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.


ALSC & Blogging

Follow up to my post, No Blogging For Committee Members, which reported a Midwinter rumor about ALSC Book Award Committee members not being allowed to blog.

Hot off the presses, School Library Journal breaks the story and the resolution in Should Members of Book Award Committees Be Allowed to Blog? The short answer: YES. Read the full article for the history of the debate and the resolution. Note that bloggers still have to abide by confidentiality requirements, which makes sense; the concern had been that there would be a "confidentiality plus" standard for bloggers that meant either no blogging, or not allowing on blogs what is allowed in the "real world" and in print.

A giant "you rock, Dude" to The Horn Book Editor In Chief, Roger Sutton, who blogs at Read Roger. The SLJ article reports that "Sutton, who’s currently on the 2008 Caldecott committee, threatened to resign after he was told to refrain from blogging about books that were eligible for an award committee. “I said if they do this, I’d quit the Caldecott committee, and that I would not put up with this gag.” Read Roger's own take on the dispute.

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No Blogging for Committee Members?

LibrariAnne has a detailed report on a rumor about ALSC and bloggers who are committee members not being allowed to blog. I did hear whispers about this during Midwinter, and a comment to LibrariAnne's blog confirms that ALSC is "grappling" with this issue.

So I ask you: anyone know the deal? The specifics of the guidelines? Is it just ALSC, or is YALSA doing something similar?

Thanks to A Year Of Reading for the link.

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Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast

A little bit of self-promotion:

Head on over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to read their new interview series: Seven Impossible Interviews Before Breakfast.

Interview # 1 is with -- drumroll, please -- me! (or is it I?) And please note that according to Seven Impossible... I am a red-headed babe.

Cross posted at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

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Sports Matter

Before I changed careers to become a librarian there was one thing I could count on every Monday morning and Friday afternoon—someone would be talking about weekend sports around the water cooler. But since I became a librarian, first in an academic library and then in a public library, I noticed that my colleagues rarely mentioned the “F” word, by which I mean “Football”. This morning as I was weeding old magazines and journals at home I came across an issue of Booklist from 6/1/06 and 6/15/06 in which columnist Will Manley of The Manley Arts: The Worried Librarian writes, “In my role of chief worrier of the world, it’s important for me to avoid worrying about trivial things. For instance, I don’t care who wins the Super Bowl or the World Series. I will leave the worries of spectator sports to those who have a psychological need to assign some sort of cosmic meaning to games involving balls of various shapes and sizes.”

Fellow Librarians, this kind of attitude is a difficulty. It is especially important to care about sports if you are attempting to attract male readers. According to research from Neilsen Sports “over 60% of American households say that they have a football fan”. When I worked as a youth services librarian I once asked some middle school boys to help me make a book display. They were unenthusiastic until I told them I wanted to do a display about sports. Their eyes lit up and they buzzed about in the stacks selecting books “that kids would like about basketball, football, hockey…” When I was a young adult librarian the books I put on display about sports flew off the shelves. Sports books displays work.

February is Super Bowl time and also the beginning of Black History Month. Yesterday in the NFC and AFC title games history was made as two African-American head coaches go to the Super Bowl for the first time, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts (Read more at Superbowl.com). Create a book display. And if you are a night-owl there is some fantastic tennis going on down under at the Australian Open, live on ESPN2 in the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps create a display featuring books about the country of Australia, tennis and Australian writers?

Even if you are a librarian who does not care about sports (and I know there are many librarians who do care about sports) bear in mind that many of your patrons are sports fans.

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Request for Good Younger Teen Reads

I received the following e-mail the other day:

I read with interest your posting about Addie Swartz, as I was lamenting to my girlfriends that when I went to Barnes and Noble to buy books for my 13 year old girl, there was nothing that appealed to me or that I thought would appeal to her, an athlete with little interest in clothes, makeup and to a lesser degree, boys. When I asked the B and N staff for specific recommendations, they came up with nothing. I have never heard of the Beacon Street Girls (but will soon buy these books for my 8 year old daughter)—what books other than these can you recommend for my daughter, and for parents who do not yet want their children to read about girls having sex and other more adult topics? I just pre-read the fourth book in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and 3 of the 4 heroines had sex by the end of the story.

