This is Circulating Ideas, I’m Steve Thomas. My guest today is Sophie Brookover. She’s a program coordinator and a social media manager for Library Link New Jersey, the New Jersey library cooperative. You can find her on Twitter @sophiebiblio.
Well, Sophie, welcome to the show.
Thank you, I’m delighted to be here.
So, I was gonna, I was looking at some stuff and I saw on your, you are a Mover and Shaker from 2006.
And in that profile they quote you as saying the question is what can’t we learn from pop culture. So, I want to know from you for the first real official question, what’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned recently from pop culture?
Oh, that, okay, all right. That’s a really good question and I like that a lot. I still believe that that is true, although that 2006 feels like a lifetime ago in some ways. Cause, yeah, my daughter had just been born and now she’s 8, so that’s, yeah, that’s a long time ago.
It could be a serious or a silly answer.
Yeah, no, no, no, actually it’s funny. Unsurprisingly this is a conversation that I had recently with Liz Burns. Many, I have many, many conversations with Liz Burns and we were at an event and we were talking about Twitter and we were talking about, oh we were talking about what libraries can learn from celebrities who are really, really good at social media. And we were talking, as we do, about Tom Hiddleston, who is kind of a king of that stuff, he’s just so smart and clever about the way that he manages his celebrity persona online and some other people who are in that category. Like very recently I started following Christina Ricci, who was Wednesday Adams in the all the Adams Family movies. On Twitter she’s really funny, I just started following her a couple of days ago and I was, “You are a funny lady, I like what you’re doing here.” And, who’s the other person who very recently just completely stole my heart? I can see his face, he’s in, he’s in Sleepy Hollow.
I’m not sure, I don’t know, I’ve not seen the show.
Oh you know what, he’s, hang on just a second. Hang on just a minute, I’m going to look it up, I’m going to look it up. I haven’t watched the show either, but I feel like I’ve seen it because of, Orlando Jones, it’s Orlando Jones. That’s who it is.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, no, yeah.
He is, oh gosh, do you read his Tumblr?
No I don’t, I just recently heard about him being big on Tumblr and Twitter and everything, so.
Yes, yes and it’s a Venus bringing from the head of Zeus, just fully formed, he’s so funny, he’s so smart, he’s so good at connecting with the audience and a big part of that is his identification with the audience. He’s saying, “You guys, I’m so excited to be a part of this and this is so much fun and why don’t we all just be best friends.” And I think that there’s a lot that libraries can learn, and other cultural institutions can learn from that approach which is based in enthusiasm and shared interests and I think that there’s a lot that we can learn in terms of how we present ourselves. As librarians as a profession and libraries as institutions, how we can present ourselves as, as people. That sounds so trite, but [laughs] what I’m getting at is. There’s just a, a realness and something that is easy to connect with when people participate in communities, whether that’s in person or online and I think that that authenticity doesn’t have to be 100% personal, not suggesting that people who represent their libraries publicly sit down and have heart-to-hearts with everybody, but I do think that there’s something really engaging and charming and appealing about public figures who present themselves in that, in that way, that feels like, “Oh they’re a person, they’re a person who’s really good at what they do and they are interested in talking about that and connecting with other people on that level.” And I think that that’s really valuable and I think it will only be more and more useful and valuable as time goes on.
Right, well, I mean, and so celebrities have done all this, so that’s kind of how, something that libraries can learn from pop culture and things like that. Are there other things, obviously I was going to, you can say this literally, you wrote the book on this subject [laughs] and that goes back to the blog you originally had and then it came into the book Pop Goes The Library. How do you, sort of in a general sense, how else do you think libraries can use pop culture to reach out to the communities?
Oh, there’s so many ways, I mean I think your programming and your collections and those two things should be really intimately tied together, all your collections should support your programming and vice versa, that should be a really positive feedback loop. I think the, a great place to start is for libraries to encourage their staff members to tap into the things that they’re really excited about and that they’re really interested in in the culture because we’re living in this really exciting time where the mono-culture has less and less power, so yes, there are super popular, important cultural touchstones like the Super Bowl, the Avengers, the Thor movies, Beyonce’s new album, big, big things that are happening, or the Bachelor just started last night or the other night and, I mean I don’t watch the Bachelor but I feel like I have some connection with it because I follow Jennifer Weiner on Twitter and she live tweets the Bachelor [laughs] and so I have some dim awareness of what’s going on on the Bachelor.
So we have, we do have those big shared cultural moments, but we also have this incredibly fractured culture where there’s so many little micro-cultures and people who are passionately invested in one or more of those might not be aware at all of what’s going on in other ones, but they might have friends who are super involved and they might be interested in learning more about it just cause, “Oh, you know, my friend is super into Sherlock.” Or, “My friend is super into Doctor Who,” and I’m not even talking about little micro-cultures here, I’m obviously talking about other. I guess, that’s like the next tier down, those are certainly niche interests, but they’re large niches. But, you can go smaller and smaller and smaller and more and more and more niche as you go along and the internet certainly facilitates that.
You can get into things like the Bronies, the guys who, the adult males who like My Little Pony. That’s obviously a very tiny [laughs] microcosm, but they’re very strong and.
