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.


Cover Girls!

Hey, who is that foxy lady on the cover of School Library Journal this month? Why, it's none other than our very own Liz B, graciously sharing the cover with fellow YA & Kidlitosphere luminaries Jennifer Hubert Swan, Betsy Bird, Monica Edinger, and Cheryl Klein!

Liz is on a roll lately, having made the cover of SLJ twice in the last couple of months -- first with the article on fan fiction that she co-authored with fellow Pop-er Carlie Webber, and now with this Mad Men-themed cover photo. You go, girl!

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Blogger's Block

Or: Personal Learning Networks & Getting My
Groove Back -- Slowly.

So, first, I changed jobs. I'm not a public librarian anymore!
Since February 2008, I've been the librarian at Eastern
Camden County Regional Senior High School. A major
part of my overall silence has been due to my not really
knowing how much I can say here about my work. I have to
protect my students' privacy, obviously. I will be following
the lead of some of my blogging school librarian
heroes -- Joyce Valenza and Buffy Hamilton to name two --
so in months to come you'll see more about my fascination
with integrating technology and information literacy, reader's
advisory, and my continuing baby steps towards excellence in
school librarianship.

I have also been having a hard time figuring out how to
connect being a teacher-librarian with the pop culture stuff
I usually blog about here. I've kind of decided it doesn't really
matter and it doesn't have to connect perfectly all the time. Life
is not a jigsaw puzzle. I doubt our readers are sitting there,
nitpicking the pop cultural content of our posts here.

Then, Liz & I published our book! Hooray! Good reviews, good
sales, rejoicing throughout the land! Except, and I can say this only
for myself, because Liz is still posting often with her usual
verve, passion, and insight, I have been feeling drained. Drained
of interest & enthusiasm for ferreting out & writing about pop
culture, drained of motivation to blog, and drained of the feeling
that what I'm doing is relevant or exciting. Not so great. We've
spent all this time & energy building our brand, writing our little
hearts out, and all I want to do is be left in peace with my EW
subscription and not talk about it anymore.

Combined that drained feeling with the energy required to
complete the seven courses I must take in order to earn my NJ
state certification as a School Library Media Specialist (which,
that is a rant for another day -- not the coursework, but my
impassioned views on why "Media Specialist" is the most
"whaaaat?"-inducing job title of all time. Obfuscation is not
this profession's friend.), and, you know, wanting to
have time for my darling husband & daughter, and for reading
books for fun, and developing my inner domestic goddess
so that my friends will actually want to come to my house for
dinner, and, well, I don't post much. I know, my diamond shoes are
too tight. Don't cry too hard for me, honestly!

But then, the wonderful Janie Hermann, from our kissing
cousins in the blogosphere, Library Garden, posted about this very problem!
Bless you, Janie, for speaking up & putting it so well. Knowing that
other people I like and respect are having the same problem as I'm
having makes me feel like I, too, can break through & get blogging again.

And then, just this morning, I was reading the YALSA blog, and
found myself overflowing with ideas after reading Teri Lesesne's
School Days post, in which she asks:
As school opening draws closer, how will you extend your PLN? Are you blogging and tweeting? Is there a listserv for your district or state? Do you monitor lists sposored by YALSA? If you do (and chances are good since you are reading the YALSA blog), why not tell others in your district about the values of social networking? Give them links to blogs; share your “twibe” from Twitter. Help others get and stay connected.
(And if you are not reading Teri's blog, really, what are you waiting for?
Go, go, this post will be here when you return.)

So, here's what I started writing in the comments to that post. Eventually,
I realized that this was the blog post I'd been waiting to be inspired to write,
so I pasted it here for you lucky, patient readers to enjoy.

I am just wrapping up an online summer course (for my certification), and the final assignment is a statement of educational philosophy. Very lofty, right? I'm trying to write the most down-to-earth, comprehensive statement I can (in no more than 550 words), and as I've been mulling it over, incorporating AASL's Standards for 21st Century Learners, Information Power, The Search Institute's Developmental Assets, and NJ's Standards for Teachers & School Leaders (whew!), I've decided that if I wanted to be really cheeky, I could hand in just one word: connect.

The #1 thing that makes me an effective school librarian is my passion for connection -- connecting kids with the just-right book for them, connecting teachers' lessons with information literacy standards, connecting units of study with the online & print resources that will make them come alive, and connecting myself with my wise, brilliant, and warm colleagues in school & public libraries everywhere.

Last year, I did exactly the wrong thing. I mean, it worked out fine in the end, but it was still the wrong thing: I let myself be isolated from my PLN. I had no time to read Bloglines, so I stopped using RSS to keep up with the biblioblogosphere. I barely tweeted. I could not imagine keeping up with the incredible volume on YALSA-BK or LM_NET, so I didn't bother subscribing. I was well & truly a solo librarian, and it kind of stank for a while.

