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.


Electronic Communication & Teens With Linda Braun

Linda Braun, of Librarians & Educators Online gave a whiz-bang 50-minute tour of a host of emerging & popular technologies, how teens use them, and their applications for school & public libraries. High points are bulleted below, and Linda's own excellent workshop resources are available here.

Major introductory points:
  • Literacy & technology are completely intertwined -- librarians need to acknowledge this & gain facility with thinking about technology in a new way.
  • Teens overwhelmingly use the Internet most for communication -- e-mail, IM, chat, blogs, message boards -- this is something they're passionately interested in right now, and will likely remain so for some time to come.
  • If we don't educate ourselves about & use these technologies to our advantage, we're toast.


  • Totally democratic, on-demand radio via the web.
  • Listeners can have them delivered to their iPods (or other mp3 devices) or cell phones or computers automatically via RSS feeds.
  • Library applications -- library staff can create podcasts to keep teens up to date on new programs, new materials & so on. Better still -- teens can create podcasts containing reviews of new materials!


  • Started out at just personal accounts of one's day -- now quite communal (see: Livejournal.com), wildly popular, and a very teen-friendly mode of self-expression.
  • Bullying issue -- it was fascinating to me to see how focused many of the sessions 70 attendees were on this -- Linda pointed out that although this is a serious problem, bullying has been around for far longer than the Internet, and that the Internet is really just a different venue for bullying. Do confront the problem, but don't reject the idea of blogging simply because it can be problematic!
  • In the library, we can help teens use this technology successfully, by empowering them to write posts (or even update the library's teen blog themselves), by using the technology in which they are literate to communicate with them.

Cell Phones

  • 97% of teens have cell phones.
  • This is an older technology that we can use in a new way.
  • Cell phone reference is a natural outgrowth of regular old phone reference -- now people can call us from anywhere -- movie theater, grocery store, water ice stand, music store, even from within the library.

Text Messaging

  • SMS or Short Message Service -- cell-to-computer queries. A person sends a text message to the phone number a library has set up specifically for the purpose of SMS reference. The library receives it as an e-mail and sends the reply as an e-mail, but the recipient receives it as a text message.
  • Software chunks the reply into smaller messages (b/c a text message can only contain 160 characters) and can convert standard English to textese (converting with to w/, for example).
  • Potential teen queries: It's snowing like crazy -- it's tonight's program still on? I'm coming to your library from far away -- how do I get there? Do you have this book in? Can you put it on hold for me? I think my friend is bulimic -- how can I help her? ...and so on.
  • Benefits of text/SMS reference -- instead of calling and risking being overheard with a potentially embarrassing query, teens can send text queries privately.
  • Reasons teens like this service -- as Jeri Triano of the Ocean County Library put it, "as a teen, if you don't have to talk to a grown-up, why would you bother?" Also, it's a new technology, and therefore fun, and something to play with.


  • This is internet telephony, and it's free.
  • The interface is very similar to instant messaging services like AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger & Yahoo! IM -- you downolad it, you set up a buddy list, and go from there.
  • You place a call to someone via your computer, they answer via their computer, and you talk using the microphones in your respective computers.
  • If your connection is broadband/T1, there 's no delay at all.
  • If you have a computer but your friend has a phone, you can still use Skype to contact them, but there's a small charge.
  • Up to 5 people at once can talk via Skype, making it very useful for conference calls (grown-up application), TAB/TAG meetings (teen application), or author chats (another teen application), among others.

Linda's major point was: Just try these technologies out. See how they work. Get comfortable with them. Don't wait around for policies & procedures to be finalized by bureaucracy-loving higher-ups (no offense meant, higher-ups), because if you do, you miss the opportunities and fall further behind.

This program was really well-attended, with close to 70 people in the room. Linda's informal poll at the workshop's start revealed a large number of us among the ranks of bloggers, blog readers, IM, Skype, and podcasters, so according to Linda, New Jersey officially rocks.


  • At 3:19 PM, Blogger cathy d. said…

    I thought Linda's presentation was great! (she is always a really wonderful presenter.) That said, a slight fear crept into me (in two parts) as I listened to the through the presentation.

    Okay. Part one. If we use these technologies at home and our family members use these technologies at home, why in the world haven't we brought them into our libraries? It isn't just teens who chat, instant message, or blog.

    Part two. I wonder if people who don't work with teens think that these "new technologies" won't affect them? If people like IM, then why not offer IM reference services? Teens grow up. They'll expect our libraries to support their interests and their technologies even when they're headed to "adult services" librarians. Think seamlessness - moving through the various areas of your life using the same tools. The technology exists, let's use it.


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