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.

2008-04-09

Wednesday Night Lights: Television & Movies

Here is last week's idea that slipped out of my head from one place of work to another. I warn you, it's a little underwhelming after the deal I made out of it last week. On top of that, it's something that Pop has covered before.

I was thinking about DVRs and Netflix and how they've changed how I watch tv and movies. I know, nothing groundbreaking, there right? Obviously the two technologies provide access to material in a way that didn't exist before them.

Those of you out there who have a DVR know how it completely alters the television watching experience. Laughing too hard at a joke and miss the next line? Run back and see what you miss. Got a favorite tv show that's on while you put the baby to sleep (7:30-9 CST; that's 8:30-10 for you East Coasters...total prime tv show time!)? Set up a timer and watch them later. Then, after watching your show, run back and watch the news.

It makes you feel like you can run EVERYTHING back and catch it again: the radio, conversations with people, the sky...I tell you, and I'm not exaggerating, during each of those examples I've had the thought pop in my head, "what was that? maybe I'll just run it back a little..." It's like those commercials for the Microsoft Sync. I like my DVR.

Netflix, on the other hand, I LOVE. I feel safe saying that it's changed my life. We used to watch about a movie every other month in the theater and something like two a month as rentals. That's like 30 movies a year. Since we signed up for Netflix, we've averaged 70 movies (I should say DVDs as we watch a fair amount of television and documentaries through Netflix) a year. Not that we need to watch so many movies; we just do.

We have a three movie subscription. We get one for both of us and one for each of us. That way we can watch movies separately at our own pace. We keep about 200 movies in our queue. If my wife wants to watch Hornblower or The Forsyte Saga series on DVD, she can get it and watch it to her heart's content. If I want to watch Takashi Miike or Kar Wai Wong movies, I can. So many things come out on DVD these days, we hardly ever run into things not available through Netflix.

So what's my point? It's about choice. It's about me selecting when and how I watch television and movies. And I like it. I don't want to go back. Both of these things anticipated a need of mine that I didn't know existed. Sure cable, video recorders, and movie rentals sort of give me what I get through the DVR and Netflix, but they don't do it as efficiently or as quickly. This is a case-perfect example of environmental scanning. They determined there was a hole in service and they filled it.

In my opinion, environmental scanning is one of the most under-utilized skills of a librarian. What is your community lacking? What service can you provide to them that they aren't currently getting? Are there groups in your community that are under-served by the library?

It could be something as simple as offering $8 1GB flash drives and $1 ear bud headphones or even providing a place to watch World Cup soccer. Sometimes you need to reach out a little bit in order to bring them back to you.

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2007-09-04

Adapting to New Technology

Now, I'm not technoAmish, but in the same breath, I usually have to feel like a new gadget is actually useful to me before I'll plunk down my hard-earned money for it. I have a first-generation iPod shuffle, but that was the first iPod I bought; it took me another year to commit to a video iPod. I have both a laptop and a desktop, but they're both on the old side and I'm definitely hoping to replace them soon. And I have no intention of ever getting an iPhone, although I already know that when my Verizon Wireless New Every Two option comes up early next year, I'm getting this smartphone.

With all that being said? My DVR is fantastic. :-) When I got my cable set up for my new apartment, I added the DVR as a bit of a whim; I've always been perfectly capable of setting up my VCR, but after three years of having two shows I watched scheduled opposite each other, I was getting tired of dealing with time shifting. So, I went for the DVR, and even though the fall TV season hasn't started yet, I'm already in love. I've been able to see plenty of the U.S. Open, even though I work during the day, because I've been DVRing the coverage on USA and CBS. When I get home, I can fast-forward through boring matches and commericals, and rewind to see that unbelievable shot. Plus, I can DVR the night matches while I'm still watching the day coverage.

In addition, I can record programs to watch later, without feeling this burden of having to watch it right away or having tapes clutter up my very small entertainment center. I have High School Musical 2 sitting on my DVR, and now that I've gotten the first HSM from Netflix, I have plans for a little marathon of singing & dancing teens.

And speaking of Netflix, it's awesome, too! I had never needed it before, because the library systems I worked for collected all sorts of DVDs. But at my new library, they don't believe in competing with Blockbuster, so they don't collect feature films made in the last five years. So I've started using Netflix for those films, but they have so much more! I'm particularly loving the chance to see tons of British television shows that I could only hear about before.

So ever so slowly, I'm getting introduced to new technology and gadgets. How about y'all? Will you immediately jump on the bandwagon, or do you take some convincing? And if you need a reason, what works and what doesn't?

How does this connect to libraries, you ask? So many patrons feel bombarded by new technology; it's important that we're aware of what's out there, even if you're not using it yourself and will never use it. And these new technologies can have effects on library services; after all, no one would have expected libraries, amongst groups and individuals, to be podcasting when the iPod was introduced. So keep your eyes open for new gadgets and gizmos, and you just might find something that will change your library.

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