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.


What a Day for Sports! Are Libraries Ready for the NeXt Generation?

What a day yesterday was in the world of sports. I spent a good portion of my Sunday watching Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play in the Wimbledon tennis championship on television in a nearly 5 hour tennis match that was the longest men’s final in history and probably the greatest ever. Nadal finally bested 5 time Wimbledon Champ Federer to win 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7(8), 9-7. It was the best tennis match that I, personally, have ever seen. Both players were courting history. Nadal sought to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year which had not been done in 28 years since Bjorn Borg and his wooden racquet in 1980. Federer, was playing for a 6th consecutive Wimbledon win which had not occurred in over a century.

To continue the sports Wow!-dom, I then watched Dara Torres set a new American record in the 50 meter freestyle at the age of 41 in the Olympic qualifying trials. Yes, you read right. Torres, the former Olympic Champion and mom qualified for the Beijing Olympics in both the 50 meter and 25 meter freestyle events. Quite an accomplishment in a sport that favors swimmers in their teens and twenties. Why did Torres start swimming again? To get in shape after having a baby. Then Torres discovered that she was beating everyone in the pool. And the rest is history, literally.

Then there is also World Series pitching champ Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox who won his last world series game at age 40 and surfing champ Laird Hamilton who still rides the big waves at 44.

So, what does all this have to do with libraries? Well, it leads me to wonder what libraries are doing to support a new generation of readers and library users with programs and services?

By “new generation” I do not mean the teens and tweeners, but rather the Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers who are shattering preconceptions of what middle-age and retirement should be. Many are taking up sports they once played as kids and teens, such as tennis and jogging/running. Others are onto second or third careers, or are using their professional skills to volunteer at local non-profit organizations—perhaps including your Friends of the Library group.

So the question for libraries may well become not “Are libraries ready for teens?”, but rather “Are libraries ready for the teens’ parents and grandparents?”

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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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