Right, so, they are and it’s funny because if you are active at all on Tumblr, for example, you’ll feel like they’re a lot, they’re better represented than you might imagine. Do you know what I mean?
Because that’s where they live, where they live online.
Yeah, I always say I’m an accidental Brony because my daughter loves it so much I have to watch it all the time [laughs] so I know way too much about it but it’s not because I, I didn’t seek it out myself, but [laughs] but I can tell you all about Twilight Sparkle and.
Of course you can, I’m sitting here looking at a very plush little Rainbow Dash that.
Yes, we have Pinky Pie.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so Nell informed me this morning that the reason she wants to be, what did she tell me her pony name was? She said, “If I were a pony I would want my name to be Sparkle Shimmer.” And this morning she came charging into my room and she was, “Mommy I want to tell you how I came up with that name.” [laughs] And I said, “Okay.” [laughs] And she said, “I got Sparkle from,” oh god, “Twilight Sparkle and Shimmer from Sunset Shimmer and I just put them together.” [laughs] I said, “Well that’s great, good for you,” she’s remixing culture, that’s awesome.
She’s a maker.
Yes, she’s a maker. She’s totally a maker, she’s got her rainbow loom and she’s got her ideas about how to remix the culture, so. Oh, getting back to libraries, sorry.
So pop, yes, pop culture and libraries.
Topic, topic, let’s go back to it. Oh, yes, so I think the first thing that we, is a good thing for libraries to do would be to encourage their staff to come up with programming ideas based on things that they’re interested in and start, start there. That’s a reasonable place to begin because there are so many exciting, fun things that are happening in culture, I’m just thinking for example, one wonderful library here in New Jersey, the Terry Hill Public Library, recently decided to invest a lot of their time in developing programs that are specifically connected to pop cultural events. So, for Halloween they did, the participated in Thrill The World which was an international group performance of the dance from Thriller and they had, they had several practices throughout the month of October and then on Halloween, or maybe it was the Saturday before Halloween, they had a live performance of it, I think in their parking lot and I think they had something like 45 or 50 people show up for this, which is pretty great.
And then in early December they had a time lord bash to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and yeah, so I think that’s a, a really good place to start and then going beyond that, I think once you have, excuse me, I think once you have a sense of what kinds of programs your community might have an interest in, you can then, you can survey people and you can do that in a very deliberate way where you develop a questionnaire and you can put it online or you can have people fill it out by hand, but you can also do smaller focus groups, you can use anecdata, you can do that in a bunch of different ways to get a sense for things that will work specifically for your community, cause I really try to resist everyone needs to do this pronouncements because I just think they’re so rarely actually true and I think what everybody needs to do really is, is talk to their community members and find out what would be valuable to them and make sure to offer those programs at times that people in your community can actually attend them and things a lot of us have been talking about for a long time. So, that is, that is where I would start.
And you’ve been writing about this for a long time cause you had the blog back, I don’t even, I’m not even sure when you started your Pop Goes The Library blog, back.
I started it in 2004.
Yes, so that was a long time ago and you started it, and you started it by yourself, is that right?
That’s right, I started it by myself and then when I was pregnant I knew that I was going to need some, I was just going to need a lot more flexibility and so I, I can’t remember if I put out a call for contributors or if I just asked Liz if she would do it [laughs] but.
So, did you already know Liz at that point?
I think we had met once or twice, I think we had met by that point, we’re cause, we’re both librarians in New Jersey and we were both very active in the young adults services section of the New Jersey Library Association and I’m pretty sure we had met in person. If we hadn’t we were both active on, I think we were active on a couple of different lists and that’s how I knew her. It was one or the other or maybe a combination, but she came on board and our friend Melissa Rabey, who was also at the time in New Jersey, she’s now in Maryland, she came on board as well and they covered for me while I was on maternity leave and then, and then we got the book deal and, and actually we haven’t posted to the blog, it’s been three or four years I think, that because I. That whole, that whole discussions, the types of conversations that we would start on the blog, like first of all time passes and interests change and Liz has started her own blog, Fire Place, A Chair znd a Tea Cozy, I’m sure I’m inverting the order.
All three of those things are correct.
I always just think of it as Tea Cozy. So she had started her own blog and I had changed jobs and became a High School librarian after being a public librarian for a long time and then, it just, life happened. And then also certainly conversations about pop culture and how it fits into librarianship had been going on for long before I launched Pop Goes The Library, but in the intervening years between when we launched it and when we published the book, more and more people, more and more librarians who are interested in pop culture and who are interested in pop culture and who are fans of various things started saying, “Yeah, that is important, that is something that I can bring to my librarianship and my daily practice and that’s an asset that I provide in my community,” and I think people started, conversations about popular culture and librarianship started becoming more and more prevalent and I think it’s, the idea that popular culture is something to celebrate in libraries has become much more widely accepted, so the need for a blog like that felt less urgent.
Right, right, you didn’t have to shine the light on it anymore, it was [laughs].
No, not really, not really, I mean that’s, I think that’s something that everyone looks at now and says, “Yes, of course.” And.
If you launched it today, it probably, it would probably be at Tumblr, but.
