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.

2007-07-31

Book Review: The Dangerous Book for Boys

“Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination…You hold your future in your own hands. Never waiver in this belief…Be honest, be loyal, be kind. Remember the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish.” Although this is the summer of Great Britain’s J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter, and the above snippets could have been advice to the young wizard, they are not, in fact. Rather these snippets are from the opening quote in The Dangerous Book for Boys by British authors Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden. The quote itself was written by Sir Frederick Treves, Bart, KCVO, CB, Sergeant in Ordinary to HM the King, Surgeon in Ordinary to HRH Prince of Wales in 1903. A title that, to an American like me, sounds like it could belong to a character in Harry Potter, but is in fact real.

I read the 1st American edition of The Dangerous Book for Boys. It has a retro red cover with big gold and black letters and interior end-papers made of a swirling gold marbled paper. You can learn how to make such gold marbled paper on page 111. And that is exactly the point of the book. It is a book about how to do stuff, which is, I think, part of the appeal of the Harry Potter books. Harry and his friends get to do stuff and have adventures. Would Harry or Ron say, “I don’t have time to deal with that Death Eater right now because I am in the middle of a video game?” Uh, no.

But Harry and Ron might pick up the Dangerous Book for Boys to read about The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know (page 9), Building a Treehouse (page 21), Making Crystals (page 73), Timers and Tripwires (page 48), Insects and Spiders (page 83), Latin Phrases Every Boy Should Know (page 195), Star Maps: What You See When You Look Up (page182), Famous Battles—Part One (page 53) and Famous Battles—Part Two (Page 114), Pocket Light (page 143), Secret Inks (page 149), and How to Play Stickball (page 18).

Sandwiched between understanding Grammar—Part Two (page 105) and Marbling Paper (page 111) is approximately one page on Girls (page 109) which might help Harry and Ron understand Hermione better. The Iggulden’s note that girls are different from boys. “By this, we do no not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.”

The back cover of The Dangerous Book for Boys claims it is “The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.” Perhaps this is why I am familiar with the poems and crafts in this book having learned them from my Dad and uncles who are now in their seventies and eighties. Last summer, before this book appeared, I did a paper airplane and table football activity with the teens and it was a hit with both the boys and girls, but especially the boys. Anyone who knows me knows that I am big on using arts & crafts in teen programs to combine experiential learning and reading. Don’t just read about how to “Make the Greatest Paper Airplane in the World” (page 2) -- do it!

Cautions: The Dangerous Book for Boys contains a note to parents on the title page stating that the book contains activities which may be dangerous if not done exactly as directed or may be inappropriate for young children and that all of the activities should be carried out under adult supervision only, followed by the authors and publishers disclaiming liability. Read it. Also, the book is not politically correct and emphasizes the traditional literary canon.

That being said, I am now off to learn how to make a water bomb out of paper and to find out why it is impossible to fold a piece of paper in half more than seven times (page 98).

Exercise videos: It's not about Jane Fonda anymore

I'm not a great athlete. Although I was a competitive swimmer for years, I've never been any good at any sport involving a ball, and I STILL can't run two miles after nine months of training. But despite my aversion to organized sports I do like to exercise. I try to get in five days a week of running, aerobics (step, kickboxing, floor, whatever), weight training, and Pilates.

That's nice, you might think, but what's this got to do with libraries?

As we all know, librarianship is far from a lucrative profession. Being a librarian requires an expensive Master's degree and public library jobs don't pay well. Like most younger members of Generation X/older members of Generation Y, I have lots of debt and expenses: rent, student loans, car payment, my ridiculously high New Jersey car insurance premiums, etc. So I cut some expenses and decided not to join a gym. Membership at the gym nearest to my home is about $600 a year.

Do you know what I can get for $600 a year? About thirty exercise DVDs. And that's what I'm writing about today. Most libraries I've been to lack an up-to-date, safe, modern exercise DVD collection that fits current trends in fitness. So here's my Crash Course in Video Fitness, which will hopefully give you some ideas for updating or creating your library's exercise DVD collection.

First, order a Collage Video catalog, which they'll gladly send you for free. I don't love their website but their catalog is phenomenal. It's split into cardio, weights, cardio/weights, stretching, and specialty (kids, seniors, pregnancy, etc.) workouts. Each video is labeled with ability level, level of impact, time, and type of exercise. Collage has an ACE-certified instructor plus "regular people" (like librarians!) doing each video. Of note: Collage does not include every video they test in their catalog. They include videos that, um, actually give you a workout.

Second, choose an array of beginner, intermediate, and advanced videos. Within these different levels, you'll want to cover aerobic exercise/cardio, weight training, and stretching/yoga. Yoga is huge right now and is an important component of overall fitness, but despite the many infomercial claims it is not the most effective way to lose weight. Just as it's important to have popular fiction in your collection, it's important to have popular exercise videos with name recognition, like Tae Bo, The Firm and Leslie Sansone (all of which appear in the Collage catalog).

Third, make note of instructors whose videos are marked "not available in stores." Many of the best video workouts on the market carry this designation. Most of the instructors in these videos are not celebrities, but certified personal trainers who have years of experience leading exercise classes. To get started, check out some of my personal favorites: Cathe Friedrich, a pioneer in advanced home workouts who has a wonderful gym in southern NJ, just outside of Philadelphia; Karen Voight, a personal trainer from California who is very relaxed and friendly on camera; Tracie Long, a favorite longtime Firm instructor who now owns V Health Club in Columbia, South Carolina; and Gin Miller, who created step aerobics and leads weight workouts as well.

And like books, exercise DVDs need to be weeded from time to time. Be aware when DVD shopping that some workouts from the 1980's and '90's are being repackaged with new covers. Check copyright dates. The thing that gets dated the fastest with exercise videos are not the workouts (a bicep curl is a bicep curl!) but the sets and outfits. Personally, I don't care what the instructors are wearing as long as I'm getting a good workout, but your patrons may prefer up-to-date hairstyles, music, and workout wear in their videos. High-impact aerobics are not always a bad thing, since our joints need a mix of high and low impact in order to maintain strength and flexibility, but make sure the instructors are always demonstrating proper techniques when doing them (such as as landing with relaxed knees).

