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.


Friday Fun: Fabulous Flash

My very favorite website has a wonderful tradition: Flash Friday. It's wonderful because it usually restricts the posting of productivity-obliterating flash games to the day of the week when you don't usually get anything done anyway. Flash games are a picocent per gross or something, most endlessly rehashing game mechanics from the 80's, but there are some truly amazing things out there too... like You Have To Burn The Rope. It's very short, very accessible, and very awesome... especially the end credits If you get stumped, try the 1-minute walkthrough. Hint: You have to burn the rope. Just ask this kid.

The Swedish student game developer who unleashed You Have To Burn The Rope upon the world was surely influenced by Still Alive, the incredibly perfect ending credits song from Portal, written by geek superstar Jonathon Coulton and sung by GLaDOS, the AI that guides and leads the player through the game. Coulton is huge with geeks, and his song Code Monkey is used as the opening theme for, well, Code Monkeys, the atari-look southpark-style comedy about 80's game developers.

Then there's Puzzle Farter. Let 'er rip!

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Best albums of the decade: What do you own?

My favorite New York radio station, 92.3 K-Rock, is holding an online battle for the best albums of the decade so far. Of course, a rock station is going to have a very different opinion on what the best albums of the decade are so far than a Top 40 or a country station would, but there's an important point here: These are albums that make up the hard rock/metal canon of 2000-2010 (with a little alternative thrown in), and the top vote-getters are probably good bets for libraries to buy if you don't already own them. As of the writing of this post there are 150 albums up for voting. If I could only buy five of them for my library, I'd pick:

Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace by the Foo Fighters
American Idiot by Green Day
Hot Fuss by the Killers
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2

Are these my personal favorites from the list? No, save for Stadium Arcadium, but they are the ones with wide appeal, good reviews, Grammy nominations and wins, and the ones with the songs the average radio listener is likely to recognize and therefore request from the library. As rock fans look back on the 1990s and remember albums like Nevermind, Metallica, Automatic for the People, Ten, and The Downward Spiral, these are five albums that I think will be remembered a decade from now.

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Wednesday Night Lights: Not Earning My Stripes

As the resident science fiction expert (a self-appointed title as a science fiction editor, I have been greatly amiss at posting information about the awards handed out this year. I missed posting about the Nebula Awards earlier this year and the Hugo Awards earlier this month. I will at least be able to give you a preview of the World Fantasy Awards, which will be handed at the World Fantasy Convention in Calgary early November.

Without further ado, here are the awards. I've made a few comments when I have a personal connection to the award:
The Nebula Awards:
Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Novella: "Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress
Novelette: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang
Short Story: "Always" by Karen Joy Fowler
Script: Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro

The Hugo Awards:
Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)
Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007) [Daniel Abraham's story "The Cambist and Lord Iron" from my anthology LOGORRHEA, finished second]
Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s June 2007)
Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman Illustrated by Charles Vess Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who “Blink” Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)
Best Editor, Long Form: David G. Hartwell
Best Editor, Short Form: Gordon Van Gelder [I was tied for tenth place; only the first five nominees make the ballot]
Best Professional Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Best Semiprozine: Locus
Best Fanzine: File 770 [my magazine Electric Velocipede was tied for sixth place]
Best Fan Writer: John Scalzi
Best Fan Artist: Brad Foster
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo award): Mary Robinette Kowal

The World Fantasy Award Nominees:
Territory Emma Bull [Tor]
Ysabel Guy Gavriel Kay [Viking Canada/Penguin Roc]
Fangland John Marks [Penguin Press]
Gospel of the Knife Will Shetterly [Tor]
The Servants Michael Marshall Smith [Earthling Publications]

The Mermaids Robert Edric [PS Publishing]
Illyria Elizabeth Hand [PS Publishing]
"The Master Miller’s Tale" Ian R. MacLeod [F&SF May 2007]
"Cold Snap" Kim Newman [The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club, MonkeyBrain Books]
"Stars Seen through Stone" Lucius Shepard [F&SF July 2007]

Short Story
"The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics" Daniel Abraham [Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra]
"Singing of Mount Abora" Theodora Goss [Logorrhea, Bantam Spectra]
"The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" Kij Johnson [The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Viking]
"Damned if you Don’t " Robert Shearman [Tiny Deaths, Comma Press]
"The Church on the Island" Simon Kurt Unsworth [At Ease with the Dead,
Ash-Tree Press]

