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.


Friday Fun: Skype

I'm sure that if you had your druthers, you'd bring in every author for your book clubs. Who wouldn't want to? Sometimes access to an author is not possible due to their celebrity status; no one expects to be able to bring in Stephen King or Janet Evanovich to their book club. It's just not feasible. Other times, the author's availability is restricted due to their physical location. Most public libraries don't have the funds to fly an author in from another state, much less another country.

Enter Skype, a free online service that allows you to make phone calls, including video, over your internet connection. One of MPOW is using Skype in just this fashion: bringing authors into their book discussion. They had contacted Scottish author Peter May, who currently lives in France, about taking part in a conference call. May suggested that the library use Skype and they could teleconference the book discussion. Since that first Skype book discussion, they've gone on to do several more, and they make it a point now to reach out to authors for the possibility of taking part in their discussion.

Now, there is a little set up needed on both ends of things; in addition to downloading, installing, and configuring Skype on a library computer, the author needs to do it, too. Thankfully Skype is very easy to use in all aspects. Skype has been around since 2003, but has gained immense exposure in the past six months with people like Oprah and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire using the technology to talk to people. Perhaps not everyone will be able to use it, but it doesn't hurt to ask and perhaps find a way to enhance your book discussion.

And for you authors out there, it may be a great promotional device to be available for Skype teleconferences. I'm just saying.

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All I ask for is a small show and a smaller screen to watch it on

Like a lot of other people in this profession, I watched Gossip Girl when it started airing on The CW because I've been reading the books for years. (Some of the books are better than others.) I have to say I'm not fully enamored of the show. I find the pacing slow and Blair's clothes better suited to a ten-year-old, and a great lack of the wit and humor that comes through the books. Although I've stopped paying attention to the show, I am still paying attention to the media that surrounds it, because it's fascinating.

Averaging 2.5 million viewers an episode (info culled from BuzzSugar), Gossip Girl is far from being the top-rated show on television. It's not even the top rated show on The CW (that's America's Next Top Model, which gets about 5 million viewers an episode). Comparitively, CSI gets 18-20 million viewers an episode, Chuck about 7 million. I realize that's comparing apples and pineapples because the target audience of CSI is not the same as the target audience of Gossip Girl, but it gives some perspective. Think about how many more shows get higher ratings than Gossip Girl. Now comes the information bomb: Gossip Girl is the #1 show downloaded from iTunes. How does a show with a fraction of the number of viewers of Grey's Anatomy (which is popular with the same crowd that watches Gossip Girl) beat it out for downloads? I don't have definite answers, but I do have theories...some probably more educated than others.

1. There is a hunger among television viewers for portable viewing. Maybe there are groups of high schoolers crowded around someone's laptop in the hallway before classes begin. Maybe viewers bring eps to school for their friends whose parents don't let them watch. Maybe they'd rather watch it on their iPods without parents around.

2. The gadget marketing in the series really works. There is some serious Verizon marketing going on there. Verizon beat out a couple of other companies for exclusive right to product placement...which surprises me because I swear those were T-Mobile Sidekicks I saw in the first episode. Warring phone companies aside, if Blair and Serena can watch videos on their phones, why shouldn't the rest of us be able to?

3. It's one of those shows that's slow to catch on. This is a phenomenon I see with young adult novels; adults don't want to pick it up because it's marketed for teens and therefore must not have an ounce of intelligence but once they pick it up they can't put it down. Adults who tune into the show around episode 4 or 5 want to catch up but it's not available via OnDemand so they download it from iTunes. The problem with this idea is that episodes are available for free on the CW's website, but you can't visit the CW's site from your iPod unless you've got an iPod Touch.

4. SOMEONE out there is listening to consumers when we say we want more than just one way to watch TV.

With its interactive features, from Second Life (I don't even have time for a first life!) to a music feature on the CW's site, Gossip Girl is going where no show has gone before. It took American Idol a few seasons to really become a brand and not just a TV show, but Gossip Girl is waving the brand flag right out of the gate. It's something none of the other CW shows, even the ones with higher ratings (Smallville, Supernatural, etc.), have done yet. Of all the fall 2007 releases, Gossip Girl was the first one to be picked up for a full season, even before ABC's much-touted Pushing Daisies. This makes me think that the CW execs can see a bigger picture of the show than I can...which would make sense, considering they get paid to see the bigger picture regarding their shows. More than what happens with Blair and Serena, I'm interested in seeing where the brand and the viral marketing go.

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New uses for your cell phone

I have to say, it seems more and more that using your cell phone just to make phone calls is so 2001. Because clearly, you should be reading comic books on your cell phone.

Admittedly, I don't think this is going to catch on in a big way, at least not any time soon. But it is intriguing to see how there's this push to make you have one device that you can't leave the house with, so that device has to be able to do anything and everything you want it to do.

After all, wouldn't it be interesting to get a text message that's not full of IM-speak, because it's a book excerpt? Perhaps that's an opportunity for libraries in the future. And the future is closer than you think.

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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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CJRLC Tech Challenge

The Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative has issued the CJRLC Tech Challenge for "anyone who works in a CJRLC member library". Full details are here.

The short version of the challenge:

1. Start a blog relating to your library interests; post once a month, including photos!

2. Start a Flickr photo account.

3. Subscribe to an aggregator like bloglines and set up RSS feeds from blogs or websites.

4. Read about Web 2.0 and Library 2.0; post some comments on your blog.

5. Learn to use at least one of the following: LibraryThing, Google Maps; De.licio.us; or Squidoo.

6. Teach someone else how to use one of the technologies described above!

The deadline is May 24, 2007. How to enter, etc. is also all at the CJRLC website. To support its members, the CJRLC is offering training.*

Even if you aren't a member library of the CJRLC -- take the challenge!

*Full disclaimer: I work for a CJRLC member library, and I do workshops for the CJRLC.

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