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.


Dear Diary...

One of my extracurricular activities is performing in and now helping to cast the Boston branch of Mortified. This stage show was developed in Los Angeles a few years ago by David Nadelberg and has expanded to include branches in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, with Portland, OR, Austin, and Washington, DC chapters launching soon. It has been featured in several newspapers and magazines, both the radio and television versions of "This American Life," and, um, an episode of the Hallmark Channel’s morning show, New Morning, which featured me and my “dual identity” as a “mild-mannered librarian by day” [?!] and...someone who reads her diary on stage at a club by night.

The show is, to quote the website, “a comic excavation of adolescent artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, home movies, stories and more) as shared by their original authors before total strangers.” It’s not held as an open mike; participants attend extremely informal casting sessions at which they present their best/worst childhood and adolescent journals, letters, school assignments, poems, etc. for the producer and casting associates. What follows is a frank, hilarious, occasionally agonizing but always entertaining discussion about who this person was, what they wanted to be, and how it relates to the person are now. One of the staff works with the performer to craft a good story using the original material. Nothing is added to these raw materials; the final product is 100% comprised of the author’s childhood/teenaged musings. Check out the site for some examples of how this comes together, and hey, why not submit your own stuff? You don’t even need to live near one of the cities with a show; there’s a “Woe & Tell” section in which you may post your own shameful writings, under your own name or anonymously.

There are several possibilities for library programming using the idea of people’s “raw materials” as well as the idea of lifelong journaling and letter-writing. Mortified is trademarked, so don’t go stealing their thunder, but here are two of my related ideas:

* My Favorites: A History: This is something the staff could do as a display on their own or you could invite patrons to submit their own histories. What were your favorite books/recordings/magazines/movies when you were nine? Thirteen? Twenty-five? Forty? Maybe you were a big fan of NKOTB in 1989, but for some reason you also couldn’t get enough of your father’s Frankie Valli records! What was that all about? [This is a real question for my sister—Emily, answer at your leisure!] Maybe you sneaked Judy Blume’s Wifey out of your parent’s bookcase and instantly began suspecting that every married couple you knew were having torrid affairs with their friends and neighbors! [Ahem.] Maybe you read Michael Korda’s Another Life: A Memoir of Other People when you started your first publishing job and just knew you’d have a similarly successful and rewarding career, guiding writers through their paces and unleashing wildly important and entertaining literature upon the world. [Ahem.] Not only is this just plain funny, it’s a good way to introduce under-circulated books back into the public eye. There might be more than one people who also loved Misty of Chincotegue when they were nine and would love to re-find and re-read it and perhaps recommend it to some young horse fiends. [Horse fiends are timeless, right?]

* Not-So-Secret-Diaries: There are many, many books, fiction and non-fiction alike, that are written in the form of a diary or letters. I still remember reading Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw for the first time and being flabbergasted and thrilled that someone could write a book in the form of letters! Why not put together a display of these types of books? You could even organize them in ascending order of the main character’s age to give the entire life span its due. Here are just some of the books written in the form of a diary or letters; please add your own in the comments!


Dear Diary – Lesley Arfin

Reach for the Sun: Selected Letters, 1978-1994 – Charles Bukowski (and many more volumes!)

The Basketball Diaries and its sequel Forced Entries – Jim Carroll

urnals – Kurt Cobain

My New York Diary – Julie Doucet (graphic, as in illustrated, but also as in "Wow, that is VERY graphic!”)

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Diary of LaToya Hunter: My First Year of Junior High – LaToya Hunter

The Diary of Anais Nin – Anais Nin (six volumes!)

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 – Marjane Satrapi (graphic! with sequels!)

Blankets – Craig Thompson (graphic)

The Andy Warhol Diaries – Andy Warhol


Griffin & Sabine – Nick Bantock (graphic! with sequels!)

Cruddy – Lynda Barry (graphic! both kinds!)

Dear Dumb Diary – Jim Benton

The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot (and sequels!)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

Diary of a Teenage Girl – Phoebe Gloeckner (graphic! both kinds!)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney (graphic)

The Last Days of Summer – Steve Kluger

Amelia’s Notebook – Marissa Moss (and sequels!)

Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp – C.D. Payne (and sequels!)

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison (and sequels!)

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Love, Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli

The Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾ -- Sue Townsend (and sequels!)

The Color Purple – Alice Walker


  • At 8:40 AM, Blogger Brendan said…

    Dracula by Bram Stoker was my introduction to the epistolary novel as a teenager. It's a great creepy read.


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