Whether you keep video workouts with the rest of your DVD collection or with exercise/health/fitness books is up to you, but either way, they're something useful and fun that will add dimension to your collections.

Plus, there's a lot to be said for being able to exercise in the comfort of your own living room wearing ratty sweats and swearing at the TV.

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2007-07-28

Comic-Con Coverage on Pop Candy

I would really, really love to attend this one year. Until then, I'm making do with Whitney Matheson's excellent coverage at Pop Candy.

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World Series of Video Games on CBS

Sunday at noon, CBS will broadcast the World Series of Video Games, including hugely popular games Guitar Hero II, World of Warcraft, and Fight Night Round 3. This is huge.

In spite of gaming's continuing march towards mainstream acceptance -- the first generation of gamers are now parents gaming with their own kids, after all -- there are some challenges to translating the experience of viewing the championships in person (an experience limited to gaming superfans) and making the experience of viewing them on TV enjoyable for a broader (read: non-superfan) audience:


It is a task that in some ways is no less daunting than that of the early baseball television producers who eventually realized that a camera way out in center field would provide the best view of pitches.

Editor Jesse Gordon figured out a work-around that sounds both useful and not terribly intrusive:

Mr. Gordon had added six fat red health meters, like digital fuel gauges, reflecting the fortunes of the game’s players. For anyone actually playing the game, the same information would be conveyed by just a few minuscule pixels tucked in a corner of the screen. “We need to add the health bars so TV viewers can understand what’s happening,” Mr. Gordon said. “Otherwise, forget it.”


Fascinating. I wonder if any gaming libraries are doing this on a smaller scale; perhaps recording video of gaming tournaments (or encouraging gamers to do so themselve) and posting them to YouTube.

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2007-07-26

QandANJ Commercial: Rock Out, SJRLC!

This is so fantastic, I almost have no words. A virtual reference ad, on MTV. Your eyes do not deceive you. I am so proud to be a member (or is it my library that's a member?) of the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative. Talk about getting it. Pete, Karen, Beth -- please post in the comments about how this came about!

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Forget the Police, Here's Crowded House

Don't get me wrong, the Police were a youthful favorite of mine, but their reunion tour does nothing for me. Crowded House, on the other hand? That's a love that has transcended time, space, and the tragic suicide of their drummer, Paul Hester. And now they're back with a new album, and a reunion tour, and I could not be happier. I can't really think of a way to tie this into libraries, besides maybe having a display of materials of bands you thought would never get back together? The Police, the Eagles, the Who, Van Halen (the true soap opera of rock -- they're going to tour! No, they won't! Diamond Dave is back! No, he's totally fired!), et al. To be totally honest, this is a post for my husband, who is a Crowded House superfan.

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Pop Cult Round-Up

Well, we're working on a Pop review of HP7. In the meantime, please entertain & edify yourselves with the following:

  • Emmy nominations: yeah, we're about a week late with these. Display & DVD selection time! Also, set your TiVos and/or plan an Emmy party for Sunday, September 16th.
  • Interesting retrospective critical analysis of the American romantic comedy, from the New Yorker's David Denby. Those libraries with film view & discuss groups, take note!
  • Rolling Stone's 40 Essential Albums of 1967. If you're looking to flesh out your Seminal Classic Rock CD collection, this is a great place to start. The entire issue is full of fascinating articles covering the many scenes during 1967 -- Memphis, London, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles all get their due.

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Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 3

The final day of the Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium squeezed a lot of great information into only a half-day!

Gregory Trefry from GameLab and NYU spoke first about Big Fun, Big Learning: Transforming the World through Play. As one of the founders of the Come Out and Play Festival, Gregory spoke about big games. These are games that, as the name implies, are much bigger than a traditional game; they can encompass a whole city, or even all of the Internet. Most big games are a variation on one of four common games: tag, hide and seek, scavenger hunts, or capture the flag. The beauty of big games is that they allow you to get up and be active, while participating in a competitive setting with lots of people. This presentation probably got me the most fired up, the most excited, about gaming in the library.

Beth Gallaway made two great presentations as well: first, in Digital Downloads for Gamers, she discussed the various online options for gamers, such as subscription game services, games to download on library computers, and game websites. Then, in Core Collections, Beth shared information on how to create a circulating game collection at your library, and presented some of the challenges to creating such a collection. Beth has provided links for all the services and information she shared through the GLLS2007 tag on her del.icio.us account.

The final keynote address was given by Liz Lawley, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In Games Without Borders: Gaming Beyond Consoles and Screens, she discussed how we should make real life more like a game, rather than making our games more like real life. Some interesting facts shared by Dr. Lawley is that for many people, online shopping feels like work since it requires a computer, so there is increased sales occurring at physical stores. Yet by contrast, Generation Y values their computers and cell phones over television, something that is the reverse of how older generations feel.

The conference wrapped up with a winner receiving a Wii console, donated by Nintendo America. But this wasn't just your ordinary door prize; the lucky winner had to win two different games to get her prize.

More information, such as PowerPoint slides and related information, will be posted to the conference's wiki in the coming days, so I encourage you to take a look for more information. Feel free to comment here or send me an email at melinwonderland@yahoo.com, if you'd like to know more about any presentation that I've mentioned.

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2007-07-24

Potter Encyclopedia Forthcoming

Yessssssssssssss! I am doing my happy dance as I type (this is no mean feat, as I am typing sitting down, but I have skillz, yo)!

Someone, on some listserv or blog -- this is the problem with 21st century reading habits; I never know where I read what -- said they wished Rowling would write Hogwarts, A History. Well, it sounds like that wish is sort of going to come true. Huzzah!

