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.


April Madness

You've heard of March Madness; get ready for April Madness!

April Madness? What is that?

OK, I am the only one calling it that.

It is School Library Journal's Battle of the (Kids') Books. The Morning News and Powell's Books have been doing a Tournament of Books for five years now; and as Tea Cozy readers know, I've posted a time or two this year's inclusion of a YA book in the ToB.

In a nutshell: just as with March Madness, there is a bracket where sixteen books go one-on-one against each other. So the first round contains eight "book v book" rounds, with each round having an individual judge determine who "wins". That leaves eight books for a second round, with a new set of judges; four books for the third round, again, new judges; leading up to the last and final round.

The judges? Authors; with Lois Lowry being the final judge. Full details are at SLJ; including a BoB blog; a twitter account; and a handy-dandy printable form to use at your library, school, or office to for your BoB pool. Oh, and you can get the books at The Flying Pig bookstore, at a 30 % discount.

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Where The Music Is

Whatever else you may think of Jimmy Fallon and his entree into late night host-dom (and actually, I think he is okay. Not brilliant, but okay, which is fine for now), the dude wears great suits, has some seriously awesome music going on. First of all, The Roots are his house band, which is cool for several reasons:

  1. The Roots are from Philly, which, living as it does in New York's shadow, needs all the cultural visibility it can get;
  2. The Roots flat-out rule. They are tighter than skinny jeans and way, way more flattering to everyone's figure. Yes, even your size 2 teenage daughter looks better when listening to The Roots.
  3. Questlove, the Roots' drummer, wears a pick comb in his 'fro at all times. This will never not be cool, although due to the complex calculus of cool, it is only cool for Questlove to sport this look.
Anyway, The Roots are versatile and they both rap and rock, and I think it says something pretty great about Jimmy that he hired a house band that is several [hundred] times more professional & entertaining than he is. I think he's also shown impressive depth of musical knowledge & passion with his musical guests on the show. Thus far, musical guests have included Glen Hansard (of Once fame, singing the wonderful, slightly obscure R.E.M. song "Hairshirt"), Santigold, the Virgins, Ludacris, Public Enemy, and on Wednesday night, hipster dreamboats Vampire Weekend, playing a brand-new song off their as-yet-lacking-a-release-date second album:

Like Conan before him, Fallon is using his position as a late-night host to promote not just whoever has a new album coming out, but artists he is personally passionate about, which is great for those of us purchasing or handselling music in a library setting. As he provides lesser-known acts (and classic acts wanting to reach a new audience, such as Public Enemy) with a national venue for their work, he makes it easy for us to do listener's advisory. Because his show is archived at the show's website and at Hulu (not to mention YouTube), it's easy to say to a patron, "oh, you missed Glen Hansard's performance? Let me pull that up for you -- it was lovely! If you like it, you may be interested in the Once soundtrack, some of his work with The Frames, or Green, which is the R.E.M. album this song originally appeared on."

When I hear colleagues fretting about the Internet putting us out of a job, I think about the kinds of cross-media connections we can make for our patrons, and teach them to make for themselves, and I think there may be a future for us, after all.

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As mentioned earlier, Melissa Rabey, who contributes to Tea Cozy and Pop Goes the Library and the YALSA blog, as well as has her own blog, Librarian by Day, is running for the 2011 Printz. Melissa is a teen librarian at the C. Burr Artz branch of the Frederick Co. (MD) Public Library and will be sharing her expertise in historical fiction to the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference in Chicago this June. And, she has YALSA experience on several committees, including Popular Paperbacks and Organization & Bylaws.

Liz B: Tell us something about yourself.

Melissa Rabey: In some ways, I think I'm more interesting because of the things I can't do. I'm unable to snap my fingers, and I can hardly whistle. To hear me sing is to wish for me to stop--quickly.

Yet I think this lack of ability has actually helped me. I spend a lot of time contemplating ideas and talking them over with others, so I don't make snap judgments.

I'm determined to help other people get a chance to sing their own song--just like the Mama Cass song says.

And although I can't whistle while I work, I do try to stay positive and proactive, and not just at work.

Liz B: Name one YA title, published pre-1998, that would have made an excellent Printz Award winner.

Melissa Rabey: I know that there's lots of people who would support either Rats Saw Godby Rob Thomas or Weetzie Batby Francesca Lia Block as the best answer to this question. And both of those books are fantastic examples of the quality of young adult literature.

But there's another book, one which has stuck with me ever since I read it: Eva by Peter Dickinson. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but the plot twist in this novel still gives me the willies, five years after I read it. In addition, the language and characterization in this novel are rich and compelling; without this, an interesting idea would fall flat.

I think the best books have two aspects: what they're saying and how they're saying it. I feel Eva succeeds on both counts, and therefore would have been my pick for a Printz Award, if this award had existed in 1989.

Liz B: What has prepared you to read for the Printz?

Melissa Rabey: Over the last nine months, I've been consciously preparing for the Printz Committee. I started a blog to review teen literature and have started posting at Liz Burns' Tea Cozy blog. At my blog, I evaluated the Morris Award shortlist as a way to practice my analytical skills. I served on the Maryland Author Award committee, reviewing the works of young adult authors with Maryland ties in order to select a winner. In this period, I've strived to read more books in general, and to read these books in a more critical manner.

Yet I've also been preparing for the Printz committee ever since I became a teen librarian. I've always sought to be aware of the important and/or popular books published for teens, and to read as many as I could. Through my service on Popular Paperbacks, I learned how to manage a reading workload and discuss books with my colleagues.

I feel that this mix of conscious and unconscious planning has me as ready as possible for the Printz committee. I don't know if anyone is really prepared for the amount of work that's involved in the Printz committee, but I think I can do a good job. I hope you believe that, too.

Liz B: What's your area of pop culture expertise?

Melissa Rabey: I seem to be an expert at nitpicking historical inaccuracies in movies and TV shows. I understand why history gets changed to create or enhance drama--or at least, what's seen as drama. I feel that if you can't see the tragedy, the humor, the entertainment in historical fact, you've got an unusual definition of drama. It's for this reason I haven't watched any of The Tudors : it's a marvelous time period, full of sex and fights and political wranglings, yet all that isn't interesting enough on its own, apparently. But if, in the end, a show like the Tudors gets people more interested in history, then I can't really complain all that much.

Liz B: I guess I should confess now that I've never read Eva. Oh, well, I better start reading! Thanks, Melissa!

As a reminder to all YALSA members:

Here's the official YALSA slate

And video interviews with the candidates, including Melissa

The Election category on the blog with all Election information

Cross-posted at Tea Cozy.

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Congratulations All Around

So much joy & excitement in the world of Pop!

First, Carlie Webber: Mover & Shaker. Great write-up, awesome photo, so, so proud to know her. Please go congratulate her at her other blog, Librarilly Blonde!

Second, welcome, welcome to John & Shai Klima's second baby, Mr. Easton Cade Klima! I'm not sure if John would want me posting a photo of the young man here (though there is one at the blog post linked above), but I can tell you he is cute, and everyone is healthy. Yay for the growing Pop Family!

Third, our very own Melissa Rabey is on the ballot for the 2011 Printz Committee. If you are a member of YALSA, please consider voting for her, because she is made out of awesome. Seriously: unflappable, passionate, knowledgeable, kind, and thoughtful. I am telling you, Melissa is what you're looking for in a Printz Committee member, but you don't have to take my word for it. Read her blog, Librarian By Day, and see for yourself!

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