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.


Libraries: Not About Books

Hang out a little bit in library-land, and you'll soon hear the talk about books.

Or, rather, not about books.

Yes, libraries are about more than books. I totally agree. No argument there.

But it does disappoint that "more than books" has become "not about books."

LISnews offers up Ten Librarian Blogs to Read in 2010. The standard? "to help highlight people writing in the many different areas of librarianship. Those people who are doing some of the most interesting and original writing on the web. Each year we've attempted to gather a group of librarians whose writing helps increase our understanding of the profession and it's place in our rapidly changing world. Again this year we tried to choose 10 writers who cover very different aspects of our profession, 10 sites that inform, educate and maybe amuse. By following these blogs I think you'll find something new to read, and a place to gain better understanding of a part of librarianship that's outside of your normal area. We all have much to learn from each other, and these bloggers are working hard to share their knowledge and understanding with you."

Now, before you start thinking of the various librarians who blog about books and publishing, and wonder who has been picked to "inform, educate and maybe amuse", I'll save you the trouble.

One book blog; Awful Library Books: "This site is a collection of public library holdings that we find amusing and maybe questionable for public libraries trying to maintain a current and relevant collection. Contained in this site are actual library holdings." It was hard to pass up Awful Library Books. You can't help but ask, "what were they thinking when they picked THAT book?"

Don't get me wrong. Love that blog. It's funny. But its more about weeding and collection development. It's more a look at retro books....

Oh. I get it! Libraries are the future! Books are the past!

LISnews has some great librarian blogs listed; don't get me wrong.

But libraryland doesn't usually include books, publishing, reading, readers advisory (and those who blog about them) in lists such as this. Hang out in libraryland, and you find all sorts of things about technology and community and marketing etc etc. But books? Publishing? Readers Advisory? Not so much.

Take a look at Library 101. No, go look. It's "101 Resources & Things to Know." Great list, right? Makes you really think about your own skills, and patrons, and what your library does and does not do. But "the basics have changed". And guess what is not there? There is Facebook. Digital books. Downloadable books. Why, shiny techy things. Nice. I like shiny.

And then: "Stereotypes will fade away in the library of the future. Like what? We’re talking about things like this: the librarian sitting behind a desk much of the day, using primarily in-house, offline resources, relying mostly on books and letting books be our primary “brand” association for our users; shushing; largely letting people come to us rather than being where our users are; often resisting emerging technology due to expense, fear or the much-used “That’s not the way we’ve always done it” excuse. Making these things go away now is a choice for us; eventually, they will be thrust upon us in often unpleasant ways."

Oh. Books are stereotypes of libraries, to fade away unless you're helping someone print out a POD copy.

I commented at Library 101 about books (Novelist! Book blogging communities that use all that shiny technology!),and Libraryman (one of the Library 101 gurus) responded that they made "*our* library 101 knowing other folks would put different things on their Library 101 lists (not that we really think people will do this, but you know, its a conversation starter/thought exercise anyway). One things I wish is that we had made this more clear so that some folks wouldn’t think we actually though *we* could make everybody’s 101 basics. Well, that and we wish a handful of people out there would have read things more carefully to know this, but I digress.. I totally agree that the things you listed are quite important and I’m glad you mentioned them."

I get it; their list, not for everyone, cannot include everything. But that there isn't one real bookish thing on the list? In a list made by two high profile librarians? With essays by other high profile librarians? The message to me: books aren't considered, not even when thinking "hey, have we covered all our bases?" And by books, I mean: publishing. Collection development. Readers advisory. Reviews. All things which take work, skills, education, practice. All things which use technology.

Libraries are more than books; but that belief seems to have shifted to one of libraries being about things other than books.

It's 2010 and guess what?

It's not your Grandma's library.

But readers are still using your library.

Readers ares still working in your library.

And no, they're not shushing you.

Librarians who practice readers advisory are reinventing what this means, using blogs and Twitter and all those other shiny things. They take RA beyond the desk, creating online resources and holding discussions using technology.

Databases such as Novelist provide information on books.

Librarians who blog are discussing serious concerns about collection development and who decides what books your patrons read. Now that KIRKUS is gone, the remaining professional review journals have more power. What are the philosophies of those journals? What does it mean to have a narrowing of professional reviews?

What about librarians who participate in book blogs and the book and lit blog community?

And publishing! Instead of sitting back and wondering about things like diversity in books, librarians are trying to make a difference by blogging that yes, their patrons do want and need diverse books.

It's a rich world out there.

My suggestions for must-reads, especially for those who may be up on technology but not so much on the book world:

Fuse No. 8 at School Library Journal. Reviews, publishing news, interviews, press releases, video, serious, funny. Any "must read" list of librarian blogs that does not include Elizabeth Bird of New York Public Library is a list that says, "we're not really looking at books when we make our lists, thanks."

Roger Sutton at Read Roger, the Horn Book Blog. Who has a MLS so is a librarian! He's opinionated as hell and not afraid to stir the pot. Also? It's fantabulous that the editor of the Horn Book blogs fearlessly. And honestly? When one is trying to prove the worth of one's blogging (especially when it doesn't get the library laurels) it is very, very helpful to point to Roger's blog to show it is acceptable and professional to blog and to be fearless in blogging.

Oh, official publication blogs don't count?

I give you Bookshelves of Doom. One of the most unique voices out there; and also covers publishing, books, reviews. And so much more. Works at a library in Maine.

There are many other librarian book blogs. Being a children's/teen librarian, my suggestions are from the children's/teen book blog world. Have other suggestions, especially beyond children's/teen book blogs? Share in the comments!

One final point. I love LISnews; I read those libraryland blogs and gain valuable things from them. I want to post more on the enthusiasm in Library 101. I adore libraries and what they can contribute to communities. It's just that I believe that when people think "books = libraries," people are telling us something important. We should value those in our profession who use blogs and technology to bring the right book to the right person.

Cross posted at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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