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.


Fear and Fiction: Where are the Librarians?

I attended a conference this past Saturday called Fear and Fiction: The Power of Children's Books and the Inner Life of the Child. Authors discussed books, then analysts discussed the books. My full report is here, here, and here.

What I heard & learned & observed that librarians should know:

The term bibliotherapy was never used; not once.

As befitting an event organized by the Yale University Child Study Center and the Anna Freud Centre, whenever books where mentioned within a bibliotherapy context, it was with therapists/psychologist/psychiatrists.

My conclusion about the role of librarians: not to act as bibliotherapists (the letters after our names are MLIS or MLS, not DSW, MD, PhD, MSW, DPsych); but, rather to get the books into the hands of the therapists/ psychologists/ psychiatrists who will be using these books.

This is particularly true of young adult books; the analysts speaking about the YA books clearly enjoyed reading them, saw them as valuable literature both as a story they enjoyed reading but also as something that is useful and beneficial for teens to read. "These books show [teens] that they aren't truly alone." It was also clear that this conference is what introduced YA books to the analysts; and both the speakers and audience members asked, "how do we find out about these books?"

And that is where we come in. One member of the audience stood and plugged librarians as a resource; so what else can we do? Who better than librarians to connect the books with the people who need and want those books, and just don't know it? My scribbled notes say, "we (librarians) still need to make people aware of what is out there." We speak with kids about books; with parents; and sometimes, with teachers.* But what about other people who work with children and teens?

I'm mulling over how this would best be done. Is it something that is library by library, librarian by librarian, grass roots as we contact people we know in our towns? Or is there something that can be done on a bigger scale, with regional, state or national organizations helping with targeted resources and suggestions on how to reach people who don't even know that what we offer is something they need?

* One of the analysts went to her child's private school and asked the English teacher about the books they use; the teacher responded that they don't know about the YA books because they don't know how to find them/ have time to read. Before public schools start congratulating themselves, another audience member pointed out that many schools don't have school librarians and the state of school libraries is less than great. And before condemning teachers, I know plenty of teachers who do keep up to date about current books.


  • At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The analytical part of me (the part that's not busy bubbling over about how totally wrong bibliotherapy is) appreciates this thoughtful post, and the nuanced arguments behind it. Would I object as much to "help books" if they were given to social workers, counselors, etc to share with young people? What about literary books that can be enjoyed as good stories or given to therapist to share with a kid who might be having a problem? (I'm thinking of books like Joey Pigza or The Great Gilly Hopkins, etc.) Could the reason why bibliotherapy has any supporters at all be a result of this sort of argument getting tangled up with other, different arguments?

  • At 5:54 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Jill, what was especially interesting is that they never used the word bibliotherapy; and I do think it gets "tangled up", as you say. We need to get together to hash this out in person! BTW, this thursday I got my copy of YALS and what's in it but "A Closer Look At Bibliotherapy", I don't think it's on line yet (Vol 5, Issue 1.)


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