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.

2008-06-26

I Love the Millennium

I am a big VH1 fan; primarily due to their fascinating documentaries like "Sex: The Revolution," "The Drug Years," and "The Seven Ages of Rock." But I'm also a fan of Best Week Ever and their I Love [insert decade here]* shows. I love that the shows tiptoe the line between being informative and snarky.

And really, why treat these subjects with reverence? The concept of Best Week Ever is that the preceding week was the best week EVER, and they spend the show taking potshots at what was considered news throughout the week. And the I Love [insert decade here] shows are amazing in that they show an enormous amount of pop culture history (one year per hour, ten episodes by decade) and are actually very informative from a pop culture standpoint.

So imagine how thrilled I was that this week they are airing I Love the Millennium?

Of course the conundrum is that they can only do eight years of the millennium, and they only have half of the eighth year to work with; so VH1 is only taping shows for 2000 - 2007. All the same, the show is just as enjoyable and informative as its always been. If you're not watching it, you're missing out. Since tonight is the last night, perhaps you feel like you're coming in too late.

Never fear! VH1 is going to run a marathon of the show on Sunday starting at 3PM EST. You'll be able to catch up in one day!

Another thing I love about these series is all the things you forgot about from their respective decades. They are full of things you could make programs about, pull books on, find websites for, etc. They are rich with information for you to create library content. Now, hopefully this new series doesn't have too many things that you've forgotten about since it only goes back to 2000, but if your memory is like mine these days...
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*They have done two series of the 1970s, three of the 1980s, and two of the 1990s leading up to the new show. There was also a I Love the Holidays and I Love Toys.

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2008-06-24

Article in RA News: Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Who doesn't love love? Summer is always a perfect time for romance, which makes it the perfect time to blatantly self-promote!

Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: Guy-centric YA romance is the featured article in the June 2008 edition of Readers' Advisor News. I've noticed that in the last few years more and more guy-centric romances for teens have been published and become popular. My personal theory is that the books are following movies, but you can read a little more about that in the article.

And feel free to add your favorite guy romances in the comments!

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2008-06-11

Wednesday Night Lights: Bad Superhero, Bad!

The unfortunately named Topless Robot recently posted a list of the worst superheroes to ever appear on television. Like my previous posts, here is the list:

10. Birds of Prey (a Batman spin-off)
9. Once a Hero
8. Exo Man
7. KISS meets Phantom of the Park (we LOVED this in grade school)
6. Thor (my best friend and I were so excited that Thor was getting his own show, even at that age we knew it stunk)
5. My Secret Identity
4. Captain America
3. Legends of the Superheroes
2. Wonder Woman (pre-Linda Carter pilot)
1. Justice League

The great thing is when you click-through to the site, they have clips of these shows so you can see how truly awful they were.

I'm surprised M.A.N.T.I.S. didn't make the cut. I guess it wasn't awful through and through; it had an interesting premise and was pretty well-written (about what you'd expect from Sam Hamm) but the effects were...let's say less than stellar. Wow, I just noticed, M.A.N.T.I.S. is from 1994? Sheesh, that makes me feel old.

I have to say, while I cut my teeth on superhero comic books and television as a child, my love affair with the genre died quickly in the 1990s. I do not look forward to superhero television or movies. While most everyone I knew was thrilled to death about the Spider-man movie a half-dozen years ago, I could not have cared less about seeing the film. There was an initial thrill about the idea of the movie--probably some leftover emotions of my comic-book youth--but as the opening drew nearer, my interest waned. I think partly this was due to the innundation of coverage about the film.

This trend continues to today. EVery time a superhero movie is announced, I feel a little thrill about it. I see some stills and I think, that could be great. And then comes the commercials, the interviews, the magazine articles, the online advertising, and on and on and on. I am so sick of the movie by the time it comes out.

Take Iron Man for example. It's filled with actors I enjoy. I recently watched A Scanner Darkly with Robert Downey, Jr.. Man I thought he was great in that movie. I really enjoyed that film and its sense of frowing paranoia and confusion. So when I saw him as Tony Stark I thought, that might work. And then Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges . . . this was a quality cast (all four have been nominated for acting Oscars, and Gwyneth has won one if you've been under a rock). I was getting excited about this movie. The trailers looked great. The initials reviews were positive. But, by the time the film came out in theaters, I was over it.

