[library-media] Libraries AFTER cupcakes?

Juan Lee jtlee at utah.gov
Wed Jul 28 12:24:06 MDT 2010


Why The Next Big Pop-Culture Wave After Cupcakes Might Be Libraries (
http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2010/07/20/128651136/why-the-next-big-pop-culture-wave-after-cupcakes-might-be-libraries
 )
 
by Linda Holmes,   July 20, 2010
 
I realize we're picking the bones from the Old Spice campaign at this
point, but when I saw that the Brigham Young University parody (
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ArIj236UHs&feature=player_embedded
)of the Old Spice ads had gotten more than 1.2 million views (Old Spicy
himself — that's what I'm calling him — did a video for libraries (
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu-KBxOtJxs&feature=player_embedded
)), it got me thinking.

Specifically, it got me thinking about the very enjoyable Librarians Do
Gaga ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_uzUh1VT98 ) video that everyone
sent my way after the debut of the NPR Does Gaga video (
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KenS0h3-Pc ).
And about the fact that a local news story skeptically questioning
whether libraries are "necessary" set off a response from Vanity Fair (
http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/07/ha-ha-fox-news-do-we-really-need-millions-for-libraries.html
), and a later counterpunch (
http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/library-taxes-closed-commissioner-reaction-letter-mary-dempsey-20100702
) by Chicago's Public Library Commissioner won her support from such
diverse, non-library-specific outlets as The A.V. Club (
http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/do-we-really-need-libraries-and-their-supposed-boo,42798/
) and Metafilter (
http://www.metafilter.com/93405/You-wouldnt-like-librarians-when-theyre-angry
), and from as far away as The Guardian (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/08/fox-news-libraries-chicago1
).
Call it a hunch, but it seems to me that the thing is in the air that
happens right before something — families with a million kids, cupcakes,
wedding coordinators — suddenly becomes the thing everyone wants to do
happy-fuzzy pop-culture stories about. Why?
Libraries get in fights. Everybody likes a scrapper, and between the
funding battles they're often found fighting and the body-checking
involved in their periodic struggles over sharing information (
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5202216 ),
there's a certain ... pleasantly plucky quality to the current
perception of libraries and librarians. Yes, it plays a little
ironically against the hyper-stereotypical buttoned-up notion of what a
librarian is, but the sense that they're okay with getting mad in public
— like Chicago's Public Library Commissioner did — gives library people
a spark they might not otherwise have.
Librarians know stuff. You know how the words "geek" and "nerd" have
gone from actual insults to words used to lovingly describe enthusiasts?
Well, if we haven't gotten past venerating people who don't know
anything, we've certainly reduced, I'd argue, the degree to which we
stigmatize people for knowing a lot. This alone might not make libraries
cool, but it takes away from the sense that they're actively not cool.
More specifically, they live in the world of information, and are
employed in part to organize and make accessible large quantities of
data. If your computer had feet and a spiffy personality, you see.
Libraries are green and local. This is where there's a lot of potential
appeal for the same people who like organic produce and reusable grocery
bags. You can pretty easily position a library as environmentally
friendly (your accumulation of books and magazines you are not reading
is fewer trees for the rest of us, you know), not to mention economical
(obvious) and part of your local culture. This is the part of the
potential appeal that's anti-chain-store, anti-sprawl, anti-anonymity,
and so forth.
Libraries will give you things for free. Hi, have you noticed how much
hardcover books cost? Not a Netflix person? They will hand you things
for free. That's not an especially hard concept to sell.
"Open to the public" means "some days, you really have to wonder about
people." This is where you get the spark of an idea for TLC or somebody
to do some goofball show called The Stacks, which follows a small local
library through funding problems, trying to get book clubs started,
whatever. When your building is open to the public, that means open ...
to ... the ... public. And you know what's a little unpredictable? The
public. This is where you might get your drama. (When I was in college,
the information desk used to post the best questions it received, one of
which was "How long do you cook spaghetti?" I suspect many libraries
have similar stories.)
There seems to be a preposterous level of goodwill. Quite honestly, I
feel like you can go on YouTube and act like a complete goof (in the
best way), and if it's for libraries, people have that same rush of
warmth that they used to get about people who had sextuplets, before ...
well, you know. Before.
I don't know whether it's going to come in the form of a more
successful movie franchise about librarians than that TV thing (
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412915/ ) Noah Wyle does, or a
basic-cable drama about a crime-fighting librarian (kinda like the one
in the comic Rex Libris (
http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2009/06/defending_the_universe_armed_w_1.html
)), or that reality show I was speculating about, but mark my words,
once you've got Old Spicy on your side and you can sell a couple of
YouTube parodies in a couple of months, you're standing on the edge of
your pop-culture moment. Librarians: prepare. 

 
Thanks to Don Reynolds, Director of Nolichucky (Tennessee) Regional
Library for the link.
 
 
 

Juan Tomás

 
Juan Tomás Lee, State Data Coordinator/Library Consultant
Utah State Library Division
250 N 1950 W, Suite A
Salt Lake City, UT 84116-7901
Phone (801)715-6769
Fax (801)715-6767
Toll-free (800)662-9150 ext. 769
jtlee at utah.gov 
Utah State Library Division hours are Monday through Thursday, 7:00
a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and closed on Friday.
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