Right, exactly, yes, I’m sure it would, I’m sure it would. So, yeah, and I, I mean I think there’s, if you look at librarian, at people who are Tumblrians, if you look at, or as I like to call it, The Land Of Tumblraria, [laughs], if you, if you look at that you’ll see that people are really saying specifically look I want to integrate all my interests, I, I’m not putting up a barrier between my life as librarian and my life as a Whovian, or I’m not, I’m going to integrate my passion for cooking and crafts, or coding, or whatever. All the, it’s not, there aren’t, things are less and less compartmentalized and.
Right, and it’s not just individual librarians who are interested in this stuff, I mean Library Journal on their Tumblr will put up a gif, jif, whatever, from community or whatever and.
Exactly, yes, exactly and I, and I think that that is very much to the good.
And now, actually the whole pronunciation of gif/jif thing is confused me now because I used to call it jif all the time and now I’m confused as if that’s right and now I think it’s a gif, I don’t know.
I think that people who prefer gif are extremely vocal about that preference. I started out saying jif, I just like saying it that way better, but I am, I am pronunciation agnostic.
That’s how I am, I’m not, I’m not, but, doing this show I feel like I should do it whatever the correct way is, but there doesn’t seem to be a correct way because, everybody, most people want to do it one way, but then the guy who created it wants to do it another way. It’s like well, but.
Yeah, yeah. Honestly I think, it’s, maybe in five years this will no longer be a conversation. [laughs] I, it could, let’s hope not, I really. I’m never gonna going to correct someone about their pronunciation of the word that is spelled g-i-f. I think I understand people when they say jif and I understand people when they say gif and so I think both are just fine. They’re just fine.
Well I’m, do you guys have any, any plans, would you ever want to go back and update the book or anything like that?
I cannot speak for Liz. My personal feeling is that I, I would not.
Is it just cause your interests have moved on from there? Or do you just think you’ve said all you wanted to say, and?
I think, part, it’s partly I said what I wanted to say. I went back and re-read it a year or so ago and I thought, well, except for the tech chapter and some very 2007, 2008 references, I mean, I don’t think anybody has given Corbin Bleu a second thought since 2008 came to a close and that is not a knock on him in any way, that’s just the Disney theme chum machine.
Right, another High School Musical? Great.
Yeah, yeah, no I’m sure that in two years when my daughter discovers High School Musical on Netflix or wherever, we’ll go through a whole Corbin Bleu phase, and Shar Pei.
Or whatever the new Disney theme is two years.
Yes, exactly, exactly. I’m, I mean I’m fine with her going back and retrospectively discovering things, in fact I think that’s great, I mean that’s one of the amazing things the world that we live in now is that you can go back and discover things from 50 years ago that are charming and delightful and have value and have that be a part of your cultural literacy and just at the same time as you’re watching the most recent episodes of My Little Pony.
That’s that’s what I always liked when we were growing up of the Wonderful World of Disney that was on because it would show the old stuff from the 50s and Shaggy Dog and all that kind of stuff that you wouldn’t have seen anywhere else.
Right, I know, I know.
Through your VCR.
Right, exactly, so. And then, and then post-VCR, I remember watching on the Wonderful World of Disney the original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills and then my mom said, “Oh, you liked that movie with Hayley Mills, she made a tonne of movies when she was a kid, you might really like this.” And that led me to The Trouble With Angels which is a delightful comedy where she’s a student at a Swiss convent, I want to say, and she and her best friend have all these whacky hijinks and…
As I recall from the trailer from the Parent Trap, it stars Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills.
Yes, yes, in what I think must have then been an incredible feat of.
Oh I’m sure.
I mean now you can see the line between them in the film. I’m sure back then it was, I mean it’s like I always hear people complaining about the special effects in the original Star Trek, it’s, “Yeah, compared to know, but back then that was cutting edge stuff.”
Exactly, exactly, it’s all continuum people. Progress! Yeah, so it and I mean the video store totally facilitated my young nerdery. I went through this Hayley Mills phase where it was just all the Hayley Mills movies I could find and then when I got super into music and in middle school and high school I was able to go, they had, they had a great selection of video compilations, so I was checking out David Bowie and REM and The Replacements and all these things, They Might Be Giants, all that stuff. So, god bless the video store and I hope that.
Yes, may it rest in peace.
May it rest in peace forever. Sorry, video stores. Yeah, so the book, sorry, back to the book. I do not think that I would go back to write another edition in part because I think I said what I wanted to say and I think the book holds up pretty well in spite of some dated references and I wrote it in a very particular time in my life when I was a public librarian and I was working 1 to 9 shift a week, so I had a morning every week that I could dedicate to writing and then I, if I worked on a weekend day then I had a day off in the middle of the week and I could dedicate some of that time to writing. My schedule is flexible now, which is lovely, but it doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, I wouldn’t shift my hours to a 1 to 9 shift, it wouldn’t make sense for me to do so. So, so there’s that and then also although I am still super interested in popular culture and that’s always going to be an interest and a passion of mine, it, it just doesn’t feel as urgent as other, other things that I am working on in my career now.
Well I’m like, like you said, I mean, the word has gotten out.
