resources for tween girls who are, as Addie puts it, between toys and boys:

New Moon Magazine
American Girl Magazine
Girlstart: Empowering Girls in Math, Science, and Technology
Kay Vandergrift's Empowering Young Women page
And two not-too-sexy magazines for girls 11-13: Girls' Life and Justine.

Publishing and Spelling Bees

Earlier this year I sold an anthology to Bantam of stories based on spelling-bee winning words. It all came about in 2004 when autochthonous was the winning word for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I had been following the bee semi-seriously for years, and more seriously after Spellbound came out. When I saw the word autochthonous, and the sentence given to the speller: "The autochthonous fauna of Australia includes the koala" (or something like that) I was flabbergasted.

You see, spelling bees started as a way to show your school's educational prowess (better spellers meant you had better teachers) and as a way to help standardize American spelling. Obviously these days, we've moved beyond that point. When I went and looked at the words for the past ten years, I had trouble finding ones I could pronounce, much less use in a sentence. I decided to issue a challenge to writers to send me submissions to my zine, Electric Velocipede using a spelling bee winning word as the basis for their story. I got quite a few entries, and two of them were quite good, and quite different from each other. (links to the stories appear below)

After the issue of the zine came out, the idea of stories based on spelling-bee winning words stuck in my head, so I started contacting more authors to see what they thought of the idea. A lot of them liked it. Many of them committed to writing a story should I sell the anthology. Then came this last January when I sat down next to Juliet Ulman for dinner after a reading from the KGB Fantastic Fiction Reading Series in Manhattan. She liked the idea and asked me to send a proposal to her. Shortly thereafter, she bought it. We titled the book Logorrhea (the winning word in the Spellbound movie) and it will be published next May in time for the National Spelling Bee.

So, fast-forward to last week: I was ordering books for the library when I decided to see if Logorrhea was listed in Baker & Taylor. Well, lo and behold, there is was. With an ISBN and everything. (it's 978-0-553-38433-8 [or 0-553-38433-3 for you pre-ISBN-13 phillistines]) And, it's available at Amazon.

I've been on the other side of things hundreds of times from my days working as an editor (and to a smaller extent with the zine these days). But this is the first time that I've been responsible for the content of a book that's being published. I'm somewhere between excited and a nervous wreck. And of course, you should all go out and pre-order your copies today. :)

Here is the final line-up:

Hal Duncan - "The Chiaroscurist"
Liz Williams - "Lyceum"
David Prill - "Vivisepulture"
Clare Dudman - "Eczema"
Alex Irvine - "Semaphore"
Marly Youmans - "The Smaragdine Knot"
Michael Moorcock - "A Portrait in Ivory"
Daniel Abraham - "The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics"
Michelle Richmond - "Logorrhea"
Anna Tambour - "Pococurante"
Tim Pratt - "From Around Here"
Elizabeth Hand - "Vignette"
Alan DeNiro - "Plight of the Sycophant"
Matthew Cheney - "The Last Elegy"
Jay Caselberg - "Eudaemonic"
Paolo Bacigalupi - "Softer"
Jay Lake - "Crossing the Seven"
Leslie What - "Tsuris"
Neil Williamson - "The Euonymist"
Theodora Goss - "Singing of Mount Abora"
Jeff VanderMeer - "Appoggiatura"

I've linked to the two stories that were originally published in my zine; you can read them in their entirety online. While the author list certainly bends towards science fiction and fantasy, the content of a majority of the stories is much more straightforward fiction. As soon as there's a final form of the cover, I'll give you all a look at it.

In the upcoming weeks I'll be posting about the publishing process and how you can use that knowledge to your and your patrons' benefit.



World Fantasy Convention report

I spent this last weekend in Austin, TX at the World Fantasy Convention. While there was much partying and discussion of all things science fiction and fantasy, a few things happened that were pertient to the library world.

First, I spent much of the weekend extolling the virtues of libraries to authors and editors alike. Since I am do science fiction collection development, many people asked me how I select which items to add to the collection. This was great since I was able to talk about environmental scanning and how you get to know your patrons to learn what kinds of books they read. Or as Sophie would say, I learn the pop culture of my patrons to decide what authors to carry. Then, after you've kept up with what you know they like, you try something new. Sometimes you get burned, sometimes you hit gold.

Second, I got to sit with editor Jennifer Heddle and talk about one of the new MTV books that is coming out next year: Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss. It's about a girl whose abusive father was supposed to be in jail until she was 18, but he got released on good behavior and is coming home. It sounds like a great book. I'll certainly be adding it to my collection. I have a number of the MTV books in my YA collection, and they do really well. This book is a little departure from the normal MTV book design, but I don't think my teens are checking out the books becase of what they look like.

