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.


Fried Chicken or Chicken with Vegetables? Or, What I Learned From Flavor Flav

Last weekend, Melissa and Carlie W. kidnapped me and forced me to watch the entire season of Flavor of Love in one day. (OK, I'm exaggerating on the kidnapped and forced part.)

By the end, I had discovered a valuable lesson for librarians. (No, not about how to be a reality TV contestant who wins the attention of Flavor Flav.)

Flav's favorite food is fried chicken; so one of the challenges for the ladies is to make fried chicken. They get the recipe and a kitchen with all the ingredients.

Some jumped right in and made the fried chicken. One made the chicken but tried to dress it up with orange slices. And another... she made chicken with vegetables. As Hottie* addressed the camera, she explained** that she was a great cook and had been raised a vegetarian, and that she would make chicken and vegetables for Flav. It was healthier. And she wouldn't fry the chicken, she would microwave it because it was healthier and more sanitary. So she did. And because her dish was better than fried chicken, it would win. Flav's reaction was "the hell?", because he didn't want chicken and vegetables; he wanted fried chicken.***

The moral of the story for librarians:

Do you give patrons what they want, or do you give them what you want to give them?

Our patrons not always as specific as Flav was, with his request and his recipe. But still, Hottie truly believed that she knew what was best, because she didn't listen. She was too caught up in the story in her head about doing what was best for Flav.

Do you not offer anime and manga, even when the teens want it and ask for it, because you don't like it and are not willing to argue for it's inclusion in the collection? Or, on the flip side, do you love anime and manga and plan some great programs, but the teens in your library are just not that into it?

Do you dislike fantasy so never include it in your booktalks to schools, even tho the fantasy books at your library don't stay on the shelf? Do you say your teens don't like fantasy, but if you looked at your circ statistics, would you discover it's the most popular genre at your library?

Is your library still debating whether or not to carry DVDs, even after patron after patron asks for it?

Is your priority still paperback copies of teen books, when the teens come in asking for the brand new hardcovers they see in the bookstore?

Did you hear about a totally cool program another library did -- say, doing a library version of Project Runway -- so jump into doing that program at your library? Did you find out if your patrons even watch Project Runway?

When planning a program, doing outreach, buying materials, ask yourself -- are you thinking of what the patron wants? Or are you thinking about what you want to provide?

You Know What Time It Is!

*Flav made up his own names for the contestants, apparently because of his memory problems. Tho why it's easier to remember New York and Pumkin instead of Tiffany and Brooke, I have no idea.

**Those who watched the show know that Hottie was always living in a world of her own and honestly believed that her world was the real world.

***In trying to be entirely honest, I should add that even someone who likes chicken with vegetables would have said "the hell" because all Hottie did was shove uncut vegetables into a whole raw chicken, sprinkle it with marshmallows, and nuke in the microwave for less than a minute, serving raw chicken and veggies to Flav.


  • At 11:04 AM, Blogger Melissa Rabey said…

    I really loved this post, Liz--I think you hit the nail on the head when it comes to listening to patrons, and being aware of what your patrons really want, not what you think they should want. Great connections!

  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger Liz B said…


    (and as to my Flavor of Love addiction, Pumkin is now one of my myspace friends.)

  • At 11:43 AM, Blogger Sara Zoe Patterson said…

    you are absolutely right - but here's my question - and i mean it genuinely - so, indeed, i do not particularly like fantasy, and i rely on patron requests and general school library journal readings for recommendations - and we buy these books, and they do fine and ok at our library, especially amoung their dedicated fans. But not many other kids end up reading these books because so many kids (public high school - kids really being teens here) are asking for a personal review - and if I pick up a book, their first question tends to be, "have you read it?"

    So - I do read a ton of ya books on my own time (because no, of course, we don't have time to read them on work time) - and so I'm more able to book talk these books. I do my best at the books I don't personally read - but it def feels hollow. I know no one is suggesting I spend my own time reading books I don't want to read - but have you got any ideas for me?

  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    PlentyO'Moxie, the check is in the mail.

    Seriously, I didn't ask Plenty to write that, but I am putting together a post about "faking it" (working term only.) Because if we owe it to patrons do promote an assortment of books, how do we do it? So yes, I am working on a post with some ideas on how to handle that & hope to have it up within the week.

  • At 2:33 PM, Blogger waltc said…

    Excellent post. In today's context it also means that listening to your patrons (and paying attention to what they say and you observe) works both ways: If somethings hot, hot, hot and your patrons don't give a d*n, you're telling your own story, not helping them find theirs. (Are there really still PLs avoiding DVDs? In 2006? I must lead a sheltered life!)

  • At 8:23 PM, Blogger Sara Zoe Patterson said…

    liz -

    cool. i look forward to the post (the blog post - not the mail post, although the check idea is very enticing . . . ) now to think up other question/dilemas for you to brilliantly solve for me.

  • At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Are there really still PLs avoiding DVDs? In 2006?

    Yep. Like mine. No VHS, no DVDs. The Powers That Be decided that they were too expensive for the value they provided.

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Carlie Webber said…

    Liz, you are made of awesome and cooked in a microwave with healthy vegetables. Bicycle bells all around! There's a lot to be said for listening, because not only did Hottie make a chicken Flav wouldn't eat, she made a chicken NO ONE IN HER RIGHT MIND would eat.

    (You added Pumkin as a MySpace friend? Also, look, I have a Blogger account and might actually update it sometime!)

  • At 6:30 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    I have Pumkin AND Zach Braff AND John Green as my MySpace friends! How many people can say that?

    And cool you with the blogger acount.


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