It doesn’t feel like you’re the voice in the wilderness any more.
No, no and I mean I, honestly I don’t know if I ever was a voice in the wilderness, do you know what I mean? I’m sure if I went back and searched the literature for references to pop culture and librarianship I’m sure that there’s plenty out there, that I’m just not, that I’m just not aware of and that I wasn’t aware of when I started the blog, so.
Yeah, no, I mean back then, I mean it seemed like it was unique to me and I had, I wasn’t around for the very beginning but I think I read about it, I think I read your Mover and Shaker profile’s is how I found the blog originally back then because I remember reading it back then, but. The other blogs back then, I mean library blogs, I mean they were very good, I mean Meredith Farkas, Jessamyn West and all that but it was a little more, I don’t want to say serious, I guess is not the right word. You know what I mean? I mean even, more academic minded and.
Thinking of, thinking of things in theory and.
Right, exactly, I.
Very informative, but different [laughs].
Yeah, no, totally different and I, obviously I admire and respect and enjoy their blogs a great deal, in fact reading Jessamyn’s blog when I was working a really thankless and boring job in medical publishing many, many years ago was something that made me think, “Hey, maybe I should investigate this librarianship thing.” So, I mean she’s a long-time hero of mine. But yeah, I wanted to do something that, I wanted to own this sense of fun, I wanted to say hey, this is, we don’t have to set these interests aside, they can be fully integrated into what we do as librarians and that’s not unimportant and it’s not frivolous, it’s valuable and useful and is a way to, it’s a way to connect with your community, that’s, I mean I think if there’s a theme in my philosophy, it’s that you, you just have to connect with the people in your community, you have to and you have to connect with them where they are and wherever that might be. Find common ground with people so that you can serve them the way that they need to be served.
Right, I mean that’s basically, that’s what libraries are for [laughs].
Yeah, exactly, exactly. They’re, they’re for use, so.
Well you, you wrote the book with Liz and now you also are still obviously friends with Liz and you still do things with Liz, including a readers advisory chat on Twitter with Liz and Kelly Jensen.
How did that come about? How did you guys decide you wanted to do an official hashtag Twitter chat about readers advisory?
Sure, that’s, that’s a good question and so, a fun topic because we’re into our second year now and it’s still something that we really enjoy and we think is very important. And also fun. That’s, that, to me I guess it’s always the thing that I’m looking for, where is that intersection of something’s that’s important and valuable and how can I make it fun? [laughs] How can I incentivize myself so that I’m, want to keep doing this. So, oh man, so going back, this would have been summer of 2012 is when I first started thinking about it and I had participated in a bunch of different Twitter chats. Our colleagues at the state library had been running one for job seekers and librarians helping job seekers on an experimental basis and I, I felt that was really enjoyable and I always liked to, I loved going to conferences and other events and following along the conversation using whatever hashtag was assigned for the event and I thought, edchat is really big and there’s a bunch of other, TL chat which is a, a sort of an ongoing discussion for school librarians and I think that they have the chat, the hashtag goes on and on and on, people are constantly tagging tweets with that hashtag so you can follow it and find new things all the time, but they also have specific dates and times during the week where they, where they meet up and stuff like that. And I just thought, well that’s a really valuable, fun thing to do and I, I guess I instant messaged Liz and said, “Hey, do you think, are you aware of a readers advisory Twitter chat?” And she said, “Huh, no I’m not, let’s, let’s find out about that.” And so each of us did a little research, the way we do, and [laughs] came back and we discovered, there’s, there’s Title Talk which is a monthly chat and there’s, but that’s more for English and Language Arts teachers. And there’s, EW, there’s Gat, I can’t remember what it’s called, I’m going to mess up the hashtag completely, but.
I know, I know which one you mean though, it’s four letters.
Early Word runs two, they run one for children’s and YA and they run one for adult and, and that’s really valuable too, but that’s more like what’s coming up and what’s new and since so much of readers advisory is retrospective, so much of what makes someone good at readers advisory is being well read, as well read as you possibly can be.
Yeah, the, the Early Word ones feel, I mean to me, more like collection development kind of ones, talking about what you should order.
Yes, yes, which is, I mean that’s, that’s a big part of readers advisory for sure, but, so much of when your readers advisory skills come into play is when the latest hot book is checked out and you’re standing, you’re sitting there with a, a reader who is dying for the latest James Patterson or, the David Baldacci, or whatever and they, they just, they want something like that. “Okay, the one that I want is checked out, thank you for placing my hold, I’ve read all of his other books, what do you recommend? What’s next?” And.
What can I go home with right now?
Exactly, I need, I need, yes, and they’re in that predicament that I think, not all, but many librarians can identify with which is the, I need something to read right now, I must have something, please, please help me. And, I mean, sometimes that’s an adult, sometimes its a child, sometimes it’s a teen and I get it, I really, I really do, I’m absolutely one of those people who has to have something to read. I will read the back of the cereal box if there is nothing else. But, I know that what you want to read is really rooted in wanting to illicit a certain feeling, to have a certain set of experiences while you’re reading, whether that’s to be thrilled, or terrified, or to feel like you’re participating in the glorious romance, or on an adventure, or getting to know a character who you would never want to know in real life, but whose adventures on the page are just really fascinating to you and so to me, a huge part of what makes someone a good readers’ adviser is obviously listening to your patron and asking, not too many questions cause you don’t want them to feel like they’re being interrogated, but asking enough questions so that you really have a sense of what its is that they’re looking for and being as well read as possible in as many genres as possible and.