World Fantasy is a strange convention in that it's almost like a trade show. The people who go to it are mostly professionals in the field. There aren't a lot of fans, so in some way the general tremor of excitement that makes up a typical science fiction convention is missing, but there's a consenual comraderie that pervades World Fantasy that is a lot of fun.

Oh, one of the coolest things about the convention was getting to chat with Holly Black for a little about the Spiderwick movies that are coming out next year. She's seen some early production photos, and she's really excited about it. At the same time, she said it still feels a little surreal that something's actually happening. They're making one movie out of all the books, so any of your patrons who are fans of the books are sure to love this movie.


New Comic Readers: What Do They Read?

I came across an interesting article at Newsarama the other day, talking about non-traditional (read: non-superhero) comics and new comic readers. The thrust of the article was that non-superhero comics can bring readers into comic shops, but the trick is getting them to keep reading comics. The sentence that opens up the article says:

At the center of most readers' concerns is the feeling that, as the existing fan base ages, no new readers are being brought on board because the public seems to dismiss sequential storytelling as something only children and nostalgic men can enjoy.

Pessimistic much?

With the influx of comics-related movies in the past five years (and not just superhero movies, but ones like The Road to Perdition and V for Vendetta), there's obviously a recognition that the stories told in comics have mass appeal. There's more and more crossover between other forms of pop culture and comics: Steven King is creating a comics version of his Darktower books, Jodi Picoult (the well-known, well-regarded author of My Sister's Keeper) is going to be writing a limited run on Wonder Women, Joss Whedon is writing a comic series that picks up the story from Firefly (his short-lived but brilliant TV show).

I don't really understand the "sky is falling!" mentality that seems to come across in this article. Libraries have done so much to embrace comics, and I'm sure that's been a shot in the arm for the industry, and it's certainly one that the comics bigwigs are focusing on. Perhaps I'm just feeling more negative to such concerns, since my own opinion is different from the article's.

Still, there are reasons for comics retailers to be concerned. But retailers can find customers who will keep coming back, if the stores reach out to new audiences. My local store, Captain Blue Hen Comics has done some great work in this area. The owner has cultivated relationships with area librarians, presenting programs at many libraries for teens and children. Captain Blue Hen was also at the Delaware Book Festival, as well as attending traditional comic conventions.

Looking at this from a library perspective, do you have die-hard comics readers in your library? What have you done to serve these fans, beyond your graphic novel collection? Try calling your local comic store--you might be able to create a match made in heaven!

College Football on TV: Rutgers Wins!

Rutgers Wins! The best show on television this Thursday night was ESPN's College Football. Congratulations to Coach Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights for their 28-25 victory over the Louisville Cardinals in the Big East battle at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, NJ. Rutgers is now 9-0!


NJASL Handouts Available

I presented twice at last week's New Jersey Association of School Librarians (NJASL) Conference in Long Branch, NJ. I've uploaded the handouts for attendees & other interested parties to read, enjoy, and use:


Cybils: The 2006 Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards

It was only a matter of time before it happened: a bloggers award for children's and YA literature.

The Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards, aka the Cybils, will be decided based on both the book's merits and popularity. There are eight categories, ranging from picture books to young adult, poetry to graphic novels.

In keeping with the nature of the blogosphere, anyone can nominate a book, so long as it was published in the year 2006 and in English. Nominations close November 20. The rules are one nomination per category; and nominations aren't weighted. In other words, let's say there are three graphic novels you want to nominate, but you know you can only nominate one; head over the Cybils site, scroll down to the Graphic Novel post and check out the other nominations. If one of your three is already on the list, it's already being considered so now you just have to decide between the other two. While anyone can nominate (teen, grown up, librarian, blogger, author, publisher... you get the picture) because its one nomination per category per person, please don't do an anonymous nomination.

And once you've nominated for Graphic Novels, then go to Non Fiction Picture Books, and so on and so on.

The Cybils are also trying to be as transparent as possible, with the rules and processes on the website; anyone can comment; and those comments are taken seriously.

What happens once the nominations close on November 20? Then a panel of bloggers (the nominating committee) will start discussing those titles and cull the list down to five finalists. Those titles will be announced January 1st.

A separate judging panel will then select one winner from the five finalists (and hey, there's still openings on the Graphic Novel panels, both judging and nominating!)