Five Strokes to Midnight Gary A. Braunbeck & Hank Schwaeble, Eds. [Haunted Pelican Press]
Wizards: Magical Tales From The Masters of Modern Fantasy
Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, Eds. [Berkley]
Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural Ellen Datlow, Editor [Tor]
The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Eds.[Viking]
Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories John Klima, Editor [Bantam Spectra]

Plots and Misadventures Stephen Gallagher [Subterranean Press]
Portable Childhoods Ellen Klages [Tachyon Publications]
The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club Kim Newman [MonkeyBrain Books]
Hart & Boot & Other Stories Tim Pratt [Night Shade Books]
Tiny Deaths Robert Shearman [Comma Press]
Dagger Key and Other Stories Lucius Shepard [PS Publishing]

Ruan Jia
Mikko Kinnunen
Stephan Martiniere
Edward Miller
John Picacio

Special Award Professional
Allison Baker and Chris Roberson for MonkeyBrain Books
Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman for Borderlands Books
Peter Crowther for PS Publishing
Gordon Van Gelder for F&SF
Jeremy Lassen and Jason Williams for Night Shade Books
Shawna McCarthy for Realms of Fantasy

Special Award Non-professional
Midori Snyder and Terri Windling for Endicott Studios Website
G. S. Evans and Alice Whittenburg for Cafe Irreal
Stephen Jones, Editor for Travellers in Darkness: The Souvenir Book of the World Horror Convention 2007
John Klima for Electric Velocipede
Rosalie Parker and Raymond Russell for Tartarus Press
I am very excited to be nominated twice personally (for my magazine and for the anthology I edited) and to have two stories from my anthology make the ballot.



Not EXACTLY Pop Culture, BUT....

...wouldn't this make a great beginning to a wacky crime caper?

Woman cuffed, booked for not paying library fines.

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Music, Music Everywhere, But Not a Note to Plink

I'm on a constant need to discover new music. It doesn't take long for me to get bored with something. Mostly, that's because I play something so much when I'm into it that I make myself sick of it. (currently overdoing it on Katy Perry)

This started in High School. I listened to a lot of heavy metal. And I wasn't choosy about it. I listened to everything from Slayer to Poison. I read a few magazaines religiously (Circus, Hit Parada, Metal Maniacs), watched Headbanger's Ball on MTV (I'm sure our readers remember when MTV played music, right?), listened to the rock radio stations, and traded tapes and albums with friends.

When those resources weren't enough, I'd tune in WMSE (91.7) and listen to alternative radio (REAL alternative radio), watched 120 minutes on MTV (I was the only person I knew listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More in 1986), and found more obscure magazines (like Thrasher, the skateboard magazine that covered hardcore) that covered lesser known bands.

Then I hit college and it all exploded. I spent two years in the dorms re-configuring my head. Instead of being the kid that listened to all the unusual music, I met person after person who had entire collections of music that I had never heard of. There were amazing music stores like The Exclusive Company and B-side Records; and many used CD/vinyl stores where you could swap and trade like mad. We signed each other up for BMG and Capitol music services (BMG was better since you only have to buy one CD, and got two for every friend who signed you up) and increased our music collection exponentially.

Then I graduated. And I wasn't around a music scene. And I wasn't living in a place with a high concentration of young people looking for something new. And yet, I still wanted to learn about new bands.

For a long time, I subscribed to the CMJ music magazine and got a CD every month of 20 or so songs from new albums from established artists and tracks from new artists. It was great for a long time, and then in 1998 or so, what I got via CMJ didn't interest me anymore. What was I going to do?

We did have satellite television, which gave us satellite radio. That was cool. But whether it was Sirius or XM, there wasn't enough variety for me to find new stuff. We watch the Brit Awards, and that gives us new British music that isn't covered here in the States. iTunes gives me Internet radio, but in some ways it makes me feel overwhelemd with choices (current German pop? um, how much do I have to listen to before I can move onto one of the other 100 international stations?). We watch VH1's Top 20 countdown every week, and that at least keeps me on top of popular new music, but where do I find the edge stuff?

This isn't a unique problem; people often get stuck in the music they loved in High School or college. It's comfortable and familiar. It makes you feel young. It was one time in your life when you HAD time to follow music.

I'm too busy these days to scour magazines or chase around the internet for music. I tried to wrestle Marcus away from Sophie, but she won't give him up. Any suggestions as to how/where to find new music?
PS-Sorry for the long time away, folks. I was essentially out of town for a few weeks. There's a more detailed story here if you're interested.