Right, you have to find out what it is about James Patterson that they like, not just, “Oh you like mysteries, so I’ll give you a mystery.” Or.
Right, exactly, I mean there’s so, just talking about mysteries there’s so many sub-categories of mystery, I, I cannot stand super-violent, gory mystery and I, and I don’t particularly like being scared either, but I love a cosy mystery, even though I really, really enjoy those a lot.
Well, and I live in a really conservative community and so I, we get the question a lot of give me a book that doesn’t have all those curse words and all those, all those sex scenes and stuff. I want a mystery, but I want one without all the curse words and stuff and then. I actually went to Twitter for that, to ask once because I was, “Well I’ve got Lillian Jackson Braun and I’m not really sure beyond that,” at that time because I hadn’t, I just didn’t know, but, so that was. Twitter, I think can be a really helpful readers advisory tool.
Absolutely, absolutely, because you, I think, when you participate actively in Twitter, or any social media site, but I think especially in Twitter, when you participate actively there, you’re going to develop a community of people and they become your friends and friends usually want to help each other out, so, yeah, I think it is, it’s super valuable, there’s, and there’s so many, so many wonderful librarians from every discipline of librarianship on Twitter and I just, I find it so useful and valuable. It’s been, it’s been a wonderful, wonderful tool for me personally and professionally.
Well and there’s, I mean there’s some things that you just, I mean you don’t anything about. Like if you don’t, I do read mysteries, but if you didn’t read mysteries at all, it’s hard sometimes without these tools to be able to answer a question like that. I mean.
Yeah, it is, it is, and.
You know, because it, cause it, there’s not a Library Of Congress subject heading for no cursing, I can’t search my catalog for no cursing.
Exactly, exactly, you need and that’s a shame, actually, I think that would be a really useful subject heading [laughs]. No cursing.
Yes. Although, I mean that’s problematic too, I think that could be problematic, but.
Yes, very, very subjective, very subjective. So, well and also the implication that books that have swears are fundamentally very.
Yes, there’s something wrong with them, or whatever, yes.
Right, yeah, we go, we go down that road. Yeah, so.
But the chat, how did you guys get together and want to do the chat?
Oh the chat, oh my gosh, thank you for bringing back to the topic. How did, oh, so, I think Liz and I were probably just idly discussing readers advisory and Twitter inevitably came up and I, I like to have projects so I just said, “Hey, do, is, do you know of one that exists?” And she said, “No I don’t.” And the closest things we could find were these, were Title Talk and the EWUGAC, I’m sure I’m mangling that hashtag from Early Word and we thought well those are great but that’s not really what we would be looking for if we wanted to have a chat about specifically about readers advisory and this was also coming in the midst of a lot of, there was this, I mean it, the conversations continues to this day, but it was the beginnings of the rumblings of discussions about gender in librarianship and, and the importance, the continued importance of reading and books in librarianship. And, and we thought, maybe we should make a little venue for us to discuss this and to invite people to participate in this broader conversation and it would be a way for all of us to improve our skills and a way to showcase how important these skills are and it would be a great way for colleagues who don’t know each other to get to know each other and feel like they have a, even more of a community here on Twitter and so we looked at. There’s a, there’s some kind of masters schedule somewhere online of, of Twitter chats that pertain to education and librarianship and we cross-referenced that with things that we were already aware of that weren’t on that list and we thought, “Okay, well, Thursday nights look like they’re pretty good and the three of us, Liz, Kelly and myself, we could all, we could all make it at 8pm Eastern, Thursday nights, so let’s see what we can do.” And yeah I think we launched right around the Olympics and it’s been, it’s been great. There have been certain topics, I remember our first conversation was about Fifty Shades Of Grey. And that, that was so fun, that was such a fun conversation and they’ve all been great but that one specifically was a good way to kick off.
And that was when that was the hot, that was when that was the hot thing, right?
Oh yeah, yes, I mean and that just kicked off, that just tore the lid off the whole issue about erotica. I think Andy Woodworth had submitted a question yesterday on Twitter for me about what do I think is the next big thing in readers advisory. I mean I don’t think there’s one next thing big, I think there are many big things, but the fact that on Amazon you can go and spend less than $3 and get a book, oh what is it called, Cryptozoological Erotica, about cave ladies encounters and sometimes modern ladies encounters with a yeti, or pterodactyls, dinosaurs, yes, I mean setting aside that we should all understand that humans and dinosaurs did not co-exist, yeah, you can, I think that that’s just kind of amazing and it’s, I don’t know enough about it to say that this happened because of Fifty Shades Of Grey. I’m sure that’s, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but.
I just love that I know a lot of people who would not read it because they would get hung up on that, uh dinosaurs and people were not around at the same time!
