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.

2009-01-23

Friday Fun: Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble

I recently had the pleasure as serving on the jury for the Independent Games Festival, and out of all the games I played, the one that I spent the most time with by far was Keith Nemitz's Indie breakthrough Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble. It's a single-player RPG based in a 1920's high school, disguised as a board game. You choose a girl to play from a set of characters, then attempt to build a girl gang through threats, intimidation, taunting, and leveling up. Your gang then attempts missions such as uncovering suspicious school accidents, finding the school's hidden still, electing a horse mayor, and other shenanigans.

Each of the 12 playable girls have different starting stats for popularity, rebellion, glamour, and savvy, and they play mini-games such as Taunt, Fib, Expose, and Flirt... not the most positive activities, but remember, these are DANGEROUS girls, and they're in trouble. It's like when Kit Kittredge turned 14 and started smoking in the conservatory and piercing her hat with safety pins.

Most of the minigames use the four card suits as tokens or icons, giving the whole experience a parlour-game feel that fits in beautifully with the 20's setting. The story sucks you in and the constant promise of leveling up one of your gang or learning new taunts teasing Bully Girl in the gymnasium makes you forget the underlying unusualness of playing a solitaire RPG that's pretending to be a board game on a computer.

There's a free demo available, plus a gameplay video on youtube, and firsthour.net has a walkthrough of, well, the first hour of the game. Check it out and enjoy!

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2009-01-16

Friday Fun: Skype

I'm sure that if you had your druthers, you'd bring in every author for your book clubs. Who wouldn't want to? Sometimes access to an author is not possible due to their celebrity status; no one expects to be able to bring in Stephen King or Janet Evanovich to their book club. It's just not feasible. Other times, the author's availability is restricted due to their physical location. Most public libraries don't have the funds to fly an author in from another state, much less another country.

Enter Skype, a free online service that allows you to make phone calls, including video, over your internet connection. One of MPOW is using Skype in just this fashion: bringing authors into their book discussion. They had contacted Scottish author Peter May, who currently lives in France, about taking part in a conference call. May suggested that the library use Skype and they could teleconference the book discussion. Since that first Skype book discussion, they've gone on to do several more, and they make it a point now to reach out to authors for the possibility of taking part in their discussion.

Now, there is a little set up needed on both ends of things; in addition to downloading, installing, and configuring Skype on a library computer, the author needs to do it, too. Thankfully Skype is very easy to use in all aspects. Skype has been around since 2003, but has gained immense exposure in the past six months with people like Oprah and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire using the technology to talk to people. Perhaps not everyone will be able to use it, but it doesn't hurt to ask and perhaps find a way to enhance your book discussion.

And for you authors out there, it may be a great promotional device to be available for Skype teleconferences. I'm just saying.

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2009-01-12

National Clean Off Your Desk Day

I fully admit it: I am a paperphile, an embracer of clutter. I'm one of those people whose desks always looks like a bomb hit it. I've had many fits of tidiness over the years, where I'd go through all the junk, recycle at least half of it because whatever it was about was no longer relevant, or a deadline for some optional-but-awesome thing had passed, get to actual desk surface, and then...just let the vicious cycle start all over again.

This was particularly the case at my not-so-new-anymore job (hi, I've been a high school librarian for nearly a year now!) where I inherited my first-ever four-drawer filing cabinet (yay!), which was mostly full when I arrived. I realized quickly that I spent maybe 30 minutes a day in my actual office, but had no time to think about how that would affect my organization strategies.

Now, I don't typically make New Year's resolutions, because I think January is actually a horrible time to make resolutions -- come on, this is prime hunker down and hibernate time! Who wants to change stuff up now? -- but I did come up with two umbrella concepts for 2009 (and, I intend, for years to come): Tidy As You Go and Reflect, Don't React.

Reflect, Don't React is designed to get me to take a beat, a breath, a moment to think about what is essential in a given situation before responding. I can be prone to grouchiness if I let little stuff pile up mentally, so this practice (which is really just a quick & dirty version of mindfulness meditation) is designed to wean me off that habit.

Similarly, Tidy As You Go is a small investment of time & thought each day with a larger long-term payoff: not living like a slob. It is also a tribute to my long-suffering husband, the neatnik, who has often been known to say, "Baby, if you would just tidy as you go, you wouldn't have all these papers/sweaters/shoes/pens scudding about! Everything would live somewhere and you could find stuff!"

So, what does this have to do with libraries? Plenty! The brilliant folks at Switzerland County (IN) Public Library wrote a post all about it at their events blog. This is great, but I would love to see public libraries holding ongoing monthly programs -- either hosted by an employee who is an organizational guru, or by a local expert (maybe a member of NAPO?) on this topic. You just know you have tons of books on this topic. There are a gazillion articles, blogs, tools, Flickr sets online -- Getting Things Done, Zen Habits, Online Organizing, Pile of Index Cards, Remember the Milk, Jott, etc. -- so there's something out there for everyone, but who's going to organize it, annotate it, synthesize it for them? You, the friendly neighborhood librarian.

Collect resources, aggregate them, make them easy to find, and help your community members integrate them into their lives. We do that really, really well, so let's DO IT.

I feel a post coming on about specializing services through our passions & interests (and really, what is this blog but a celebration of learning to be a specialist librarian by choosing to follow one's passionate interests?) -- this is a classic example.

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2009-01-07

Inauguration Parties!

Via AL Direct, this brief article from the Boston Globe about local libraries hosting inauguration parties made my little heart sing:

In Andover, the Memorial Hall Library will provide a free community viewing of the inauguration in the morning and an Inauguration Day party for students in grades six through 12 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s a perfect event to have the TV on and watch what’s going on live,” said Kimberly Lynn, the teen and reference librarian. “Hopefully, it will be a fun atmosphere and people will be able to enjoy [being] together. The library is the community’s gathering place, so we’re really happy to be holding this to allow people to watch history unfold with other people."

The library will provide snacks to guests throughout the day, and organizers are planning to have a variety of red, white, and blue-themed games and prizes for the kids.

Beautiful.

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