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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We Don't Need No Stinking Library

Or do we?

Librarian in Black and The M Word - Marketing Libraries are talking about a "staffless" library has opened in Kings County. There is interesting talk, pro and con, at those two blogs, so click on through to add to the discussion. The story the blog posts are based on is at Library Journal.

My first thought: good on that library system! The staffless library is basically a branch in a larger system, and that system actually did what libraries usually just talk about: they listened to what their customers wanted and gave it to them. What I've seen/heard in libraryland is often a "ask customers, pretend to listen, and in the end give them what we think the library thinks they need" philosophy. So yay for that library system for listening rather than paying lip service.

My second thought: just because you cannot see the person doing readers advisory doesn't mean it doesn't happen. (Actually, I owe you all my two cents worth on how RA and libraries is criminally undervalued. Maybe I'll have time in February.)

In having this type of "staffless" library, what the community, the library, and librarians need to remember is that it is NOT staffless. The Librarian in Black listed all the building costs and some of the services that staff a staffless building.

I saw that list and thought, "but wait! There's more!"

So here is what staff is still doing for this customer base -- and what, truly, all libraries should be doing well because we all have people who just want their materials. Disclaimer: include me in that. I work long hours, I get home, no, I don't want to go to a library program and don't care what they offer. I want my books, thank you very much.

Professional services that are still being done and need to be done very well:

Catalog. About five years back, when I was complaining about catalogs and poor cataloging so it was so damn hard to find books and DVDs and music on it, I was told by muckety mucks in the library world that it is a well known library fact that patrons don't use the catalog to find the books they want. They browse. Conclusion unsaid: so it doesn't matter that something is hard to find in the catalog.

I'm sure you can point me to those studies. I browse myself. But with the advancement of online searching, and Amazon, etc., the truth is people are used to going to a computer and using it to find what they want -- with a different set of browsing expectations. Expectations not of the shelf but of the catalog. If you have people relying on placing holds to get materials, a library has to pay attention to its catalog and what is in it. A valuable professional service right there, done by a professional librarian who is savvy enough and customer-friendly enough to create the online public access catalog that is about finding books rather than organizing and classifying them.

Website. As a member of the book blogging community, I can tell you -- websites matter. Readers Advisory is not about the check out person noticing someone with Nora Roberts and recommending LaVyrle Spencer (and, sadly, too many librarians believe this.) It's about the reviews and booklists and information you provide on your website. Call it handselling, call it booktalking, call it readers advisory -- book blogs are doing this every day and our readers love it. I'm not saying the library website should look like a book blog; but it is so 2001 to believe that your patron won't get suggestions on what to read next from your website.

The important thing, as with everything else about your library, is it has to be done well and it has to be kept fresh. This alone could be a full time job for a librarian. I, for one, would LOVE that job. Right there -- another professional staff for the staffless library.

Collection Development. Kirkus has left the building; and sadly many libraries think this is an area that can be outsourced to someone else. If Collection Development was a science, perhaps it could be, but I see it more as an art. I think Collection Development done with librarians who staff the libraries is important and critical. Note I say done with -- delegating, say, purchasing all the New York Times bestsellers or certain top authors makes sense. So, too, does centralized purchasing for large systems. But local staff should still be empowered to have the input to say "this series does well at my branch," "this genre sits on the shelf," "people are looking for x and we don't have it."

How to do this when you're not seeing the patrons? Analyze what is being placed on hold, both from a pure statistical approach (individual titles, genre, author, age) as well as from a holistic approach.

Example: Twilight is being check out, along with a lot of vampire books. Doing just a math approach, collection development adds more teen vampire books. WRONG. The skilled librarian who is up on their literature -- the librarian who knows books -- knows the Twilight inspired reading also includes paranormal romance and straightforward romance and buys those titles, also. Easy? No. Impossible? No. Requires a whole new skill set and way of thinking? Yes. Requires staff? Yes.

A Loud Mouth. Marketing, advertising, press -- none of those are quite the words I'm looking for so I'll just go with "loud mouth." The "staffless" library still requires promotion, letting people know it's there and what it offers. In a way it will require a louder mouth, so that the taxpayers and budget makers don't think, "staffless" means staffless. The library has to let people know, there is staff -- professional, educated, skilled, talented, staff -- and the patrons at the staffless library benefit from the expertise of that staff. So no, you cannot fire them; no, this isn't the answer to your budgeting dreams. And as with everything else -- being loud is a talent. Doing it right matters. So yet again... here is another place where staff is needed to make the staffless library work.

You don't need a building to be a library. Garnet Hill may lack a traditional store and still be a store; it still has staff selecting clothes, marketing clothes, advertising clothes. So, too, can a library lack a "library" yet still be a "library." And you still need staff.