It's in my Netflix queue. I'm sure I'll see it some day. And I'm sure I should see it on the big screen to get the full experience, but that won't happen. The last superhero movie I watched was Batman Begins, IMO one of the most awful pieces of dreck I've watched in recent history. It had the misfortune of getting incredible hype from people whose opinion I trust*, so I think the movie had an unreal set of expectations going in. On top of that, I think I'm beginning to learn that I don't care for Christian Bale as an actor*. I thought his performance was terrible, and all the build up of creating/showing the story of how Batman gained his abilities bored me to tears. I didn't even finish watching the film.

And of course, despite everything, I find myself excited about The Dark Knight; it being one of Heath Ledger's (another actor I'm not sure that I like as much as I think I do) final performances owing more than its fair share of blame. For now, I just love the look of Ledger's Joker. In the end, it'll be another superhero film, and I won't like it.

And I'm terrified about The Watchmen. I hope it never gets finished****.
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* In the past this happened with The Predator, and Speed, two films that are ok, but if you listened to my friends, you would think you'd be getting ready to see one of the BEST. MOVIES. EVER. I try to not listen to people talking about films these days. Another film that I hated that my friends that was the bee's knees was Donnie Darko. Worst film ever? Discuss.

** I actually enjoyed the ridiculous Reign of Fire*** which featured Bale and Matthew McConaughey trying to out-cheese each other. This was I think the opposite effect of the note above. It was panned so badly by my friends that no movie could possibly be that bad.

*** This is part of a weird collection of films I enjoyed watching late at night on movie channels with the sound off so I didn't wake my wife. These films are: Reign of Fire, Ghosts of Mars, Resident Evil, The Transporter, and Dawn of the Dead (the remake). With the sound off, they're fun action movies. I've tried watching them with the sound on, and I can't make it two minutes.

**** If they ever wanted to make a Marshal Law movie, I'd totally be in line for that. To quote from the Wikipedia article: "The series is characterised by its extreme graphic violence and nudity, and Mills' merciless savaging of superhero conventions and US government policy and society."

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2008-06-05

Age Banding in the UK

I meant to blog about age banding a few days ago when I first saw it mentioned at Publishers Weekly. In a nutshell, publishers and parents in the UK apparently have said, "hey, it would be so cool if all books had labels saying "this is for kids aged x."" Authors, librarians, and booksellers have responded with a loud "hell, no" (Well, to be fair, some authors are saying it's good.*)

Fuse posted about it today, with some more links on reactions to it. One of the many things the authors are saying are saying is "booksellers have the knowledge without age banding thank you very much." Fuse's comment to this is "Sure sure. Or, y'know, maybe you could ask someone with an actual degree in children's literature like a, gee I dunno, librarian? Come on, Phil. We need all the shout-outs we can get."

Going just a wee bit wanky, I'd amend Fuse's comment a bit. Oh, I agree that the librarians are great at matching books to readers, and it's sad that many of the comments arising from this issue are of the "librarians didn't let me read a book" variety.

But what makes librarian's great isn't a degree in children's literature. Cause I don't have that (tho sometimes I really like the idea of getting a PhD in children's literature. Know a good program?)

Like most librarians, what I have is a Masters of Library and Information Sciences, which included two relevant classes: Materials for Children and Materials for Young Adults. See, I think the thing with librarians isn't so much that they know children's lit ... it's that they are the matchmaker, matching the book and the child, and that is what is unique about librarians.

Or, rather, should be unique about librarians. Sometimes, I wonder.

I've posted before (here and at Tea Cozy) about how, to my sorrow, books seem to be "so last year" when libraries talk. It's all about, well, things that aren't books. So libraries outsource selection and cataloging. It's about programming. It's about becoming a community center. Books? Oh, they will disappear soon. People buy what they want at Amazon. How many libraries really support readers advisory?