Right, right [laughs] well, you know, most humans don’t carry on sexually with creatures of other species, so, there’s a lot of suspension of disbelief that needs to happen and I feel like if you’re going to make one leap, you might as well just make the other leap and have a great time.
Well that, that one finally made it to Colbert Report, I heard, so.
It hit the big time.
But, librarians, we were there first, talking about it, anyway [laughs]. So, yeah, I think that that’s gonna continue to be a really, one of the big trends in readers advisory for sure. Another thing that I hope very much will be a part of conversations about readers advisory and just about reading generally is the understanding of middle grade fiction as its own thing. Which it baffles me that there’s any confusion about that because our most prestigious literary award for books for kids are, are the Newberry and the Caldecott and I mean, usually the Caldecott goes to a picture book for younger children, but the Newberry, I mean that award, that’s the Olympics of middle grade and, and it’s something that gets talked about outside of librarianship and outside of publishing and, and booksellers, so I find it bizarre that there would be this gap in awareness about, about middle grade and what it, what it is and what it’s for and who it’s for and that it’s not a genre, that it’s a, a segment of the, of the publishing world and I just, it, anyway I’m, I’m hopeful that middle grade will have its, some moments in the sun this year. And that, and that grown ups will flock to it as they have towards YA, cause it’s so good, there’s so much amazing stuff happening in middle grade right now.
How does YA lit and middle grade lit connect you as a reader, as an adult and maybe even how do you remember connecting to it as a kid, even though, I mean it’s obviously a much bigger thing now than it was when we were kids, but.
I would say when I was a kid, I mean and I, I’ve always been a reader, I remember, I didn’t, I didn’t learn to read independently until first grade, but I’ve always loved stories and I’m very fortunate in that my parents continued reading aloud to me at bedtime, even until third grade probably is when I, maybe finally said it’s okay, I can, I got this mom and dad. [laughs] They really left me to my own devices and I mean that in a really positive way. I had my own library card very young and certainly they would, they would recommend things, like “Oh I loved this when I was a kid, you might enjoy it too, it’s about such and such.” But, I had the run of the children’s room and could check out pretty much whatever I wanted and I would say that I read middle grade right up until the moment that I started reading adult. I read very little YA as a teen and I think part of what I am doing now [laughs] is going back and reading a lot of YA to fill that gap. I think, I mean that’s a part of it.
Do you think it would have different if YA had been as big of a thing back then as it is now?
I don’t know, I, I don’t know, it’s so hard for me to go back and armchair psychologize my, my pre-teen and early teen self. I, I mean when I say that I read middle grade right up until the moment that I started reading adult, that’s, that’s not really an exaggeration.
I was reading, I read Nancy Drew, I read Garfield, I read all the, I loved comics anthologies, I read a tonne of Madeleine L’Engle, she’s probably the one author I’ve read spanning every type of book that she wrote. I read all the Wrinkle In Time books and then she, she wrote straight YA cause she wrote not only about the Murray family, but also the Austin family and those books, they were realistic but they definitely had elements of magical realism. I remember one book that was about communicating with dolphins and it was a lot of mysticism in those books now that I look back, a lot of ecological mysticism, but also a really strong undercurrent of episcopalism and then she. In addition to middle grade and teens, she also wrote some very beautiful memoirs which I also read. I read those in high school and I remember really enjoying them a lot. But, I mean I was reading, for example, Joan Aiken wrote these amazing alternate historical fiction books that start with The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, where she pulls in all of these elements like, you’ve got the, the plucky orphans in a horrible orphanage/boarding school and they have to rely on their wits to save them, not only from the evil governesses, but also from the wolves which are coming to attack them. So there’s that whole series of books that are really terrific and I remember I was, I went from reading those to reading Flowers In The Attic. There was, [laughs] there was really nothing in the middle, I think maybe except for a couple of Sweet Valley Highs which I had to hide from my parents, cause that, that was one area where my mom was just, “No, that is some trash and I don’t want you reading it.” And I was, “Yes, sorry, I’m gonna have to just read it anyway.” [laughs] So those, yeah and then I, I remember just moving upstairs from the children’s room in our hometown library, upstairs and discovering a lot of adult authors who I go back and reread even now. That was when Michael Chabon was the very hot, young thing, right of his MFA program and Laurie Colwin and Banana Yoshimoto and just a whole bunch of authors like that. Oh Ellen Gilchrist was probably my favorite author in high school. Again, none of these people were writing YA, they weren’t writing about teens, they weren’t, I was not seeing my, my experience reflected in these pages at all, but I really enjoyed them. I guess they were more like a window onto possible experiences that I might have, or that I might avoid all together because they seemed insane. But I think that’s what’s so powerful and important about books, is that they give you this really safe way to experience all kinds of worlds and lives that may never have anything to do with your life. And I just think that it is really important.
Yeah and that seems to be generally the trend anyway of, I mean where kids are always reading the next, how we and publishers group them together, the kids below that are the ones that are actually reading those books, like the middle school kids are reading the high school books and the high school kids are reading the adult books and [laughs].