Okay, my well-read friends. Please put your thinking caps on and help out your fellow Pop reader.

I recommended the following:

  • Olive's Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbit
  • Airborn & Skybreaker, by Kenneth Oppel

The young lady in question has already read (and enjoyed, I hope) the first two, and her mom said she'd check out Airborn & Skybreaker. What else can we recommend? Please leave suggestions in the comments!

A few other titles that leap to mind:

  • Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Hoot and Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Gregor the Overlander, etc., by Suzanne Collins
  • Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman, by Eleanor Updale

Anyone out there read Ida B.? It looks like a winner, but I haven't read it.

I'd also like to take a moment to praise this mother's pre-reading of the new Sisterhood title -- good for you! And is it wrong for me to enjoy a moment of schadenfreude that the staff at B&N were not terribly helpful? Let's just call it an illustration of the difference between libraries & bookstores, and leave it at that, shall we?

Once again: suggestions in the comments!

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Idea totally & utterly stolen from Heidi (who is not only a rockin' librarian, but also a fellow Bryn Mawr alum).

Heidi is a Seattle native, so she's got plenty of scoop on where to eat & how to get around. Also potentially useful in this regard: the ALA Midwinter Meeting Wiki.

Here's my schedule, for now:

Saturday, January 20
ALA-APA Fundraising Committee, 10:30-12:30
YALSA Gaming Interest Group, 1:30-2:30
Quick Picks for Reluctant YA Readers, 2:30-3:30
YALSA Publications Committee, 4-6 PM
Seattle Public Library Atherton Reception with the divine Liz B, 7-9 PM

Sunday, January 21
Teen Tech Week Kick-Off, 10:30-12:30
Quick Picks, 1:30-3:30
YALSA Board II, 4-6 OR Pop Culture in Libraries, 4-6
YALSA 50th Anniversary Kick-Off, 7-9 PM

Monday, January 22 -- Happy Birthday, Mom!
Youth Media Awards, 8-9 AM
ALA Exec Board Forum, 11:30 AM (re-check time)
Best Books for Young Adults, 4-6 PM
YALSA/ALSC/AASL Joint Membership Reception 6-8 PM

Somewhere in there, I also plan to have a meal or drinks with Rochelle, Jill, Jaina and my library school pal Chris.

I'm staying at the Sheraton, and it'll be best to reach me by cell. E-mail or IM me if you want the number.

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Best Week Ever

ALA makes VH-1's Best Week Ever, thanks to Ewan McGregor.

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Tomorrow morning, when someone comes into the library asking about 24, you can show them that you have the previous seasons on DVD.

And as you start chatting about the Jack, you can show them Jack Bauer's Kill Count. With video.

I'll leave my favorite kill in the comments, because it happened tonight.

Thanks to TV Squad for the link.

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YALSA Elections (and a personal note)

ALA and YALSA elections are coming up; in order to vote for the YALSA part you must be a member of ALA and YALSA by January 31, 2007.

The election opens March 15 and closes April 24.

Go over to the YALSA blog to see the full slate of candidates for different positions.

Please note the candidates for the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award Committee:

Elizabeth Burns (yes, this is me!)
Donna Cook
Stacy Creel-Chavez
Alison Hendon
Celia Holm
Ellen Loughran
Karyn Silverman
J. Marin Younker

Eight candidates are running for four positions. The full policies and procedures for the Printz are here.

Cross posted at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy.

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Mmmm, iPhone

By now, I'm sure most of you have at least heard the news that Apple has unveiled its long-awaited iPhone yesterday at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco. This article from THE Journal does a nice job of explaining the phone's many features and the ways it's unique from other smartphones. In addition to a larger screen, iTunes, the ability to run Mac OS X, and Google features like Google Maps, the phone has a built-in sensor "for dimming the display and disabling input when the phone is placed to the user's ear", which saves battery power. All very cool, and of course, it looks scrumptious. I think the iPhone, which will be available only through Cingular starting in June, won't cause current Blackberry, Treo, and Sidekick users to defect immediately, though if it is as good a product as the iPod, it'll could well tempt those of us who've never had a smartphone to test the waters.