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

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Cover Girls!

Hey, who is that foxy lady on the cover of School Library Journal this month? Why, it's none other than our very own Liz B, graciously sharing the cover with fellow YA & Kidlitosphere luminaries Jennifer Hubert Swan, Betsy Bird, Monica Edinger, and Cheryl Klein!

Liz is on a roll lately, having made the cover of SLJ twice in the last couple of months -- first with the article on fan fiction that she co-authored with fellow Pop-er Carlie Webber, and now with this Mad Men-themed cover photo. You go, girl!

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Internet Librarian 2009

As you know, I went to Internet Librarian 2009 and presented on Pop Culture.

So, how'd I do?

I will be posting here about IL2009, and tweeted at my Twitter/LizB account with the hashtag #il2009; in the meanwhile, here are what other people have to say about the presentation.

Oh, and in one instance -- you can see and hear me talk about the book, Pop Goes the Library!

Video by Elise J. Brown, Degrees of Shining Vlog, it's Internet Librarian 2009 - Seen & Heard - Day 1, Part 2. I'm about three and a half minutes in.

The Librarian in Black posted, IL2009: Technology: The Engine Driving Pop-Culture-Savvy Libraries or Source of Information Overload. As you may remember, I had the privilege of presenting with Sarah Houghton-Jan;, the Librarian in Black; she was Source of Information Overload.

Washington State Library posted Internet Librarian, Day 4 – Wednesday, Oct 28 2009 – #IL2009.

Eclectic Librarian posted IL2009: Technology: The Engine Driving Pop Culture-Savvy Libraries or Source of Overload?

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RIP, Ray Browne

Ray Browne, who is credited with making popular culture into an academic field, has passed away. Beginning in 1973, when he founded the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, he did much to encourage the study of popular culture.

Obituary from the New York Times



Pop Goes the Library at Internet Librarian

Are you going to the Internet Librarian 2009 Conference?

Then you have two chances to meet me, you lucky person, you!

First, on Monday, October 26? I'll be at a Meet the Authors program.

Second, I'll be giving a presentation on Wednesday October 28 with Sarah Houghton-Jan, Digital Futures Manager, San Jose Public Library author of LibrarianInBlack.net, called Technology: The Engine Driving Pop Culture-Savvy Libraries or Source of Overload?

Technology often drives pop culture trends like iPhone mania and texting addictions, and it can also be used to improve all kinds of library services when we embrace the idea that information technology is everyone’s job. By establishing a tech-friendly atmosphere, libraries can harness the latest real-world and web-based techno tools to engage customers in an ongoing discussion to identify and meet the pop cultural & life-learning needs of their communities. Find out how to use trendspotting, experimentation, and continuous training to create a technological sandbox at your library and hear about creative strategies and practical, imaginative solutions from the field for you to use in your community. Then hear how to deal with information load through ten principles including organizational techniques, how to filter your input, time and stress management, managing overload in different media: email, RSS, interruptive technologies, the telephone, print media, multimedia, and social networks. Come away with a plan for tackling your own mound (physical or virtual) of overload!

Stop by, say "hi." Tell me I sent you.

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

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YA NaNoWriMo Contest

So, this is pretty awesome: you may be familiar with NaNoWriMo (stands for National Novel Writing Month, celebrated in November -- participants attempt to, well, complete a draft of a novel in that 30-day period).

Well, the Gotham Writers' Workshop, in conjunction with Sourcebooks and the Serendipity Literary Agency, is co-sponsoring the Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest. Got a great title and 250 stellar first words? Submit them at no cost, for a chance to win a workshop from GWW, and/or a pitch session with YA literary agent Regina Brooks!

Go get 'em, writers!

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Got Research?

If you do, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has money for you! And it is just a grant application away.

Someone has to be awarded the grant; why not you? And by "you", I mean any member of "YALSA, including student members, although the research project may be undertaken by an individual, an institution, or by a group."

Anyway, here are the details (YALSA's wording):

The 2010 Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Research Grant

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the fastest growing division of the American Library Association (ALA) is offering the Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Research Grant for 2010. This grant of $1000 provides seed money for small-scale projects that will encourage research that responds to the YALSA Research Agenda.

Details regarding the applications for the 2010 Frances Henne YALSA/VOYA Research Grant are available from the YALSA Web site at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/awardsandgrants/franceshenne.cfm

Applications for the grant are due in the YALSA Office by Dec. 1.

For more information please contact us via e-mail, yalsa@ala.org or by phone, 800-545-2433 x 4387.

So go, check out the requirements, print out the application!

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

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