Well, yes and no, I mean when I was a high school librarian, I worked really hard to make sure that my, my students were reading what they wanted to read. I mean the way we, we did a lot of work with independent reading at that school and that was really such a great experience and I, I book talked, heavily book talked YA because I wanted them to know that there was this whole world of books out there just for them that were, that were about people their age facing things that they were facing and from minimal and fun to really life changing and significant, so yeah, I mean I think.
And I think our culture encourages kids to read up, that’s the other thing. And I, I think that often parents who are themselves avid readers really want their kids, they feel that it reflects on them in some way what their children are reading and they encourage their kids to read books that, that their kids would be better off waiting a little while to read. Not that they’re going to be damaged in some way by reading Harry Potter when they’re six, like I don’t, I don’t believe that that’s true. I think that kids get what they’re ready to get and tend to ignore, or gloss over things that they’re not really ready to understand developmentally, unless it’s profoundly disturbing. There’s no reason to nudge a child ahead of where they really are.
And I think it’s really important for kids to encounter books at the right, at the right for them moment.
Right, the only thing that we always think about with our own kids is we want them to encounter things when they’ll actually, when we think they’ll enjoy it the most, get it the most. We haven’t, my wife and I are big Star Wars nerds so we haven’t shown any, our kids any of those movies yet cause it’s like I want you to understand what you’re seeing [laughs].
I don’t want it just to be, “Oh, look, there’s Yoda,” because I’ve been playing with this action figure since I was a baby. I want you to understand that there’s a structure and a story and then the same thing with Harry Potter. I think when we get into more reading, I mean my daughter’s just in kindergarten so we’re not into that level yet obviously, but I want her to understand a story and be able to put it together. I, and there’s nothing in there I think that’s going to, not, she’s not going to be damaged by it, it’s more I want you to just get the impact of it correctly.
Yeah, yeah and I mean, I think, and I think that’s part of what makes re-reading so great actually, which is similar to what makes reviewing so great. I, I have not seen the Star Wars movies in many, many years. I’ve loved them growing up and I think if I were to go back and rewatch, I would see things in them now that I would, that I didn’t see as a kid, or as a teenager. And it’s the same with rereading, I recently reread all the Ramona books with my daughter and I just think that Beverly Cleary is a national treasure, she’s, her understanding and appreciation of the child’s mind, especially the, the more temperamental younger child’s mind, she’s just, it’s, she’s so empathetic, she’s so, she really puts you in Ramona’s mind and that, and I’m so grateful to her for writing those books because I was, I was the Beezus, I was the bossy [laughs] good at school, able to follow the rules, good impulse control, having oldest child and she just, she puts you right there with Ramona and she makes you understand her and I think it’s so important for, for kids to see that represented and to. In addition, I, based on my memory of reading the books as a kid, all I remembered was how funny the stories were.
And when she cracks the egg on her head and she pukes when she sees the, the fruit fly larvae, I have these very vivid memories of reading these books and enjoying them a lot, but reading them as an adult, I have a completely different appreciation for what Beverly Cleary accomplished in those books. And I guess that that is, maybe that’s why I continue to enjoy reading middle grade, part of it is just the place where I am in my life with a child who is an independent reader now and is, and is reading those books, I want to read books with her, I want to, I want us to have this shared language and set of references that we can talk about because I know that there will be a time where there will be a great divergence [laughs] and that’s, that’s totally fine, but I really want to relish and get the most out of that now all while it’s the most possible. But there’s also a big part of me that enjoys reading those books because I, I can see them from a different vantage point. I can see what’s going on in this story from a different vantage point as an adult.
Yeah, I think probably the best children’s books are probably actually more all ages actually, there’s just, it’s written to a level that the children can understand, but I think you said, there’s something adults can get out of that as well.
Yeah, yeah and I think it’s important for adults to recognize that there is something for us to get out of children’s literature and, and literature for young adults. The, perhaps we are not the primary audience and we probably shouldn’t be the primary audience, it’s very important for people to have media to engage with and enjoy that is specifically for them. I think that’s really important. But, I think it’s equally important for adults to realize that just because we’re the biggest and the strongest, doesn’t mean that we’re the most important. And I think it’s really important to be able to read the pages of a book written for someone other than us and recognize its, its intrinsic value as something that isn’t for us, but that we can enjoy too.
Yeah, I just think that’s really, really important and I also think that it’s, I don’t know if I’ll ever be a frontline children’s or teen librarian again, and that maybe because of that, I think it’s really important for me to continue to be well versed in literature for children and young adults because I, I want to keep those skills sharp.
And I, and I don’t, and I think that, part of what makes a good children’s librarian or a good young adult librarian is empathy and being able to place yourself in that mindset of somebody who is learning and growing and who, in our society has the least power and I think that reading books for and about children and teens really helps you remember those feelings that you had yourself, those feelings of well I’m really low man on this totem pole, okay. [laughs] That’s, that’s really important, I think it’s very easy for us as grown ups to forget that and especially if we are adults living in a world primarily made of adults, so.
Well I, and here it is in a book which means I’m not the only one feeling this.
It can be very [laughs] helpful for kids.