Another one of my online classes -- about Developing Curriculum -- re-introduced me to the joys of PLNs, and lo: the second semester at school went more smoothly and creatively and satisfyingly than the first! I promised myself I would spend the summer re-connecting with my PLN, easing into it before the wonderful nuttiness of the school year began.

Here's what's worked for me:
  • Reconnecting with Twitter -- I now follow way more school & YA librarians than I used to, with the result that I am learning more every day about great books and other resources I can use in my library as soon as I get back to school. I have also been informally mentoring new librarians through Twitter, which is both fun & rewarding (and makes me feel more connected to the community of school librarians);
  • Joining several listservs: Adbooks, LM_NET, YALSA-BK (a re-join after a multi-year absence), and AASLFORUM;
  • I also (finally) embraced the genius of filters in Gmail -- no listserv message ever hits my inbox anymore; they are all automatically archived & separately labeled, making reading & searching a snap, and reducing the threat of distraction during the day, when I need to be available to my students & teaching colleagues.
Those are the big things, really -- I find that deeper relationships outside of Twitter & various listservs develop naturally over the course of conversations there.

So, what does this mean for blogging here? Well, reconnecting with & expanding my PLN gives me more ideas for blogging; unlike Janie, I was feeling like my well of ideas was a bit dry. Also, I feel that part of being a responsible member of my PLN is by contributing to the conversation. Twitter is one venue for that, and I think there's still value in blogging. I'm good at sticking to a word- or character-count, but I also like the room to roam that blogging provides. Finally, I still really like being part of a conversation, and blogging is still a great way to do that.

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Blatant Self-Promotion: Blogging Article in LJ!

I am resurfacing from the craziness of editing PGTL: The Book to share a link to the blogging in libraries article I wrote for Library Journal. Many thanks to Rebecca Miller for the opportunity and for shepherding the article (and me!) through the publication process. Big, big thanks to all the library bloggers who contributed their insights to the article -- it'd be nothing without you, Theresa Stoner, Terri Bennett, Adrienne Furness, Eli Neiburger, John Blyberg, David Lisa, Judy Hohmann, Marianne Kruppa, Amanda Etches-Johnson, and Molly Williams!

Now, I know that my fellow Pop bloggers have significant items of BSP to share, so I'm encouraging them to share them soon!

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Welcome to School Library Journal Readers!

The February 2007 issue of School Library Journal is now available, in print and on-line. I'd like to welcome SLJ readers, who came here via my article in that issue of SLJ, Curl Up with a Cup of Tea and a Good Blog.

If you're not familiar with SLJ, please go check out my article. It has my thoughts on why the kidlitosphere (blogs about children's and teen lit) is such a happening place along with a list of must-read blogs.

For those who have only read it online, what you're missing: a photo of me blogging with my niece and nephew. Getting the photo taken was pretty exciting, and I'll be blogging about that at my book blog, A Chair, Fireplace, And A Tea Cozy, later this week. Also in the print version of SLJ: some of the graphics and photos from the highlighted blogs.

If you're looking for more must-read blogs about children's and teen lit, check out the blogroll at Tea Cozy (it's on the left). And I'm also highlighting a blog a day, under the handy title and label Blog of the Day.

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ALSC & Blogging

Follow up to my post, No Blogging For Committee Members, which reported a Midwinter rumor about ALSC Book Award Committee members not being allowed to blog.

Hot off the presses, School Library Journal breaks the story and the resolution in Should Members of Book Award Committees Be Allowed to Blog? The short answer: YES. Read the full article for the history of the debate and the resolution. Note that bloggers still have to abide by confidentiality requirements, which makes sense; the concern had been that there would be a "confidentiality plus" standard for bloggers that meant either no blogging, or not allowing on blogs what is allowed in the "real world" and in print.

A giant "you rock, Dude" to The Horn Book Editor In Chief, Roger Sutton, who blogs at Read Roger. The SLJ article reports that "Sutton, who’s currently on the 2008 Caldecott committee, threatened to resign after he was told to refrain from blogging about books that were eligible for an award committee. “I said if they do this, I’d quit the Caldecott committee, and that I would not put up with this gag.” Read Roger's own take on the dispute.

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No Blogging for Committee Members?

LibrariAnne has a detailed report on a rumor about ALSC and bloggers who are committee members not being allowed to blog. I did hear whispers about this during Midwinter, and a comment to LibrariAnne's blog confirms that ALSC is "grappling" with this issue.

So I ask you: anyone know the deal? The specifics of the guidelines? Is it just ALSC, or is YALSA doing something similar?

Thanks to A Year Of Reading for the link.

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