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Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 2

The second day of the Gaming, Learning and Libraries Symposium was chock-block full of great information, both theoretical and practical. There's not enough space to go into every program I attended, but hopefully the highlights will excite your interest!

The day started with a keynote speech entitled Libraries, Gaming and the New Equity Crisis from James Paul Gee of Arizona State University. Dr. Gee spoke eloquently about the need for libraries to play a role in the spread of new literacy, a form of literacy that's not just about print. There are several gaps that exist that affect the ability of students to learn, including literacy, applications, knowledge, tech savvy, and innovation gaps. Interestingly enough, technology alone is not enough to close these gaps; without a framework of mentoring and support, technology will actually cause these gaps to widen.

The bulk of the day featured many innovative break-out sessions. There were certain presentations that I found especially interesting. First was Growing a Gaming Group/How They'd Do That?, showcasing the gaming events held at four different Illinois libraries. Julie Scordato of the Columbus (OH) Metropolitan Library dispensed lots of practical advice on Getting Gaming on the Table. As a LiveJournal user, I was particularly engaged during We're in UR Library Bein UR Books: Making and Using Book-Based RPGs with Middle-Schoolers. Kit Ward-Crixell gave an engaging presentation on how to use LiveJournal to encourage young teens to role-play as characters from their favorite books. Finally, Eli Neiburger discussed Tournament Games for Any Occasion: Choosing the Right Games for Your Audience, and his presentation was full of fantastic information on what games to consider for gaming tournaments.

The day was wrapped up with a teen panel, moderated by Stephen Abram. It was a great opportunity to find out more about new technologies from a group of teens.

I took some time yesterday evening to download and start using Second Life. I haven't really understood the appeal of Second Life, and now that I've seen a bit of it . . . I'm still having trouble with it. But I'll certainly give it a fair shake, and who knows what might happen?

If you're interested in more information on any of the programs I've discussed, don't hesitate to comment. And take a look at pictures of this event!

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2007-07-23

Gaming, Learning & Libraries Symposium: Day 1

I'm here in Chicago attending the first ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning and Libraries Symposium, and it's already been a fantastic event. The conference opened on Sunday at 1pm with three keynote speeches.

First, Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT spoke about What Librarians Need to Know About Games, Media Literacy and Participatory Culture. He shared a quote from Scott Osterweil, who discussed the differences between a spelling bee and a game of Scrabble: how the spelling bee taught students to memorize words they'd never use, while the game of Scrabble taught students spelling and word usage with little penalty for mistakes. Dr. Jenkins also talked about how more than half of all American teens--and 57% of those teens who use the Internet--could be considered media creators. A white paper co-authored by Dr. Jenkins discussed several questions about ensuring access, providing education in critical understanding of new media, and learning ethical community standards. For more information, you can consult http://henryjenkins.org or Project NML

Next, Dr. Scott Nicholson from Syracuse University's School of Information Studies discussed Who Else is Playing? The Current State of Gaming in Libraries. The founder of the Library Game Lab, Dr. Nicholson has been performing studies on recreational gaming in libraries, and not just electronic gaming. As there is a lack of basic research, Dr. Nicholson's group has been using science to understand the phenomena of gaming. The results of the first study, Understanding the State of Gaming, was released at the symposium; the second study, the 2006 Gaming Census, will be released shortly. More information can be accessed at http://gamelab.syr.edu.

Finally, Eli Neiburger from the Ann Arbor District Library shared his experiences of running gaming programs, and told the audience about The Payoff, Up Close and Personal. Gaming doesn't have to be expensive; you can borrow equipment and use staff to minimize costs to as low as $150 for your program. The great thing about gaming programs, Eli said, is taking content that normally is consumed individually and making it into a social event. AADL also features a feature-rich software that allows tracking of participants in video game tournaments, and this software will soon be available for other libraries to use. You can get more info on the software, GT System, at http://gtsystem.aadl.org. For more info about the gaming programs at AADL, you can access http://www.aadl.org/aadlgt; the slides from Eli's presentation can be accessed at http://aadl.org/files/techsource.pdf.

The evening was capped off with video game tournaments hosted by Eli, in which yours truly competed in DDR and Wii Tennis. I so have to get me a DDR setup and a Wii now.

More posts on this great conference will be coming soon!

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2007-07-20

Accio, Deathly Hallows!

Many Pop readers know what big fans we are of Brotherhood 2.0 -- for the uninitiated, it's a year-long video blog project between YA author John Green and his brother Hank, and it is made out of AWESOME -- but rarely is there such a perfect storm of Pop-bait as Wednesday's video, which, well, just watch it, people. You can thank us later.



Happy reading, everyone. We haven't really discussed it yet, but I hope we'll have a group review up early next week.

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2007-07-19

A British Invasion?

I've been spending some time on Facebook lately. This was after spending a few days on LinkedIn, seeing if I could find some old acquaintances. I was frustrated by the LinkedIn interface, but was able to find a few college buddies I hadn't talked to in a long time. Then I read an article about how LinkedIn was no longer cool and everyone was on Facebook these days (OK, the article is about why the article writer was switching to Facebook).

So I thought I would check out Facebook. It was so easy to use. And I could interface my address book and Facebook looked for people with accounts. Through Facebook I was able to reconnect with a women I worked with eight years ago and hadn't talked to since then. Cool. And I found our fearless leader Sophie. And one of my old college roommates (and one of my big inspirations to become a librarian) was there, too.

Which brings me to this post. In addition to getting a 'coffee' from Sophie on Facebook, we also shared a 'CD Rack' (a virtual collection of music). I added a bunch of things of the top of my head; mostly things that are on my mp3 player (ripped from CDs I own, thank you very much!) When Sophie noticed that I had added Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, she said I should check out The Pipettes.

All three of these musical acts are British. They are all female acts (two solo, one group). You would never confuse them for each other, but there is a nice thread that runs through their musical stylings. All three artists have very irreverent lyrics that are placed against non-irreverent music.

