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.


Post-Harry, Whatever Will They Read?

Reading the NY Times piece Potter Has Limited Effects on Reading Habits, I thought, "Well, duh." A quote from a teacher & author sums up the situation perfectly:

“Unless there are scaffolds in place for kids — an enthusiastic adult saying, ‘Here’s the next [book you might like]’ — it’s not going to happen,” said Nancie Atwell, the author of “The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers” and a teacher in Edgecomb, Me. “And in way too many American classrooms it’s not happening.”

You get exactly one guess as to where I'll say it is happening. Did you guess libraries? Oh, well done! A gold star for you. (I mean it! If you see me at a conference, and you guessed "libraries", I will give you a gold star. Either that, or I'll buy you the beverage of your choice.)

I would argue a few things:

  • Harry Potter has had an impact on young peoples' reading habits, but it may be more subtle than the study conducted by the NEA was designed to reflect. Many teens go through a period of not reading much, but those who start out with a foundation of enjoying reading early in life come back to it as older teens or as adults.
  • Harry Potter has had another indirect impact on teen & children's reading, and that is the impact it's had on publishing. Publishing for children & teens is one helluva booming business these days, and although that's partly to do with demographics -- there are more youngsters, with more disposable income, than ever before in this country -- it's also due to Harry's stunning popularity. One of the reasons we see series of all kinds, from Gossip Girl to TrueColors to Cirque du Freak to Bartimaeus to Skybreaker to Keys to the Kingdom to Spiderwick Chronicles to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to the comeback of Choose Your Own Adventure is that Harry showed publishers that kids & teens will read.

I happened to be in my car during NPR's Here & Now program, and was so pleased that Robin Young interviewed YALSA's new president, Paula Brehm-Heeger to get the YA librarian's POV on this topic. Thank you, Robin, and great job, Paula! You can listen to the segment here.

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Children's Series Binder Wiki

Oh, this rocks my socks so hard. I was catching up with What Adrienne Thinks About That ( if you're not reading her already, you really, really should, because she reviews books and movies with elan, and talks a bit about homeschooling, which I predict will be THE hot topic of youth-serving librarianship for at least the next decade), and she posted about this wonderful new upgrade to the Children's Series Binder.

You know what I mean -- those binders we all have, full of painstakingly created pages of series titles, individual titles, and multiple authors? The binders whose pages become soft with use and eventually fall out because we can't be bothered to put those little o-ring protectors on each of the holes in the margin? The ones that you have to update every year as old series go out of print and eventually are weeded through over-use, and new series come to replace them?

Recycle them, friends, because The Children's Series Binder Wiki is here to help you. Keeping up with new series can be really difficult, but the wiki, which is both browsable and searchable, makes it easy. Want to participate? E-mail creator Greg Benoit at seriesbinder@frontiernet.net

Recent example of a Serie-ous Problem: One week, I had three requests for a series called Drake & Josh. I had no idea who Drake & Josh were, because I don't have cable, but happily, we had the books, and the requesters went home delighted. Three requests in one week? For the same series? That meant an upgrade to our standing order plan (previously, we'd been ordering them title-by-title), and a move for the books from our regular J shelves to our special J series gondolas, where popular children's series books are shelved in alphabetical order by series title, not by author. This is a big deal, because previously, we shelved everything by author, which, with so many series having multiple authors, was kind of a pain in the neck for our patrons & for staff, too.

Now, thanks to the Children's Series Binder Wiki, I know not only about all the titles in the regular series, but that there's a cine-manga, too, which I'm sure we'll want to have for our legions of rabid Drake and Josh fans.

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