Disclaimer: I've been involved in the start up of this, including the organizer for the Graphic Novel committees and will be a judge for the Young Adult Fiction.



Why oh why isn't Picket Fences on DVD?

This week's discussion question is brought to us from Brian. Hi, Brian!!

I'm not sure why Picket Fences* isn't available on DVD.

I have two assumptions (and actually? I'm usually quite good at making up stories about this type of stuff that turn out to be true.) If anyone knows the true story, or if I make a fool of myself with my answers, please post!

First, the contracts with people didn't include what happens when shows appear on DVD (or similar new media), and that's something that either hasn't been worked out or no one has even tried to work out. Since I believe people should be paid for their work, and that the people who create the work should be treated fairly,** I am all for those involved with the TV shows getting something for their work appearing on DVD.

Second, music. Music was often bought just for that one show; and now there is the headache/cost of either purchasing that song for the DVDs, also; or replacing that song altogether which drives some of us mad, because some songs work so well with some scenes.

So here's my question:
What TV shows do you wish were available on DVD?

My answer is easy: thirtysomething.


Additional links: I've touched on this in the past here, here, and here.

* Yes, I know that the IMDB shows a DVD link for availability. Click on it and you'll get something like this.
** What is not fair: one "star" making 8 digits plus a percentage while everyone else makes a flat minimum amount and no percentage; or the studio having all profits and no one else benefiting from a success. Yes, the studio is entitled to make money; but so are the people who work on the series.

Cross Posted at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.


Fantasy Football

This is my first year playing fantasy football and I am having so much fun! You get to be the coach and the owner. You pick your own team name, draft and trade players, and decide who to play or bench each week, all in an effort to beat your opponent (someone else in your league) according to a points system. You will find yourself reading about football, conferring with other sports fans, and tweaking your team all week to get the line-up just right. Basically your team is made up of various players from the entire NFL. You pick 1 quarter back (QB) , 3 wide receivers (WR), 2 running backs (RB), 1 tight end (TE), 1 Kicker (K) and 1 Defense (DEF). For instance, my team consists of Tiki Barber RB (Giants), Reggie Wayne WR (Colts), and the Minnesota Vikings (DEF), among others. So, in addition to your favorite NFL team, you are now rooting for players on many other teams in the NFL. You will find yourself watching all the games on Sunday afternoon, Sunday night football, Monday night football, and even the occasional Thursday night game. I am also in my family’s football pool where we do a straight pick of which teams we think will win each week. Since my family is spread out across the country it is a cool way of playing a game at a distance. Let it be noted that I play for bragging rights only. My fantasy football team is in a public league on Yahoo Sports and my family football pool is on CBS SportsLine. Another excellent source of information is ESPN Fantasy Sports. (Disclosure: ESPN is my former employer prior to becoming a librarian). Go Team!

Waffles In the Library

Anne-Marie of A Readable Feast is always coming up ways to link books and food. (For all those children's and YA librarians out there, she's a must read for food ideas for your book programs!)

Anne-Marie's latest brainstorm? A library appreciation breakfast with waffles. She includes a recipe for pumpkin waffles and a few fund raising ideas. Go over there, get hungry, and cross your fingers that maybe one of your patrons is a reader of A Readable Feast!


World Fantasy Convention

It may come as no surprise to anyone, but I've been to my share of science fiction conventions. This weekend, I'll be going to the World Fantasy Convention. The convention is hosted by a different city every year (as opposed to local cons, like Readercon or Philcon, which are hosted in the same city every year) and this year it's in Austin, TX. Last year it was in Madison, WI.

The World Fantasy Convention is mostly fantasy writers, but there are science fiction folks who show up, too. There are no costumes, and the convention is typically populated by pros (i.e., writers, editors, agents, artists, etc.) unlike the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon for short) which is mostly populated by fans. It's a great place to go if you want to be able to talk to writes and the like that you're a fan of. Or if you have a zine that you want to sell to people.

So what does this have to do with libraries? Well, how about being able to see all sorts of new books that are coming out and getting the chance to talk to authors (like Holly Black or Kelly Link or Howard Waldrop). You can also talk to fans and see what kinds of things they like and try to see how and if they're using the library. Maybe there's a group of burgeoning new writers that need a place to meet, and maybe your library is just the place they're looking for. Maybe your library is the place for some of these writes to come and interact with the public. Or maybe, as I found out at last year's World Fantasy, a bunch of the writers, editors, etc. are also librarians and you can brainstorm with them.

I'll provide a complete report when I get back.

John Klima