For example, Amy Winehouse's music would be more at home on an old skool Motown record than on a new cd. However, Winehouse's lyrical content can be quite shocking at times. This is quite clear with her current single "Rehab" which starts with the line "They want to make me go to rehab/I say no, no, no." Lily Allen's first single "Smile" is a bright, poppy sounding song, but the chorus says "When I hear you cry/It makes me smile." Neither of these sentiments is likely to be on a Hallmark card.

So then I go to hear the Pipettes. The three ladies look like something straight out of the first quarter of Dreamgirls, but they have songs like "Sex" and "Your Kisses Do Nothing For Me." Again, bright and happy music counter-balanced with snarky, funny lyrics. It's interesting that all three groups are doing--at the most basic levels--similar things with music and lyrics that don't seem to go together and they're all British. It makes me wonder what other female artists are out there that are doing similar things.

And what about the library John? Well, does your library has a Facebook account? Someone at your library? Perhaps you can do a little collection development through their book/cd/dvd applications. I've already found out about a group whose album I need to buy (hee hee, you said 'album'), I'm sure I'll find out more the longer I do this.

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2007-07-18

Leaving Us Breathless With Antici....


Oh no she didn't!
Originally uploaded by jblyberg
...pation!

3 days to go.

2007-07-17

Potter, Potter everywhere

Welcome to a joint post from Carlie, Liz, and Melissa! We've all recently seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and we're dying to write about it.

Carlie:

Before I write my thoughts on OotP, I want to blatantly self-promote an editorial I wrote that appears in the July 15, 2007 Bergen Record: We're all still wild about Harry. As a Potter fan since 1999 I jumped at the chance to write about Harry, his literary tradition, and why he's drawn so many fans. It was a delight to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. (And of course, comments to the editor of the op-ed page telling him how much you enjoyed the editorial will not go unappreciated.)

Now, on to the movie.

OotP is my favorite book, so I was especially excited, or maybe the better term is nervous, to see how the movie would come out. One of the problems the previous Potter movies have is that they feel like 700-page books squished into 3-hour movies. I don't really blame anyone for this; it's sort of the nature of the fantastic beast. I knew there was no way David Yates, regardless of his talent, could fit that much text into a movie, so I was pleased to see that what he did with it was make not so much a book adaptation as a movie that could stand on its own while hitting all the important points of the book. There are a fair number of deviations from canon, and parts left out, but despite this I thought the storyline was fairly linear and the major themes of the book: betrayal, loneliness (essential to the hero's journey story, of course!), love, and corruption were all treated well.

A quick run-down of some things I loved:

  • Luna Lovegood. Evanna Lynch's portrayal was sensitive but also pretty "out there," the epitome of all things Luna. I confess to being one of a few people who would much rather have seen Harry fall in love with Luna than with Ginny in HBP. I think Luna knows things about Harry, spiritually speaking, than he knows about himself.
  • Imelda Staunton should have paid them to play Dolores Umbridge. That woman (Umbridge, not Staunton, who I'm sure is a perfectly lovely person) is pure evil. The viewer can see her spiral out of control both personally and professionally.
  • The fight in the Ministry atrium between Voldemort and Dumbledore, done entirely in earth, air, water, and fire. We haven't seen magical battle this spectacular yet, which makes sense considering these are two of the most powerful wizards in the world.
  • Helena Bonham Carter. Helena Bonham Carter. And also? Helena Bonham Carter. After seeing GoF I figured, "Eh, I'll see OotP eventually, maybe a few weeks after it comes out, no rush." Then I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be playing everyone's favorite insane Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, and said, "I MUST see this movie on opening weekend." They could not have cast anyone more perfect for the role. I'm upset that they deleted the exchange in the book between Bellatrix and Harry regarding what it takes to cast an Unforgivable Curse, but that's more because I personally have a fascination with the Unforgivable Curses and that part of the book was really earth-shattering for me.
  • Cutting out the sound so there was silence in the scene where Remus is holding Harry back from going after Sirius when he falls through the arch. The silence, rather than Harry's screams, was extremely powerful and really made the viewer concentrate on what was on the screen. It reminded me of the scene where Boromir is killed in The Fellowship of the Ring. (Or was that when Gandalf fell? Or both?) During the fight in the atrium I think there was a second of silence where Voldemort is gathering his power to cast the fire spell, which then explodes from him, and that reminded me of what happens as Minas Morgul comes to life in The Return of the King.
  • Finally, Ron gets his due as a friend rather than the comic relief. Harry, Hermione, and Ron function respectively as body, mind, and soul, and while we've had plenty of body and mind in the past four movies we've never seen so much of Ron doing what he does best, which is being their comforter and their heart (despite the teaspoon jab from Hermione).
And what I missed/would like to have seen more of/thought "This is so not canon."

  • I stood up and cheered when Neville fought alongside his friends in the Department of Mysteries at the end of the book. It was so great to see him stand up for his friends, his parents, and most importantly, himself. Too much of that was missing from the movie.
  • Percy's break from the Weasley family, one of my favorite moments in OotP because I saw it coming eight miles away, wasn't there. Again, this is probably a personal prejudice. Although I don't necessarily like Percy I do feel very strong sympathy as well as empathy for him. His break from the Weasleys was one of the first moments of the books where we got dimension from a Gryffindor. But maybe that works better in the book.
  • The way Harry saw Snape's memory of being tormented by James. In the book, Harry steals his view of Snape's memory by falling into Snape's Pensieve. In the book, Snape makes an outright effort to hide that memory for Harry. My brilliant friend Andrea had this to say (paraphrased), about Snape's removing of the memory and putting it in a Pensieve prior to the Occlumency traning sessions: My theater teacher always told me that when in doubt, go for the heart. Snape could have two reasons for hiding that memory. 1: He really didn't want Harry to see his underwear. 2: He really, really didn't want Harry to see what a prat James was. The first answer is the obvious one, but doesn't the second give Snape more dimension, thereby going for the heart?
I've taken up my fair share of space on this topic, I think, so on to Liz and Melissa!

