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.

2006-12-21

Harry Potter

It all seems a bit premature to me (to be honest I'm as excited as anyone about it), but I'm sure many of you have heard that the new Harry Potter book has a title: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Of course, EVERYONE all your patrons will be wanting to read this book.

But that's not what's cool about this book title. What's cool is how Rowling revealed it to the public: through her website. If you've never been to her website, you should go. It's an incredibly well-designed website in a general sense, and as an author website it's just phenomenal. It's pretty, it's interactive, there's a lot of information, it updates constantly; it's everything a good website should be.

Of course, I would expect nothing less from an author of her stature. She certainly has the money to create a nice website, but it's more than that. It shows that she cares about her fans. That she knows who her fans are.

Not that your library (or company) could necessarily devote the resources to create a site of this caliber, but there are things you can take away from it. Look at how easy it is to tell what you can interact with on the site. Look at how clear it is what the different parts are and what they do. And don't forget about fun. People should enjoy coming to your website or they won't be back. You can put all the best information in the world on your site and if people don't like it, it won't matter.

How The Wii Works

Just a quick post from the UK (we were lucky to get here at all -- ours was one of the last flights to land at Heathrow before British Airways effectively shut down) to say I spotted this article in the NY Times on how the new Nintendo Wii (for the uninitiated, that's pronounced "whee!") works. I do believe this is the gaming console of choice for non-gamers like me. It's priced just right, it's so darn cute, and the games aren't too confusing for a fogey like me. More posts on English pop culture to come.

2006-12-13

New Comment Rule In Effect

Sorry, folks, but due to being slammed by comment spam, I've switched this blog's settings to accept only comments from registered Blogger users. I apologize for any inconvenience this presents to those who've submitted legitimate anonymous comments. It's not you, it's them I have a beef with.

Pop for Parents

No, not the new Sufjan Stevens Christmas album (although that would make a lovely addition to my Jewish Girls' Guide to Rockin' Holiday Music collection) -- I'm talking about parenting pop culture. More specifically, I'm talking about pop culture for parents who want to go beyond Parenting magazine and Babies R Us -- pop culture with some hipster cred, in other words.

Brand spanking new to the scene is Babble, a site devoted to being "a revolution in parenting magazines: a publication that talks to parents not just as caregivers, but as fun, smart, intellectually curious people." Well, hallelujah, I say. On its first full day of publication, Babble looks like a wonderful electronic companion to the print-only wonders of Brain, Child magazine.

As this NY Times article points out, there's been an explosion of honest, irreverent parenting publishing going on, thanks to mommy & daddy blogs, Salon's Mothers Who Think (renamed Life), and momoirs. To this mother, stuff like this is both refreshing and soothing -- it's bracing to see parents admit their hatred of Maisy, and soothing to hear that other mothers have faced near-devastating nursing challenges (it's a bonus to me that the author of the breastfeeding article is Marjorie Ingall, The Forward's East Village Mamele, and long-ago contributor to my beloved Sassy magazine).

This is a major trend, and it's one worth keeping tabs on, both for your subject guides (who out there has a parenting subject guide? If you don't, you should!) and for collection development, generally. I could even see a monthly discussion group meeting based around readings from Babble -- instead of a book club, it'd be a Babble Club. Hmmm, programming idea, aisle one!

2006-12-07

Grammy Nominations Announced

I haven't had a chance to look at the full list of nominees, but that's on tomorrow's to-do list. For those of you who can swing it right now, here you go. Let the betting (purely for entertainment, not for profit) begin!

2006-12-06

Patrick Jones Rocks My Socks

Yesterday, I attended the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative's (SJRLC) annual Fall Membership Meeting. These events are always well worth attending -- in addition to the convivial atmosphere and opportunity to catch up with colleagues from around the region, SJRLC provides a fascinating workshop, as well. Two years ago, Richard Sweeney spoke about Millenials, and this year, YA services guru Patrick Jones was the guest and speaker of honor. Boy, was it an honor to hear him speak!

Patrick gave two rollicking, informative, and inspirational workshops: one called Reaching Reluctant Readers, and one entitled Moments of Truth (those are direct links to the PPT slides of his presentations, which Patrick has graciously allowed SJRLC to post to their blog.)

I scribbled several pages of notes in each of the two workshops, but I won't bore you with all of them. Here's a brief list of my biggest takeaways from the day, which are applicable no matter what age group you work with:
  • Know their names -- you must develop relationships with your teen users, and you can't do that if you don't know their names. Don't call them Young Adults. Don't call them Teens. Call them Caitlin. Call them Sean. Call them Shonda. Call them Carlos. Call them by their names.
  • The real job of a librarian is to make the community where you work a better place to live.
  • Remember, Accept, Project -- Remember what it was like to be fifteen, accept that a fifteen year-old can only act like a fifteen year-old, and project your memories of that mixed-up time to your young patrons through empathetic interactions with them.
  • Thank them for coming into the library -- every patron has a choice. They don't have to come to the library; they could have stayed home to play video games, or gone to the movies, or gone to work today. Instead, they decided to come to you. Thank them for stopping by, and ask them to come again. It's amazing what this little bit of positive reinformcement can accomplish.
  • Look at what got stolen last year, and replace it, before you buy anything else! Books that got stolen are proven success stories in your stacks. Show your users you value their opinions.

Some choice PJ quotes:

  • "I think it's really hard to entertain people in books." So go with what works more easily -- movies & CDs! -- and bundle them with related books when you can do so easily;
  • "Award stickers hurt relcutant readers and tell them 'this book isn't for you.'"
  • "Look at magazines as reading material, not as research material!" -- one of the best things Patrick ever did was to cut his book budget by 20% and pour that money into his magazine budget -- circ and in-library use of his collection skyrocketed immediately.
  • "The thing we always want kids to say is, 'I loved this book! Can you recommend another one just like it?'"

