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.

2007-03-26

A Great Idea

Book Club in a Bag

I had never seen this before (probably many of you have), but it was first brought to my attention by science fiction writer and all-around great guy, Robert Sawyer. The Kitchener Public Library has started offering book clubs in a bag, where you get a set of ten copies of the same book, plus a book-club discussion guide and everything checks out as one item.

When I read Robert's post, I thought that's a great idea! Then, when I finally got a library card at my local library, guess what they have? Yep! DIBs or Discussions In Boxes. From their website:
A selection of challenging and entertaining discussion books plus a binder full of reviews and information about the authors is available for a checkout period of 6 weeks.
And here's a PDF explaining the service at Bettendorf.

How cool is that? Is this something your library could do?

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2007-03-08

Wine and the Library

Even if you're not much of a drinker, you've probably heard the name Gallo, as in Ernest and Julio Gallo, founders of the largest winemaking company in the world. Ernest Gallo, passed away at the age of 97 earlier this week.

SO why mention this here? Well, this quote is the kicker:
Using $5,900 they borrowed and a recipe from the Modesto Public Library, Ernest and Julio rented a ramshackle building, and everybody in the family pitched in to make ordinary wine for 50 cents a gallon -- half the going price. The Gallos made $30,000 the first year.
These two brothers knew nothing about making wine, but used resources available at their local library to start what would become the largest winery in the country. If not for the library, where would these gentlemen have gotten their inspiration?

What will your patrons find this week at your library? Do you have any potential Gallos among your patrons?

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2007-01-22

Sports Matter

Before I changed careers to become a librarian there was one thing I could count on every Monday morning and Friday afternoon—someone would be talking about weekend sports around the water cooler. But since I became a librarian, first in an academic library and then in a public library, I noticed that my colleagues rarely mentioned the “F” word, by which I mean “Football”. This morning as I was weeding old magazines and journals at home I came across an issue of Booklist from 6/1/06 and 6/15/06 in which columnist Will Manley of The Manley Arts: The Worried Librarian writes, “In my role of chief worrier of the world, it’s important for me to avoid worrying about trivial things. For instance, I don’t care who wins the Super Bowl or the World Series. I will leave the worries of spectator sports to those who have a psychological need to assign some sort of cosmic meaning to games involving balls of various shapes and sizes.”

Fellow Librarians, this kind of attitude is a difficulty. It is especially important to care about sports if you are attempting to attract male readers. According to research from Neilsen Sports “over 60% of American households say that they have a football fan”. When I worked as a youth services librarian I once asked some middle school boys to help me make a book display. They were unenthusiastic until I told them I wanted to do a display about sports. Their eyes lit up and they buzzed about in the stacks selecting books “that kids would like about basketball, football, hockey…” When I was a young adult librarian the books I put on display about sports flew off the shelves. Sports books displays work.

February is Super Bowl time and also the beginning of Black History Month. Yesterday in the NFC and AFC title games history was made as two African-American head coaches go to the Super Bowl for the first time, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts (Read more at Superbowl.com). Create a book display. And if you are a night-owl there is some fantastic tennis going on down under at the Australian Open, live on ESPN2 in the wee hours of the morning. Perhaps create a display featuring books about the country of Australia, tennis and Australian writers?

Even if you are a librarian who does not care about sports (and I know there are many librarians who do care about sports) bear in mind that many of your patrons are sports fans.

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2007-01-06

Librarian: A Career for the Future

I want to thank Jill for letting me know that Librarian is listed as one of the Best Careers 2007 in U.S. News and World Report in an article titled “Get-Ahead Careers for 2007” by career coach Dr. Marty Nemko. Kudos to Dr. Nemko who tells readers that librarianship is an “underrated profession” and to forget about the dated image of the librarian as “mousy bookworm” and refers to librarians as “high tech information sleuths.” This article is one of the few that gets it right about the profession in my opinion. For instance, I am currently working on a presentation in which I am using my library’s digital databases, microfilm collection, vertical files of newspaper clippings on local history, resources from our special collection room on New Jersey history, and the resources found in the Library of Congress’s “American Memory National Digital Library Program” available online. I couldn't fully tell my story without the computers AND the books AND the microfilm AND the newspaper clippings. Is it perhaps that today’s history was yesterday’s pop culture?