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Librarian: A Career for the Future

I want to thank Jill for letting me know that Librarian is listed as one of the Best Careers 2007 in U.S. News and World Report in an article titled “Get-Ahead Careers for 2007” by career coach Dr. Marty Nemko. Kudos to Dr. Nemko who tells readers that librarianship is an “underrated profession” and to forget about the dated image of the librarian as “mousy bookworm” and refers to librarians as “high tech information sleuths.” This article is one of the few that gets it right about the profession in my opinion. For instance, I am currently working on a presentation in which I am using my library’s digital databases, microfilm collection, vertical files of newspaper clippings on local history, resources from our special collection room on New Jersey history, and the resources found in the Library of Congress’s “American Memory National Digital Library Program” available online. I couldn't fully tell my story without the computers AND the books AND the microfilm AND the newspaper clippings. Is it perhaps that today’s history was yesterday’s pop culture?

The only point that I don’t agree with Dr. Nemko on is that the work environment of a librarian is placid. The work environment may seem placid to some, but perhaps one may change one’s mind by reading Liz B’s previous post “What Does Library Mean?” And let’s not even get into the challenges of censorship and intellectual freedom that librarians encounter on the job. Rather than placid, librarians and libraries exhibit what Ernest Hemingway describes as “grace under pressure.” In an interview with Dorothy Parker, in the New Yorker (November 30, 1929) Parker asked the former World War I ambulance driver “Exactly what do you mean by ‘guts’?” to which Hemingway responded, “I mean, grace under pressure.” John F. Kennedy used this phrase of Hemingway to define courage in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Profiles in Courage” published in 1955. I prefer courageous over placid.

Dr. Nemko also mentions that many computer-related jobs that were hot a few years ago did not make the list of Best Jobs 2007 due to the fact that many of these jobs have gone overseas. So, what happened to the blue-jean wearing, tech-savvy, dot-com’ers and webmasters with the big ideas and entrepreneurial attitudes? Well, I noticed there were quite a few in Library School with me from 2002 – 2004.

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RIP, The O.C.

Well, the writing was on the wall when the fourth season of my cheesy, yet strangely beloved teen soap The O.C. opened this September to pathetically low ratings. Fox has now cancelled my beloved guilty pleasure, with the finale set to air February 22. At least they're planning for it, and they're not just yanking it with narrative threads all a-dangle. In memoriam (since I totally missed eulogizing James Brown & Gerald Ford while I was on vacation with my family), a handful of good things The O.C. introduced to the world during its tenure on the airwaves:

  • Nerd cool: let's face it, protagonist Seth Cohen (as played by the adorable Adam Brody) has brought sexy (okay, maybe a tepid "appealing" would be more accurate) back to nerdiness. A master stroke for skinny Death Cab-loving boys -- and the girls who never thought they'd love them -- everywhere.
  • Mix CDs: these are nothing new, but the six official mix CDs that make up this show's soundtrack kick major sonic booty. Featuring artists like the aforementioned Death Cab, Sufjan Stevens, Mates of State, and Imogen Heap, they are gateway listening to indie rock nirvana and are therefore must-haves for my library's collection, and quite possibly for yours.
  • Indie Rock Rocks: Well, duh. A major part of the show's appeal, for me, at least, was the fact that they played good music in every episode. And not just any good music -- good music on little labels like Kill Rock Stars, SubPop, and Sympathy For The Record Industry. It's a big deal for a major TV network to showcase long tail music. Let's give Fox some credit.
  • Showcasing Michael Chabon: I didn't include this in my five things, but Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors. Even when he is so (justifiably) in love with his own prose stylings that he can't, you know, move the darn story forward, I forgive him and love him. Hi, Michael! Wonder Boys is another of my all-time favorite books; I think I might like it even more than Kavalier & Clay, which fellow O.C. viewers will recognize as a core element in the Seth Cohen Starter Pack, the gift Seth bestows upon his two would-be ladyloves in the first Chrismukkah episode. Which brings me to...
  • Chrismukkah! The all-purpose Winter Holiday for interfaith families (Seth's mother, Kirsten, is an ur-shiksa, a size 2 Nordic Goddess, married to a Nice Jewish Boy from the Bronx, Sandy) has enjoyed quite a boost in notoriety and popularity since The O.C.'s first season. As half of an interfaith couple myself, Chrismukkah really resonates with me, though my husband prefers his own coinage, Chanumas.