Melissa:

Unlike Carlie, OotP is probably my least-favorite HP. While I can appreciate what Harry's going through, and how he spent the whole year feeling left in the dark, it's a bit wearying to read that for pages and pages and pages. So, I hadn't really been all jazzed up about the movie version.

Happily, I walked out of the movie thinking, "This is the best one yet!" What I loved was that it felt like a movie, not a movie adaptation of a book. It really stood on its own merits, and as such, I think it works better than all the past movies. Kudos to the director and the screenwriter for that!

What I liked:

  • The visual style. The camera work, the lighting, they all made the different places and scenes have life. I loved the odd angles, the overhead shots, everything.
  • The flashbacks! It was so great to see, in Harry's dreams and during the Occlumency sessions, moments from the past four movies. I mean, that scene with Harry and the Mirror of Erised, and then Snape stands between his parents--how cool was that? And it works so perfectly for that moment.
  • Seeing Fred & George leave Hogwarts. It wasn't as flashy as what was in the book, but it was a great sendoff for the twins.
  • Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. Man, if pink and kittens weren't evil before, they sure are now.
  • The way the three 'kids' are really starting to act onscreen. Now that they're all getting older, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are actually being expected to act, and for the most part, they're doing the job. I particularly loved all the little sideways glances that were going on, between Ron and Harry, between Ron and Hermione, between Hermione and Harry.
  • The duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore. Man oh man, that was cool. It's so funny to think back to the duelling scene in Chamber of Secrets, and realize how fake that was, compared to what happened in OotP.
What I didn't love:

  • Um, nothing? Seriously, I can't think of anything that annoyed me or pulled me out of the movie. From the first moment, I was sucked in, and that's what I ask for from movies. So OotP has become my favorite movie adaptation, and I know that I'm going to find some time this week to give the book a re-read, something I haven't ever done, because now I'm curious to compare the book to the movie. And really, how often does that happen?

Liz's turn!

A third "thumbs up" from the crew at Pop.

Why I loved it: while I liked the book, and understood why Harry was going thru what he was, I felt that the movie's version of "sulky Harry" was tighter. From the door slamming in Harry's face when he first goes to Sirius's house to Dumbledore not even looking at him, we get into Harry's skin, feel his exclusion and aloneness. In the movie (perhaps because they cut out so much of the housekeeping?) it also seemed that Harry responded to his friends much faster, which worked very well.

From a film making POV, I respect that the film makers picked children who are now the perfect teens for their parts. Neville, particularly – even tho he's gotten taller, he has such a Neville-ish aspect to him. Imagine, picking the right child to fill the shoes of a character five years in the future!

And the adult actors…. Wow, wow, wow.

I also over-read the film. Given this is one of the few film franchises where the moviemakers respect and listen to the author, and the author speaks up, I think what is and is not included are key as to what JKR sees as important to the overall HP story, not just this book. So, Percy and his choices aren't important enough? Yet, James being a bit of a bully is important; but, Lily being nice to Snape isn't. HHmmm…. What does that mean, for the final book?

Finally, the battle. Yes, it's exciting on the page, but in reality, a bunch of people pointing sticks at each other and shouting. The editing, the special effects, the acting, made this as exciting, and as deadly, as a battle with guns.


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2007-07-16

Harry Potter

As I read the various articles about Harry Potter, the book, the movie, etc., I think, huh, it's rather funny; Harry Potter is not only expected to defeat Voldemort, he's also expected to single handedly change the reading habits of the entire world.

And while there is more about the reporting on & reviewing of HP that I want to post about it, I'll hold off for now. For example, why is it OK to so totally bash HP, JKR, and the readers? I've read comments and posts and articles that treat the book, the author, and the readers in a way that I rarely, if ever, see other books & authors & readers treated. It's as if they're the Paris Hilton of the publishing world (except, with panties and no arrests.) Meaning, JKR is so rich that it's OK to bash her, her work product, and her readers.

But, what motivated me to comment was this great post over at The Longstockings. My favorite line, to the bashers? And in the name of all I cherish, stop trying to ruin the fun for the rest of us. Which is ANOTHER odd thing; rarely have I seen people so intent on ruining the reading pleasure of others, by both talking down about what they read and getting read to spoil the ending out of meanness.

My favorite point, because I totally agree: Who cares if people don't read novels? (*Ducks under desk to avoid flying objects*) Okay, clearly I do, because my friends and I write them and I'd like that to be an economically viable profession. But honestly, no one is suffering a deficit of fiction or stories, thanks to this handy little moving-picture machine we all have in our homes.

As you know, I don't play sports. So, whenever I read about what people do or don't do for pleasure and entertainment, about their own personal choices, I try to imagine, what if they were talking about me and what I choose. So, instead of all the cries about people not reading novels, imagine the complaints about people not playing sports. Here's the thing: WE CANNOT FORCE PEOPLE TO ENJOY DOING SOMETHING THEY DON'T ENJOY. There will always be a percentage of people who don't like doing what I like doing; in this case, read novels.

But guess what? We're not going to convince anyone that reading novels is great! fun! if we bash their reading choices. And, of course, as it becomes clear with all these "people don't read enough novels" nonsense, what the writers really mean is that we are supposed to "read novels that are literary and worthwhile and not Harry Potter or chick lit or science fiction." So, not only are these writers insisting that readers must enjoy reading novels, they must enjoy reading a certain sort of novel.

And, speaking of novels, what's wrong with people reading nonfiction for enjoyment?

And, as you know from my intro at the top of the Tea Cozy blog, I'm more about the story than the books (tho I don't post enough about the movies & TV I watch.) So I loved the nod of respect to other ways that people get story.

Anyway. Enough of my Monday Morning Rant. Time to get ready for work.

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

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2007-07-14

It's A Zombie Eat Human World

World War Z is one of the best books I've read this year. It's about the Zombie Wars and how people survive, and ever since reading it, I look at houses and buildings wondering, hm, would that be a good place to be when the zombies attack?