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Bringing Your Expertise to Pop Culture

While I've been a fan of Project Runway, I've been a casual one until this cycle. Part of that is because Carlie and I have a standing date to IM during the show, so we can share our moments of "Genius!" and "What the hell?". Our snark doesn't compare to that at Project Rungay, but we have fun.

It's been interesting to discover how I watch Project Runway, though. I sew a little; I'm not anywhere near good enough to be able to sew something without a pattern, but I know the basics and I know enough to tell when something's been put together well. And I have to say, this cycle's contestants are a disappointment to me, with most garments being badly fit, poorly sewn, or both. One of my shining moments was criticizing the construction of an outfit, and having Michael Kors say the same thing within a minute of me typing it to Carlie.

Yet even though I have some knowledge that makes me watch the show differently, it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the show. After all, I can't do what the designers do. There's been other occasions where my knowledge doesn't let me enjoy something. When a TV show or a movie features librarians, or has a character baking, or is set in Tudor England, and they don't get it right in my opinion, I'm usually pulled right out of the entertainment. I know that sometimes facts are pushed to the background, for the sake of the story, but I still get distracted by my thoughts of "But that's not right!"

Thankfully, I'm not as bad as the woman discussed in this blog post, who can't get any enjoyment out of the Olympics since she was an elite gymnast until she was injured. Because I sew a little, I get more enjoyment out of Project Runway, all the while being aware that I'm not skilled enough to achieve what any of those designers can achieve. And that's okay; it's fun to feel like an expert, even if I'm not really.

As a side-note, why isn't there a Project Runway book, to help me learn how to be a better sewer or how to design clothes? Nina Garcia has a book, Tim Gunn has a book (and a TV show of his own, for that matter). Simplicity has a line of Project Runway patterns, so you can sew clothes that mimic looks seen on the show. But I'm surprised that there isn't a tie-in non-fiction title.

Until they create such a title, I guess I'll be an armchair designer, sharing my thoughts with Carlie and enjoying the show. Maybe you have a TV show that you watch like this--might this be a springboard for something library-related? Hype a class in basic sewing by advertising to Project Runway wannabes. Have a realtor talk about how to sell your house, highlighted with what not to do, drawn from the shows on HGTV. Something as simple as a display, called What Not to Wear, could be done to highlight your fashion and style books, the ones that you think are the best. The sky's the limit when you bring together pop culture and your own personal knowledge.



The Wonderful World of Webcomic Tshirts that are least Tangentially related to Libraries

Giving away the content and making a living on schwag and cons is the economic engine of webcomics, and in the pursuit of a decent living, webcomic creators are spitting out some really cool products. I have a real weakness for webcomic tshirts, and ever since the smash hit success of Jeph Jacques' "She Blinded Me With Library Science" tshirt, throwing library people a bone has become a sure-fire way to move some merch. My latest delight is the-not-to-be-underestimated Kate Beaton's "Reading: This Shit is Crazy!" tshirt, which I'm proud to say I managed to wear to the office. Beaton's focus is on history webcomics, and there's a lot to love there (like Napoleon eating cookies) without even checking out the "This Shit is Crazy" section. Tellingly, her store features not only the Reading shirt, but also a 'Glasses make you sexy' shirt that is obviously somewhat librarian-oriented (plus a totally kickass print of a Tesla comic).

Fellow wedge of the Topatoco empire and librarian favorite Cat and Girl features The Map of Compromise from a recent story arc, but her real gem is the $8 sticker collection, which includes some very appealing stickers such as "If you can read this, you're Literate", "My other car is a pynchon novel", and the sublime work of genius that is "If television's a babysitter, then the Internet's a Drunk Librarian that won't shut up". While it's no longer available, Cat and Girl's "Technically you would only need one Time Traveler Convention" shirt that Heidi Dolomore was wearing back at Midwinter is quite possibly the best convention shirt of all time; it even spawned a (somewhat) real time traveler convention at MIT.

While British Superstar John Allison's Scary Go Round shop no longer sells their 'Google is ruining everything' tshirt, his passionate hamster yelling 'Books Rule' is still available. Most of Scary Go Round's best shirts don't really have anything to do with the comic, and while it's not remotely library-specific, don't miss the Major Teacup shirt while you're there.

Finally, while a library connection is even more tenuous, what pop culture librarian's wardrobe would be complete without one of Scott Kurtz's "Joss Whedon is my Master Now" tshirts?

