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.


Holiday Traditions

Where I grew up in Milwaukee, WI, St. Nick's day is a day kids look forward to just as much as Halloween. Ok, I'll admit, that's a whole lot of hyperbole, but St. Nick's Day (or St. Nicholas' Day) is very popular in the Milwaukee. You can read about its popularity, here. I can remember having competitive 'discussions' in grade school about what you got from St. Nick that morning.

Wait, what? You don't know what St. Nick's day is? Well, here's a link to a Wikipedia articlethat sums it up nicely. To quote from the article:
In Germany, Nikolaus is usually celebrated on a small scale. Many children put a boot, called Nikolaus-Stiefel, outside the front door on the night of December 5 to December 6. St. Nicholas fills the boot with gifts, and at the same time checks up on the children to see if they were good.
In our family, December 5 was the day we got our stocking filled with candy and a toy. As we all got older, St. Nick's day became all about the candy. Even in college my mother would mail us a box of treats for December 5, which was great as it always coincided with getting ready for finals. And if people will indulge me, here's a quick link to a set of photos of our daughter celebrating her first St. Nick's Day.

While I was preparing this post, I became aware that another holiday tradition of my family's is considered unusual. I am talking about, of course, the Christmas Pickle. The story is that the last ornament on the tree is a glass pickle. Then, whomever finds the ornament receives an extra gift on Christmas day. My family being my family, it was usually some sort of food (we like to eat). Somewhere, I heard the version that it used to be an actual pickle that was put on the tree, and the person who found it got to eat it (pickles being delicious). Everyone household in my family owns a glass pickle ornament. And whomever finds it gets an extra gift.

As I started to research this to find substantiated sources so as to not show my family as a group of lunatics, I was alarmed to learn that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the pickle ornament. This site sums up the variety of pickle ornament origins nicely. So, I was disappointed to find that the Christmas pickle ornament is likely someone's ingenious marketing ploy. Nonetheless, the tradition isn't hurting anyone, and someone gets a little something extra for Christmas.

What does your family do that's different for Christmas? What sort of reference questions have you answered about different holiday traditions?



ForeWord: Shelf Space Blog

And now, for some blatant self-promotion.

I'm the December guest blogger at Shelf Space, the blog for Foreword Magazine. Foreword is all about "good books, independently published."

My first post is up: Encouraging Reading, my response to the (in)famous NEA To Read or Not to Read Report.

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All I ask for is a small show and a smaller screen to watch it on

Like a lot of other people in this profession, I watched Gossip Girl when it started airing on The CW because I've been reading the books for years. (Some of the books are better than others.) I have to say I'm not fully enamored of the show. I find the pacing slow and Blair's clothes better suited to a ten-year-old, and a great lack of the wit and humor that comes through the books. Although I've stopped paying attention to the show, I am still paying attention to the media that surrounds it, because it's fascinating.

Averaging 2.5 million viewers an episode (info culled from BuzzSugar), Gossip Girl is far from being the top-rated show on television. It's not even the top rated show on The CW (that's America's Next Top Model, which gets about 5 million viewers an episode). Comparitively, CSI gets 18-20 million viewers an episode, Chuck about 7 million. I realize that's comparing apples and pineapples because the target audience of CSI is not the same as the target audience of Gossip Girl, but it gives some perspective. Think about how many more shows get higher ratings than Gossip Girl. Now comes the information bomb: Gossip Girl is the #1 show downloaded from iTunes. How does a show with a fraction of the number of viewers of Grey's Anatomy (which is popular with the same crowd that watches Gossip Girl) beat it out for downloads? I don't have definite answers, but I do have theories...some probably more educated than others.

1. There is a hunger among television viewers for portable viewing. Maybe there are groups of high schoolers crowded around someone's laptop in the hallway before classes begin. Maybe viewers bring eps to school for their friends whose parents don't let them watch. Maybe they'd rather watch it on their iPods without parents around.

2. The gadget marketing in the series really works. There is some serious Verizon marketing going on there. Verizon beat out a couple of other companies for exclusive right to product placement...which surprises me because I swear those were T-Mobile Sidekicks I saw in the first episode. Warring phone companies aside, if Blair and Serena can watch videos on their phones, why shouldn't the rest of us be able to?

3. It's one of those shows that's slow to catch on. This is a phenomenon I see with young adult novels; adults don't want to pick it up because it's marketed for teens and therefore must not have an ounce of intelligence but once they pick it up they can't put it down. Adults who tune into the show around episode 4 or 5 want to catch up but it's not available via OnDemand so they download it from iTunes. The problem with this idea is that episodes are available for free on the CW's website, but you can't visit the CW's site from your iPod unless you've got an iPod Touch.

4. SOMEONE out there is listening to consumers when we say we want more than just one way to watch TV.

With its interactive features, from Second Life (I don't even have time for a first life!) to a music feature on the CW's site, Gossip Girl is going where no show has gone before. It took American Idol a few seasons to really become a brand and not just a TV show, but Gossip Girl is waving the brand flag right out of the gate. It's something none of the other CW shows, even the ones with higher ratings (Smallville, Supernatural, etc.), have done yet. Of all the fall 2007 releases, Gossip Girl was the first one to be picked up for a full season, even before ABC's much-touted Pushing Daisies. This makes me think that the CW execs can see a bigger picture of the show than I can...which would make sense, considering they get paid to see the bigger picture regarding their shows. More than what happens with Blair and Serena, I'm interested in seeing where the brand and the viral marketing go.

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Vote for your favorite YouTube/ Comic!

Nancy Dowd of the blog, The "M" Word: Marketing Libraries reminded me about the New Jersey State Library's YouTube/Comic contest.

Basically, YouTube videos and comics have been submitted.

Anyone (and not just people from NJ!) can vote.

Go here; read the comics and view the videos; and then vote. (All you have to do is go to the NJ State Library home page and click on the YouTube icon.) There are some pretty good ones, and no, I'm not going to tell you the ones I voted for!

You can see the current results after you vote; voting ends December 31.

Nancy asks, "Help us get the word out, post this on your blogs, facebook and MySpace pages; tell your customers, families and friends. The kids worked hard on their projects, it would be great if lots of people got to see their work. " If you have any questions, you can contact Nancy at ndowd @ njstatelib.org (remove the spaces, of course!).

Full disclosure: my new place of work is NJLBH, a division of the NJ State Library.

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

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We Did It!

Complete Manuscript
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio
Liz & I are sending in the manuscript for Pop Goes The Library: The Book this week. We know there's a lot of work ahead of us, still, but as Liz said earlier today, any work we do will just improve something that's already pretty darn good.

I'll write more about the process -- and the last week, in particular, which has been a marathon of finalizing -- later, and I'm sure Liz will, too.

In the meantime, I'd just like to thank Liz Burns for being such a great, supportive, and complementary co-author. This was a collaborative effort from start to finish, and I could never have survived this, much less completed it, without you, Smartie!

Many more thanks to come.

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