The only point that I don’t agree with Dr. Nemko on is that the work environment of a librarian is placid. The work environment may seem placid to some, but perhaps one may change one’s mind by reading Liz B’s previous post “What Does Library Mean?” And let’s not even get into the challenges of censorship and intellectual freedom that librarians encounter on the job. Rather than placid, librarians and libraries exhibit what Ernest Hemingway describes as “grace under pressure.” In an interview with Dorothy Parker, in the New Yorker (November 30, 1929) Parker asked the former World War I ambulance driver “Exactly what do you mean by ‘guts’?” to which Hemingway responded, “I mean, grace under pressure.” John F. Kennedy used this phrase of Hemingway to define courage in his Pulitzer Prize winning book “Profiles in Courage” published in 1955. I prefer courageous over placid.

Dr. Nemko also mentions that many computer-related jobs that were hot a few years ago did not make the list of Best Jobs 2007 due to the fact that many of these jobs have gone overseas. So, what happened to the blue-jean wearing, tech-savvy, dot-com’ers and webmasters with the big ideas and entrepreneurial attitudes? Well, I noticed there were quite a few in Library School with me from 2002 – 2004.

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2007-01-03

What Does "Library" Mean?

The New Year started with a bang with two very different types of stories about libraries:

The Washington Post article, Hello, Grisham -- So Long, Hemingway? With Shelf Space Prized, Fairfax Libraries Cull Collections about a library system weeding classics. My favorite quote: "More computers and growing demand in branches for meeting space, story hours and other gatherings have left less room for books."

The New York Times article, Lock the Library! Rowdy Students are Taking Over! about a library in Maplewood, NJ, that is shutting down during afternoon hours because the disturbances going on during that time period. My favorite passage: "Librarians and other experts say the growing conflicts are the result of an increase in the number of latchkey children, a decrease in civility among young people and a dearth of “third places” — neither home nor school — where kids can be kids."

There's been a lot being said in blogs and over coffee about these two articles, but together, they raise an important question: What is the primary function of a library in a community?

Let's avoid armchair quarterbacking (Fairfax should display classics! Don't lock out the teens, have programs!) and take what is being said at face value.

In Fairfax, it's about changing to be, well, a community center: meeting space. story hours. other gatherings. Giving people only what they want; with no questions about what people need, or whether a library is different from Barnes and Noble.

In Maplewood, it's saying, no, we are not and should not be the community center; we're a library, and if the town wants a community center for teens, build one.

And, surprisingly enough to those who know I delight in pop culture being in libraries, I'm finding myself siding with Maplewood. I think libraries are part of the community, absolutely; but our primary role is library.

We should welcome teens with programs and teen advisory groups; with friendly staff, comfortable surroundings, and with reasonable rules that are the same for everyone.

We should partner with local agencies and community centers.

But if what Maplewood needs is a community center for teens, they should build one and staff one, rather than having people say "oh, the library can do it."

Part of the reason I say this is cost; we have limited budgets. Hiring additional staff means money that cannot be spent elsewhere on electronic databases, updating websites, staff for other library needs, or professional development.

Another reason I say this is training and education. Librarians are librarians. If a library has a primary purpose of community center, shouldn't it be hiring people with degrees in recreational management instead of people with degrees in library science? And once we stop needing people with MLIS's to serve our primary purpose, how can we call ourselves libraries and librarians?

Space is another concern. Most libraries have not been built to serve as a community center and don't have that space. If a library shifts to a community center model what about those who valued the library model and library resources? Where will they go?

A library can be and should be an important part of town it is in. But it cannot be and should not be all things to all people. Libraries can and should (and do!) partner with other members of the community; that's the way to make sure your town has what it needs.

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