I also fell in love with the Zombie American short films.

So, it was with great pleasure that I read Wil Wheaton's Geek in Review: It's the End of the World As We Know it, and I Feel Fine. Wheaton has a great round-up of post-apocalyptic films and books, including zombies. Also, I love that it was a librarian who introduced him to post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Speaking of zombies, vampires have been rehabilitated, as have werewolves, in that both are often shown as misunderstood. Better yet, there are a ton of romance novels with vampires and werewolves. Yet zombies... not so much. It's kind of nice to have an enemy that will always be viewed as evil, due to the decaying flesh and eating brains.

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2007-07-12

Post-Harry, Whatever Will They Read?

Reading the NY Times piece Potter Has Limited Effects on Reading Habits, I thought, "Well, duh." A quote from a teacher & author sums up the situation perfectly:

“Unless there are scaffolds in place for kids — an enthusiastic adult saying, ‘Here’s the next [book you might like]’ — it’s not going to happen,” said Nancie Atwell, the author of “The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers” and a teacher in Edgecomb, Me. “And in way too many American classrooms it’s not happening.”



You get exactly one guess as to where I'll say it is happening. Did you guess libraries? Oh, well done! A gold star for you. (I mean it! If you see me at a conference, and you guessed "libraries", I will give you a gold star. Either that, or I'll buy you the beverage of your choice.)

I would argue a few things:

  • Harry Potter has had an impact on young peoples' reading habits, but it may be more subtle than the study conducted by the NEA was designed to reflect. Many teens go through a period of not reading much, but those who start out with a foundation of enjoying reading early in life come back to it as older teens or as adults.
  • Harry Potter has had another indirect impact on teen & children's reading, and that is the impact it's had on publishing. Publishing for children & teens is one helluva booming business these days, and although that's partly to do with demographics -- there are more youngsters, with more disposable income, than ever before in this country -- it's also due to Harry's stunning popularity. One of the reasons we see series of all kinds, from Gossip Girl to TrueColors to Cirque du Freak to Bartimaeus to Skybreaker to Keys to the Kingdom to Spiderwick Chronicles to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to the comeback of Choose Your Own Adventure is that Harry showed publishers that kids & teens will read.

I happened to be in my car during NPR's Here & Now program, and was so pleased that Robin Young interviewed YALSA's new president, Paula Brehm-Heeger to get the YA librarian's POV on this topic. Thank you, Robin, and great job, Paula! You can listen to the segment here.

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2007-07-10

The Diana Chronicles: a Pop Review

(Okay, first, does anyone else using Blogger know why I can't type this post's title into the title box? Couldn't do it using my Mac in Firefox, now I can't do it using my work PC. Strange, no?)

Even if you were not an avid Diana-watcher since her marriage to Prince Charles, and even if you did not get up at some ungodly hour in September, 1997 to watch many hours of her funeral coverage, you may still want to read The Diana Chronicles. Tina Brown, whose journalistic star's ascendance, as editor-in-chief of Tatler mirrored (indeed, was fueled by) her subject's own meteoric rise to fame, certainly knows Diana well, and has done her research. Sadly, it's not a wholly satisfying read.

Well, how could it be? We all know the terrible end Diana met, and her inability (refusal?) to get past her neediness and her taste for exactly the wrong sort of man is wearisome and repetitive. Maybe she would have gotten it right in her lovelife eventually, but of course, we'll never know. Some of what's here is fascinating: Diana's heartbreaking background as a child of a particularly nasty divorce, the utter failure of her parents to secure anything resembling a good education for her (has this book ever put the lie to the notion that a boarding school education is by definition a good one -- damn!), her brilliance at public relations. I also found Brown's portrait of the Royal Family surprisingly sympathetic: I no longer hate Prince Philip, and I view Prince Charles as both heroic (in his environmentalist views & practices) and pathetic (in his romantic misadventures). I found myself unable to finish the book (and not just because there are close to 30 holds on it at my library), mostly because I just couldn't bear to read about one more disastrous love affair, about how she & Charles kept knifing each other in the back -- there could have been real love there, and they both squandered the opportunity -- and because I couldn't bring myself to read the end of the book, where Diana's death left her two boys motherless.

Tina Jordan's review in EW found Brown's tone shrewish and catty, but I saw none of it. This is a clear-eyed account of what made Diana tick, and on that level, it succeeds admirably.

I know this is by no means a ground-shattering review -- libraries that were going to buy this book have already got it flying off their shelves -- but it's what I've been reading while I wait for Mr. Potter, and I wanted to share.

ETA: there were some annoying typos, too -- Brown refers to the great house in Rebecca as "Mandalay", when it's "Manderley", and mixes up the villains in two Jane Austen novels. Tsk, tsk.

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Welcome, Slate Readers

And also: congratulations, Melissa, on being one of the bloggers linked-to from Slate's coverage of the "Hipper Brand of Shushers" kerfuffle (scroll down, we're at the very bottom of the page). We have a love-hate relationship with Slate here at Pop, largely due to their consistently wrong-headed approach to literature for children & teens. This, however, qualifies as a true love moment. Thanks to Sonia Smith for choosing to highlight Melissa's post, and happy almost birthday, Issa!

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2007-07-08

My Personal Sports Journey

One of the things that I am proud of at the recent ALA Conference in Washington DC, besides being a presenter with a team from my library, was that I kept up with my exercise program and managed to eat sensibly. This meant getting up at 6AM to hit the gym in my hotel for 30 minutes before a full day of presentations, meetings, classes and networking. My exercise habit began several months earlier and just because I was traveling did not mean I was about to break it.