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Friday Fun: The Olympics for Non-Sports Fans

Admittedly, I'm a big fan of the Olympics. I don't think I've gotten to bed before midnight this week, because I've been up watching the coverage from Beijing. Thank goodness the weekend is finally here!

But, if you're not a sports fan, you might think the Olympics doesn't offer you anything. But . . . how about some pretty awesome commercials?

Nike's commercial, which is more about honoring the twentieth anniversary of the Just Do It slogan, features a huge number of athletes, all set to a song by the Killers. If you go to the Nike site to view the commercial, you get the benefit of an animation at the bottom of the screen, indicating who most of the athletes are.

Visa's commercials are incredibly distinctive, done in a golden sepia tone and highlighting various athletes and stories. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, they're very simple, but gorgeously filmed and very moving. My favorite is the one featuring Derek Redmond.

What commercials have gotten you interested in something you normally could care less about?

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What's Your Name Again?

Librarian writes a book about the "interesting" people at her library; a place she's worked for fifteen years. Doesn't use her real name, the real name of patrons. Tells, apparently, the truth, but in a humorous manner.

Gets fired.

And people wonder why bloggers use aliases.

My personal work/blog/write is simple, simple to me, at least. I don't use my last time, and shy away from identifying my employer. I don't blog on work time (exception: when my employers view it as part of my job, such as my contributions to the YALSA blog). I write as if everyone I know was reading what I write (friends, enemies, bosses, people I used to work with, etc.)

What rules do you follow for blogging? Are they personal (like most of mine) or imposed by work?

Thanks to lisnews for the article.



Copyright Permissions

The issue of fair use and permission to quote copyrighted material was raised in the still undecided Harry Potter Lexicon trial.

JKR isn't the only copyright holder who says "yay" or "nay" for what can be quoted in other works (tho, given the commentary I read on blogs, listservs, and the likes, it sometimes seems as if JKR is the only one!)

Apparently -- the owner(s) of the Grateful Dead lyrics have said "no" for quotage in a new YA book. The full story is over at Boing Boing.

I learned about this on my new favorite Web 2.0 toy, Twitter.



Working On My Feet

Lately, I’ve had to give up on my beloved high heels, because I’m pounding the pavement too much at work.

Well, not literally. For the past four months, my library system has piloted mobile reference service in our main branch. Mobile reference is envisioned as a way to get librarians out in the library itself, rather than stationing them at a desk. In my library’s pilot project, seven librarians, myself included, spend three one-hour shifts a week performing mobile reference. We use ultra light mobile PCs and wireless communication badges to access library resources, ask other staff for assistance, and answer questions for patrons.

As we walk through the library, the computer we use certainly attracts attention. Patrons often stop us to ask what it is, and whether we get the Internet on it. They’re often surprised when we say that the mobile PCs are just as powerful as a desktop computer: the Samsung Q1 that we use measures 10” by 5.5” by 1”, and weighs less than two pounds. The communicator badges, from a company called Vocera, lets us talk to other staff members throughout the building. Maybe the best part, as I demonstrated for some kids recently, was what happens when you press the call button on the badge and say “Beam me up”: a series of beeps that calls to mind the Starship Enterprise.

While it’s been fun to play with all these gadgets, what’s really revolutionary is the way patron attitudes have started to change in our building. Now, any staff member might be stopped when they’re out on the floor, regardless of whether they’re assigned to the desk or to mobile reference at that time. Additionally, we’re helping patrons who might never come to the reference desk, especially those patrons who will wander around in the stacks for an hour before they ask for help. I’ve found that I feel much more aware of what’s going on in the library, since I’m walking around for three hours a week, rather than stationed at a desk. Plus, all that walking is helping my goal of getting in shape!

This pilot is still ongoing, but once it’s done, there will be more information distributed through library journals. In the meantime, feel free to email me with any questions you might have! But sorry--I'm holding onto my heels for the days when I'm not assigned to mobile reference.

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Friday Fun: My Favorite Pop Culture Reference Sites

Happy Friday, all! This week, I'd like to share three of my favorite pop culture reference sites for those idiosyncratic information needs to which I love to cater [admittedly, usually my own, but I'm always happy to share]:

Second Hand Songs: "Find out who performed the original version of a particular song, or who covered the song." Great to consult before making your iPod playlists. "Great party! Love the three-layer dip! Oh, is this Rob Base? No, wait...it's Lyn Collins!"