To say these workshops were inspiring really doesn't begin to cover it. This was a fangirl day par excellence for me. It was all I could do not to squee every other minute, seriously. Then again, that should come as not much of a surprise to anyone who read Mr. Inspiration, the interview with Patrick that ran in this August's issue of School Library Journal. Kudos to Patrick for being the living embodiment of Mary Poppins' spoonful of sugar (somehow he managed to serve up some stinging truths without once insulting his audience -- nicely done!), and many thanks to SJRLC for bringing such a wonderful speaker to New Jersey.

PSA For Wannabe Blogging Libraries

Hey! Check this out: Pop's beloved hosting company, Dreamhost, is offering FREE hosting to 501(c)3 non-profits. Dreamhost rocks hard as a hosting service -- their prices are very reasonable, their customer service is punctual, nice, and professional, and they offer wonderful one-click installs of handy things like MediaWiki, WordPress, and PHP5 -- so if you're looking for a new & improved hosting service, include them in your shopping around research.

How To Appreciate Death Metal

Further evidence of the power of wikis! This wikihow entry on appreciating death metal, a high-velocity, very dark, and super high-volume subgenre of heavy metal, incluldes such useful tidbits of advice as "Listen beyond the crunching guitars and harsh singing", "Watch a live death metal performance", and "Understand the context and subject matter".

Kinda applies to any genre of any medium that's new to you, huh? Urban fiction, hip-hop, Second Life, IM reference, mashups, anime & manga...the list goes on & on.

2007 Eisner Award Judges

The 2007 Eisner Award Judges have been announced; included on the list is Teen Librarian Robin Brenner, creator and editor of No Flying No Tights.

Other judges:

Whitney Matheson, author of Pop Candy, USA Today's pop-culture blog.

Christopher P. Reilly, writer.

James Sime, owner of Isotope -- the Comic Book Lounge, San Francisco.

Jeff VanderMeer, author.

How awesome to have a librarian on that list; Congratulations to all!

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

2006-12-02

On Not Doing It All -- Further Thoughts on Life Hacking

Since my column on work-life balance ran in Library Journal, I've received more than a few e-mails from new parents asking me How I Do It All. Let me first say that I don't, and that choosing not to Do It All is the first step towards Doing What You Actually Want To Do.

Here are a few other things that have worked for me. Your mileage my vary.

I got myself a career coach. Actually, I have two: Pete Bromberg of Library Garden fame, and Alice Yucht, of all things school library fame. I meet with each of them monthly -- sometimes in person, sometimes virtually, and we IM or e-mail regularly in between meetings -- and after each meeting, I always feel re-focused and refreshed.

I started using Remember The Milk, a free, 2.0-y task tracking service, and I made a commitment to using it every day to capture the things that need doing. Everything, large or small, goes into RTM, which now has the handy capability of integrating with one's Google homepage. Nice!

Related to using Remember The Milk, I started to chunk my tasks -- that is, I break them down into manageable mini-tasks. Example? I'm writing an article on libraries with blogs for Library Journal, and instead of "draft blogs article for LJ", due December 8, I've broken it down into "draft blogs for LJ -- internal blogs" and "draft blogs for LJ -- external blogs" and "draft blogs for LJ -- directors' blogs" (hey, I just gave you a sneak preview! You're welcome!). Mini-goals are more manageable, and less likely to make me procrastinate, because I don't feel overwhelmed and struck by "I'd rather do [insert task here]"-itis.

I relate stuff that I take on outside of work to my larger, long-term professional & personal goals. It would be more accurate to say that I intend to relate extra-curricular commitments to my long-term goals. I don't always do it. I am a lifelong devotee of what my husband calls the Ooooh, Shiny! Syndrome, and of course, it's always flattering to be asked to lead a workshop or speak at a conference. Sometimes, I say yes before I think it through as carefully as I should. Baby steps, people!

I started making myself do fun things. After Nell was born, there was no time for knitting, or baking, or TV, or any of the things that used to fill my long-gone free time hours. Now, Nell's in bed by seven most nights, and Marcus & I are free to rage against the machine all night long. Usually, said raging takes the form of catching up on TiVoed episodes of Gilmore Girls and knitting, but to each his own, right? The point is, I decided to make time for the things I really want to do, not just the many things I need to do.

I gave up some things I really liked to do, but that didn't fit my life anymore. I tendered my resignation as NJLA blog manager a few months ago. I'm still a contributor, and I believe we've found a wonderful new manager, but as much as I love coordinating projects, I knew I couldn't continue that level of commitment to the project, and I wanted to bow out gracefully before I screwed up.

Of course, I learned to do that by first messing up grandly another long-standing & beloved project, the NexGen Librarians' Listserv. Co-owner Christine Borne had moved on, and I just never got back on track with keeping up with the list's increasingly discontented conversation threads. Finally, in August, I saw that things had come to a very unpleasant pass, and I let it go. It was mortifying to me that I'd let things get so bad on my watch (such as it was). The list is thriving now, under new management as a Google Groups listserv. It was an embarrassing exit from a project I'd undertaken with so much pride & good intentions, but it was a useful learning experience, too.

Finally, I try not to be too hard on myself. I am still learning that, like generations of my alma mater's alumnae have said, Done Is Good. Done Is Good doesn't mean don't do your best; it means do your best and then move on.

How do you Not Do It All? Leave suggestions, tips, and tricks in the comments!