When I was younger I had the kind of metabolism that meant I could eat anything I wanted without gaining an ounce. Today if I look at a candy bar it will go straight to my hips. Sigh. And since I no longer work in Manhattan, where everyone walks everywhere at the average racewalker’s pace, my lack of daily walking came with a creeping weight gain. Sigh. So, at my annual physical I talked things over with my doc and got the OK to start an exercise program. The following day I went out and bought a recumbent bike. With a bike I could exercise indoors. I didn't have to worry about the weather, or the fact that it is dark outside at 6:00AM before work and dark outside at 5:00P after work in the winter, or that I couldn't make it to the gym because of (insert excuse here).

It wasn’t easy. Despite my good intentions, my recumbent bike started life as a clothing rack. Until the day I saw Morgan Spurlock’s movie “Supersize Me.” After the movie I threw everything on the floor, got on the bike and realized, via the bike’s calorie counter, how much effort it took to work off one 270 calorie candy bar. I also started eating better, watching portion size, and shunning fast-food. Today I exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, and sometimes I even work-out twice a day. My sports of choice are the recumbent bike, tennis, swimming, walking and free weights. I am now down one dress size. It all happened gradually over 6 months of moderate exercise and eating a healthier diet. I also have a pal who is on the same journey. It helps me to have a buddy to keep me on track and honest.




Importantly, I have come to the realization that I am a recreational sports kind-of-gal. Once I found the kind of exercise I like to do it was easier to stick to it. A friend of mine likes to train for marathons. Another loves competitive biking and spin classes. Every person is different. Exercise is now a habit for me and I enjoy it. Not every day, but most days. I am not competing with anyone. I am doing it just for me.

I find books, CD’s and DVD’s on health and fitness at my library. Free with my library card. Some websites that I use on my fitness journey: United States Tennis Association, Runners World, United States Masters Swimming, The Self Challenge .

As for television, last week I watched Shaq’s Big Challenge, Tuesday’s 9P Eastern Time on ABC Television in which NBA star Shaquille O’Neal tackles the issue of childhood obesity. The website has some cool tips and links under “Get on Shaq’s Team.” In last week’s show Shaq and his team of experts approached a school principal about getting physical education classes back into the curriculum. The principal told the team to find her a way to do it within the budget. I was stunned. What? Some schools today have no PE?!! Hey, if I had to endure ugly gym shorts for my entire elementary, middle-school, and high school years then so does everyone else! Why do school budget cuts always hit sports, the arts, and the music programs? Sigh.

Time to turn off the computer and go play tennis…for the second time today! Watching the Wimbledon Championship has inspired me. Venus Williams captured her 4th Wimbledon Championship and Roger Federer equaled Bjorn Borg’s 5 consecutive Wimbledon Championships. P.S. I can’t wait for more tennis matches between Switzerland's Federer and Spain’s incredible Rafael Nadal. What a match-up!

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free yourself from stereotypes!

A Hipper Crowd of Shushers

Okay, I'm going to get up on a soapbox for a moment.

I know many people would look at this article and go, "Oh, cool, coverage of how librarians aren't all like that dreaded stereotype." But I read articles like this, and I still want to throw the article across the room, with as much force as possible. Do you know why?

We're exchanging one stereotype for another.

Why are we so eager to be pigeonholed into another niche? Just as many people don't respond to librarians because they're thinking of the glasses, bun, and shushing, there are just as many people who won't respond to tattoos, pink hair, and loud voices. Yet we're so desperate not to be seen as fuddy-duddies that we're swinging too much to the other side of the spectrum, where you have to be cooler than cool to be a librarian.

I love being a librarian. I love talking about books. I love answering questions. I love reading blog posts and using del.icio.us and sending text messages. But I'd never consider myself a 'hipster librarian'. For one thing, since I joke that I'm mentally twelve years old, I know I'll never be cool enough to be a hipster librarian. But also, there's a part of me that delights in doing the unexpected, in going against the crowd. I was a teen in the early nineties, so when everyone else was listening to grunge, I was listening to show tunes. Instead of hanging out at the mall, I was reading.

When I see a group all eager to promote one way of being a librarian, I'm not going to follow that crowd. I may do all the things they do, but I don't look like they do. And that's okay, you know? For both them and me, our outward appearances don't affect the tasks we do, the service we give. I just hate the thought that in some minds, appearances and performance are linked, and the only way you can be a cool librarian is to have an eyebrow piercing or go out for drinks that are identified by Dewey call numbers.

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2007-07-07

Spoiler free! Stephen King and the Deathly Hallows

No fictional character in the last ten years has generated more arguments, more discussion, and more analysis than Harry Potter...except for perhaps his nemesis Potions instructor, Severus Snape. I've read many books and essays dissecting the Harry Potter books, but my favorite writer is not an academic (sorry, Henry Jenkins! I love your blog anyway!) or even a Potter news expert. It's Stephen King. Although I haven't read any of King's fiction in a while, I absolutely adore his nonfiction, like On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and his column in Entertainment Weekly. Beyond his talent for scaring people, King takes obvious joy in writing. I think we all wish that one day we can all be as happy in our vocations as King is in his.

Stephen King first won my Potter fan heart when he wrote, decrying all the people who say that every new YA fantasy novel is "the new Harry Potter" or that XYZ adult fantasy is "Harry Potter for adults": "Harry Potter is Harry Potter, you dolts!" King has never shied away from his love of this series, and I'm sure there was no one more excited than he to take the stage with J.K. Rowling (rhymes with bowling) last year at Radio City Music Hall. Now, he's written a new Potter essasy for Entertainment Weekly: Goodbye, Harry. He doesn't make predictions, except to say that the books will probably NOT end in a ten-second blackout as Harry & Company sit eating onion rings at Holsten's Brookdale Confectionery while Journey plays in the background. What he does address is something I dread more than any death in the series, and that is the end of an era, the end of a great story with characters we've come to care about. King writes:

I'm partly drawing on my own experience with
The Dark Tower (reader satisfaction with the ending was low — tough titty, since it was the only one I had); partly on my belief that very few long works end as felicitously as Tolkien's Rings series, with its beautiful pilgrimage into the Grey Havens; but mostly on the fact that there is that sadness, that inevitable parting from characters who have been loved deeply by many. The Internet blog sites will be full of this was bad and that was wrong, but it's going to boil down to something that many will feel and few will come right out and state: No ending can be right, because it shouldn't be over at all. The magic is not supposed to go away.