The Hype Machine: Aggregates MP3 blogs; you can search for a particular song or artist and/or find the artists that are most often blogged and searched. "Hype Spy" lets you see what other people are doing on the site RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Fun!

Rocklopedia Fakebandica: A great way to kill about eleven hours without even realizing it. It calls itself the "ultimate fake band list" and it's not kidding, despite not being updated since last September. Sure, there's Spinal Tap, but there's also The Bower Family Band, as featured in the 1968 Disney flick The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, the plot of which involves the family band attempting to perform their original hit "Let's Put it Over with Grover [Cleveland]" at the 1888 Democratic National Convention and the stars of which include Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn YEARS before they started permanently living in sin!

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Breaking Down

I keep calling the new Stephenie Meyer book Breaking Down and then remember, no, it's Breaking Dawn.

Confession: while I wouldn't call myself a Twilight Hater, I didn't read beyond the first book and thought the first book so-so. I do respect all the fans of the series, and, of course, love the various library parties planned around the series.

According to the Amazon reviews, Meyer's fandom is less than thrilled with the series conclusion. (Thanks to Justine Larbalestier for the link.) Series endings are hard for authors and fans; it would be impossible for any author to write a conclusion that would make people happy, because the author cannot fulfill every single fan's wishes, hopes, and dreams. I will say that I find it interesting that some of the problems people had with the series ending are problems non-Twilight lovers had with the entire series. And, of course, Amazon reviewers may or may not reflect the entire fanbase.

Anyway, for those of you who have (or are) avid Twilight fans, here are my questions: How are your patrons handling the ending of their series? Are they still interested in the parties and proms that are planned for not just August, but also the next several months? Do you think the fan reaction to how Meyer ender her series will change your planned programming?

To those of you who are interested in books and fans -- I hope to see you at the YA Lit Symposium, where Carlie & I will be talking about fandom (full name of our program: Explaining and Exploring Fandom, Fan Life, and Participatory Culture).

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Welcome, NPR Listeners

Well, as if this week wasn't awesome enough, what with the book coming out & all, NPR gave us a shout-out on Weekend Edition Saturday. Hearing Andrea Seabrook, who I love, utter the name of this blog, has made my year. I may have shrieked and scared my poor husband, who came charging downstairs, worried that something had befallen me or our our daughter. I may have immediately IMed approximately 12 of my friends & colleagues with the link. I may have called my parents and insisted they go to NPR.org right now to listen!

If you're new to Pop, welcome welcome welcome! If you're particularly (or even only) interested in the cake pan story, here it is. Enjoy! (N.B., the collection I blogged about originally is in Ravenna, OH, not in Illinois, as mentioned in the story.)

Many thanks to Emily H., who told me about the cake pans she borrows from Reed Memorial, and NPR Librarian Kee Malesky, if it's you whom we have to thank for getting Pop a shout-out on N!P!R!, please accept this offer of a complimentary signed copy of Liz's & my book, and let me take you out for the drink(s) of your choice the next time ALA Annual is in DC.

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Fun Friday: Presenting Pop Goes the Library -- The Book!

Cover Art
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio
What is more fun than opening your front door to find a box full of 15 perfectly packed copies of the book you wrote with one of your best friends and favorite colleagues? Not much, I'll tell you.

Liz & I are so proud and excited to share Pop Goes the Library: Using Pop Culture To Connect With Your Whole Community with you all. We've got a special blog about the book over here, and a wiki set up to keep all of the many, many links from the book up to date for you (good gravy, we are learning to use MediaWiki at last -- hold us).

We've also set up a Group & photo Pool in Flickr, because we want to see you reading, using, and otherwise interacting with the book. Please join us!

You can also track our updates on Twitter, and we're setting up a Page on Facebook, so you can become a Fan of the book, should you be so inclined -- I'll update when it's ready to go.

The official publication date is August 11, but of course, you (or your library) can pre-order the book anytime directly from our publisher, Information Today, or from Amazon, B&N, or the book wholesaler of your choice. (I think our royalties are highest when you buy direct from Information Today, though. I'm just saying.)

We keep IMing each other and saying things like, "It's real!?" "I KNOW!" "Whoo!" We won't be able to high-five in person until September, but it will be the high five heard round the world, you can be sure. We'll get Carlie to take a photo, and then we'll post that to the Flickr Pool.

We couldn't have done this without support from our families, friends, co-bloggers, colleagues, and readers, so thank you. Yes, you! You helped make this possible.

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