Yet, people are crying out for readers advisory and to talk about books. Look at the popularity of GoodReads, Shelfari, LibraryThing. Any of those could have been -- should have been -- library ideas. Because people still want books, and want to talk about books, and want suggestions on what to read next. Most front line library staff know this, as do those of us librarians who went into librarianship because of books. The most popular programs I go to at library conferences and workshops are about books.

Do we need shout-outs, like Fuse said?

Absolutely.

But we also need to "shout out" ourselves, about our unique ability to be book matchmakers; more so than bookstores, in that we have old books and new books, popular books and niche books, and so have a bigger selection of books for people to read. We need to keep up with what books are out there -- by reading reviews, both professional and informal; by reading books that are readers guides. We -- not an age on a book -- are the best help to someone who is looking for the right book for a child. And we need to let more people know that.

To show just how much we fail at letting people outside the library world know what we do, take a look at Ypulse's great book preconference (aka where I would go if I won the lottery tomorrow.) Yes, an amazing line up...but where are the YA librarians, talking about readers advisory and handselling books and booktalks and letting people know about how librarians figure into publishing? We have something to offer!

Back to the topic of age banding:

To start, no, the proposed UK system is not the same as what some publishers do here in the US (the smallish for ages 8 to 12 on the back of a book). The proposal is for the following categories: 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen.

Using an "age band" for a book is deceptive. It appears to be helpful -- to match the book to the reader. But it's as deceptive as talking about "boy books" and "girl books." Books are much more than a book for a particular age or gender. Readers have more subtle and complex needs than that. And yes, labelling books can create a backlash, with kids refusing to read because something is too babyish. I've also seen, again and again, parents and teachers view books as no more than a "checklist" item to prove a child's genius and maturity, so there will be some who say "I have an 7 year old but I want the 13 year old books because my child is gifted."

The truth is there is no one book that is a match for every 8 year old. And adults who want that simple match are fooling themselves; books are not school uniforms or clothes. Each 8 year old is different; and to get that book for that child, you either need to do a lot of reading yourselves or to find a professional who has done that reading to help match book to child.

* My interpretation of Rosoff's defense of age banding is she sees it as a way not to censor but rather to assist adults who know nothing about children's books who want to buy something for a child. I agree, that is a problem; but I disagree that the solution is to label books in the way proposed, and would argue that it would cause more problems than it solves.

Cross posted at Tea Cozy.

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2008-06-04

To Film the Impossible FIlm

Following up on my last post, a friend of mine posted a link to a list of books that would be impossible to film. To quote the site:
"With the release and critical success of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, an adaptation of a novel once considered impossible to film, what better time to look into the process of adaptation. Most movies these days are based on literary sources. Which is ironic, considering the increasing lack of interest in books these days as opposed to the spoon-fed thoughts offered by Hollywood."
Again, I will bold the ones I've read, italicize the ones I own, etc.

Ulysses - James Joyce
Cat’s Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien
100 Years of Solitude - Gabreil Garcia Marquez
Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust
Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy O'Toole
Any Thomas Pynchon Novel I've read The Crying of Lot 49
Don Quixote - Miguel Cervantes
The Atrocity Exhibition - J. G. Ballard
Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnameable - Samuel Beckett

So despite the assertion that more movies are being made from literary sources, one can ask: should everything be made into a movie? The list above looks like strong candidates in the 'leave them alone' category. And you should click through to the link, as the people on the site have some very interesting view points on why the films are unfilmable, as well as possible suggestions as to who could film it. I would add Mark Danielewski's novel House of Leaves to this list. Actually, I would add Danielewski's Only Revolutions to this list, too.

But at one point, I would have listed Fight Club or even The Lord of the Rings (mostly due to what I considered the Heraclean task of pleasing the fanboy in me) to this list. And, at least for me, are things I can enjoy in both formats. This could be a great theme for an adult summer reading program. A little late for this year, when Metamorphosis would have been a perfect theme to match with the idea of difficult books to film (see what I did there, the Kafka book is even IN the list!).

What books would you consider unfilmable?

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