I don't think the magic will ever truly go away, not in the way that there will always be great books for readers of all ages, but I too will miss Ron and Professor McGonagall and Luna Lovegood with the best of them.





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2007-07-06

Friday Fun: Nymbler is Name-Tastic!

Are you a name-a-holic? If so, oh, the fun you will have with Nymbler! I believe I've linked here before to Laura Wattenberg's formidable blog & name-search tool, NameVoyager. Now, there's Nymbler, which can help you find a stylistic match for names of siblings, or just help you while away some time idly contemplating your taste in names. Trust me: this is fun even if you are not actively contemplating procreation.

I was playing with it last night to find some names that would go well with the names of myself, my siblings, my husband, and his siblings, and was impressed with what Nymbler gave me. I didn't love every single name, but I liked at least a few of them enough to put them in my favorites section.

For example, this set of names: Sophie, Sarah, Charlotte, Marcus, Adam, Rebecca
Yielded the following suggested names: Elsa, Elizabeth, Madeleine, Joseph, Ivan, Matthew

(All the names it suggested as companions for Nell (for boys, at least) were way, way too informal for my liking, though.)

And if you don't like what's on page one, you can request more suggested names, and more, and more, and more. Many, many minutes may be spent poring over name lists and meanings, and on subtly adjusting your six inspiration names to glean results more to your liking.

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2007-07-05

Jane Austen Round-Up

For those librarians & their patrons who are Austen fanatics, I present Adrienne Furness's excellent round-up of resources for the Austen-deprived. I'm so glad she included Clueless, one of my favorite movies (and richest sources of slang) of all time.

Two things to add to Adrienne's list:

Persuasion: this is possibly my favorite film adaptation of any Austen novel, maybe because it's my favorite Austen novel. It's beautiful, spare, autumnal, and stars the mousy-to-radiant Amanda Root and the smoldering Ciaran Hinds (probably better known now for his role as Caesar in HBO's series Rome) as true lovers thwarted, then reunited. The book is, of course, richer, but that doesn't detract from the wonderfulness of the film.

The Republic of Pemberley: Home of JA-related discussion boards, fanfic, and a database of Austen-related recommended reading, organized by genre & age group. Impressive! I'm glad the ROP is still around, as I wrote a paper on it for a Reading Communities course I took in library school.

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2007-07-02

Rock & Roll Mamas (and The Library)

I found clips from the forthcoming documentary Rock & Roll Mamas, which promises to showcase "the struggles and triumphs of both emerging and established rock stars who are also mothers" via a link at Babble.com. You can view clips on YouTube of notable female rock luminaries such as Suzanne Vega, Corin Tucker (ex of Sleater-Kinney), Zia McCabe (of the Dandy Warhols) and Kristen Hersh (ex of Throwing Muses).

As of the filmmaker's most recent blog post, there are only 5 minutes of edited footage, so it's not as though this is a movie coming to a theater near you in the next month or so. Still, it's worth noting for a few reasons:

  • This is a documentary which will appeal to lots of new, youngish parents. The musicians whose interviews are showcased on YouTube are perhaps not famous in a Beatlemania sort of way, but they are very well known in their own way. Does your library hold CDs by these artists? If so, you can cross-promote two collections at once when the DVD comes out.
  • This is a project you can replicate, cheaply & easily, at your own library with a video camera, a USB or firewire cable, and some editing software, in about 15 minutes after storytime. Call it Your Town Mamas, and post your videos as responses to the videos already hosted at YouTube! Who knows, maybe you have the next YouTube star singing along with "The Wheels on the Bus." She's so money, and she doesn't even know it.
  • This is just one more entry in the endless parade of examples you can file under DIY for the nanotech age. This is what our present era is about: people creating their own content and using it to make connections with others. On a broader scale, look at what John & Hank Green and their devoted Nerdfighters are doing for microfinanciers kiva.org, through their Brotherhood 2.0 project. This is amazing, world-transforming stuff! I'm not saying that Rock & Roll Mamas rises to the level of transforming the world at the macro level, but I think it will at a micro level ("Hey, having a baby will change my life, but I'll still be myself!"), and I bet Your Town Mamas would have a similar effect. Consider it a kaffeeklatsch for the digital age.

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2007-07-01

What Do School Librarians Want and Need?

The June 2007 Issue of School Library Journal had a letter to the editor, Proud to Be a School Librarian.

Katherine Koenig has an eloquent article on what school librarians do; but in the middle there was a part that made me cringe. Here it is: So when I get phone calls from public librarians offering to do booktalks for me or to teach my students how to use electronic databases, I have to wonder, when will the rest of the profession get a clue as to what school librarians do?

Uh oh. Booktalks and databases are definitely part of my standard pitch, a pitch that was taught to me by other public librarians. "This is what we can offer schools," I was told, and sure enough, schools do take me up on it and I visit and booktalk. As for databases, that offer usually is only accepted by those schools who don't have a school librarian.

Why are these two things public libraries offer? Here is what I've been told, which may or may not be accurate. Booktalks because public libraries have more recreational reading than school libraries, due to funding, so with booktalks we can tell kids about books not in the school library. Databases because our databases always seem under used, with parents and students surprised at what is available. After the tenth kid comes in and acts as if they have never heard of Ebsco & don't know how to use it, we assume that a school visit on searching in Ebsco would be welcome.

So I cringed not because of what Koenig said, but rather, she nailed what it is I offer. But I wonder: what does Koenig, and other school librarians, want when I call? After all, we both serve the same students so I do believe that there are things we can do together. The question is, what? Yes, I know school librarians are busy; but so are public librarians. So please, if we call and offer something you don't want or need, let us know what you do want or need!

Thanks to Biblio File for starting this conversation and reminding me about this letter.

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