So long, O.C.! We hardly knew ye!

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What Does "Library" Mean?

The New Year started with a bang with two very different types of stories about libraries:

The Washington Post article, Hello, Grisham -- So Long, Hemingway? With Shelf Space Prized, Fairfax Libraries Cull Collections about a library system weeding classics. My favorite quote: "More computers and growing demand in branches for meeting space, story hours and other gatherings have left less room for books."

The New York Times article, Lock the Library! Rowdy Students are Taking Over! about a library in Maplewood, NJ, that is shutting down during afternoon hours because the disturbances going on during that time period. My favorite passage: "Librarians and other experts say the growing conflicts are the result of an increase in the number of latchkey children, a decrease in civility among young people and a dearth of “third places” — neither home nor school — where kids can be kids."

There's been a lot being said in blogs and over coffee about these two articles, but together, they raise an important question: What is the primary function of a library in a community?

Let's avoid armchair quarterbacking (Fairfax should display classics! Don't lock out the teens, have programs!) and take what is being said at face value.

In Fairfax, it's about changing to be, well, a community center: meeting space. story hours. other gatherings. Giving people only what they want; with no questions about what people need, or whether a library is different from Barnes and Noble.

In Maplewood, it's saying, no, we are not and should not be the community center; we're a library, and if the town wants a community center for teens, build one.

And, surprisingly enough to those who know I delight in pop culture being in libraries, I'm finding myself siding with Maplewood. I think libraries are part of the community, absolutely; but our primary role is library.

We should welcome teens with programs and teen advisory groups; with friendly staff, comfortable surroundings, and with reasonable rules that are the same for everyone.

We should partner with local agencies and community centers.

But if what Maplewood needs is a community center for teens, they should build one and staff one, rather than having people say "oh, the library can do it."

Part of the reason I say this is cost; we have limited budgets. Hiring additional staff means money that cannot be spent elsewhere on electronic databases, updating websites, staff for other library needs, or professional development.

Another reason I say this is training and education. Librarians are librarians. If a library has a primary purpose of community center, shouldn't it be hiring people with degrees in recreational management instead of people with degrees in library science? And once we stop needing people with MLIS's to serve our primary purpose, how can we call ourselves libraries and librarians?

Space is another concern. Most libraries have not been built to serve as a community center and don't have that space. If a library shifts to a community center model what about those who valued the library model and library resources? Where will they go?

A library can be and should be an important part of town it is in. But it cannot be and should not be all things to all people. Libraries can and should (and do!) partner with other members of the community; that's the way to make sure your town has what it needs.

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Five Things You May Not Know About Sophie

Thanks to Nancy Dowd for tagging me! I secretly (well, not-so-secretly, now) love memes.

  1. I speak Chinese. Very poorly, now, alas, as I haven't bothered to practice in years, but thanks to four years of Mandarin in college, I can generally follow along without too much need for subtitles when I watch Chinese movies.
  2. I was active in Girl Scouts until high school. I now think those positive experiences helped pave the way for me to attend a really fantastic women's college.
  3. You might know this if you follow my Flickr account, but I'll throw it out for the average reader, anyway: I am a serious baker. I collect books about baking, and, next to knitting and reading, it's my favorite hobby.
  4. Because I am ragingly anglophilic, have a really good memory, and apparently had lots of free time during my teen years, I can recite entire Monty Python sketches (my two favorites: Mrs. Essence and Mrs. Conclusion Visit Jean-Paul Sartre, and The All-England Summarize Proust Competition) and full scenes of Blackadder (particularly the Elizabethan Second Series, which is my favorite) from memory.
  5. For all my YA fantasy-loving ways, my favorite book of all time, the one I re-read nearly every year, is Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

I'm tagging the following four people: John Blyberg, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Rochelle Hartman, and Adrienne Furness. Tag, you're it!

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