Yes, yes, it is, yes and I, this goes to another theory that I have been mulling over for the last however many years, which is that I think most adults don’t like to think about what it was like to be a child. I think most adults don’t, then they especially don’t like to think too much about what it was like to be a teenager, even if they had, as I did, a happy childhood and a fairly happy set of teen years. I had good friends and loving parents and a, a damn easy life when I think about it. But, any, any period of growing up is bound to have these really intense feelings and growth is hard and I think most adults do not like to dredge up those feelings because they can be really overwhelming, even if you’re a totally well-adjusted person. And I, I actually think that a lot, that that is at the heart of a lot of adult’s cringing at the notion of working with teens, or with children. I, I always, I often hear people say, “Oh my god, I don’t know how you did it for so long.” And I just think.
Well I, maybe that’s even behind the resistance to adults reading YA, is that why would you want to go back and get back in that mindset?
Right, why would you, why would you want to revisit those years, weren’t those the worst years of your life? No, they were not [laughs], they were just fine. And even if they, even if they and maybe not even if they were, but if they were, isn’t that more of a reason to go back and think more carefully about them? And think about how that might influence your behavior towards people who are experiencing them now? I just think that that’s a really, plus there is so much, there are so many good books, that’s the other thing. There’s just, we are living through this beautiful, golden age of just spectacularly good books for children and teenagers and why wouldn’t, if you’re a person who enjoys reading and who loves good stories and great characterization and beautiful writing, why wouldn’t you avail yourself of all that there is to offer. All that there is that’s out there. Sure you’d want to read it.
Well and to go back to something that we had talked about before, I mean that, that’s almost a place you can send to people who don’t want to read about a lot of cursing and sex [laughs]. Here read this YA book, it’s not going to have very much of that, so.
Right, well, well, I don’t know, I don’t know actually [laughs].
Some of it, but.
It depends, it depends, it really does and I mean I think that that’s a big part of this being a golden age, is the variety of books that are available. It’s, there’s just a lot more, there’s just more. It seems like there’s more, maybe if I worked in publishing I would have a different perspective. Like I’m sure, I’m sure that there are, I mean we know there’s, we have data to support this, that there’s not nearly enough books being published about, that showcase the diversity of experiences and I don’t just mean like socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, I mean diversity of ability, of sexuality, of gender identity, of employment, lack of employment, type of family, family arrangements, geographical diversity, that’s another really big one that we don’t see represented nearly enough. Yeah, there’s, I mean just a teeny tiny percentage of books published for children and young adults reflects that diversity and, and I mean that is a really big problem.
Right, well, we, you kind of talked about this vaguely a little bit ago and I had a question from who we spoke of earlier, Liz Burns, she wanted to know is there anything that you miss about working at a public library? Or in a school library. That’s not really part of your job now, but.
And we’ll talk about your current job here in a minute. But is there anything that you miss about working in those?
Yeah, I mean I miss working with kids and teenagers, I, I really got the teaching bug bad [laughs] or good, depending on how you look at it when I was a high school librarian, I really, really loved it. Yeah, I would say, just working with actual kids is the, is the thing that I miss the most. I don’t, my readers advisory is limited to whatever assistance that I can provide to my colleagues on Twitter. I, I do, I do have a lot of wonderful friends who ask me, “My son is six and he, read all the Captain Underpants books and he really liked them, what can you recommend?” And I love when people ask me questions like that, but it’s, it’s, that’s very different from working in a public library, or in a large public high school as I used to. And having many, many people asking me every day, people who I don’t know, people where you don’t have all the background information that you have when it’s your friends asking you, so. Yeah, that’s probably the thing that I miss most is actually working with the public.
Well in your current job you are the Program Coordinator and Social Media Manager for LibraryLink New Jersey. Can you tell me about what, what do you do on a day-to-day basis as part of that? We were talking in the pre-show talk in that you work from home.
Yes, yes. So, LibraryLinkNJ is the statewide organization where the New Jersey Library Cooperative and we serve all the different types of libraries that exist in New Jersey. So, we work with public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries and special libraries as well. And my area of focus is continuing education, so that’s the team that I’m on and we develop in person and online learning experiences for our colleagues in all different types of libraries around the state and sometimes we offer general types of workshops. For example, we’re doing some workshops this spring on customer service and next week we’re launching a set of three face-to-face workshops that are going to be held in locations around the state about, it’s called “Technology Speed Dating” where you go to one of the different locations and there’s a, there’s different groups of presenters at each one, but you have the opportunity to learn about all different types of technology, which is really great.
And those are for members. They’re designed to be of general interest to members in every different type of library. And then sometimes we offer very specific learning opportunities, so, right now we’re working a webinar for later this month with Jennifer LaGarde aka Library Girl and she is, she’s a really wonderful school librarian from North Carolina and she, she’s just really thoughtful and innovative and in addition to the work that she has done for many years in her own, in the schools that she’s worked in, she now works for, I think I’m going to get this wrong, but I believe she works for the State Department of Education and she trains school librarians around the state, so she now has this, really big birds eye view of what’s going on in school libraries, in addition to her own on-the-ground kind of experience and that’s going to be a webinar specifically for our members in school libraries, any of our members can participate in any of our, our continuing ed opportunities, but we try to have a mix of programming where we, some things are really narrowly targeted at certain groups of members and other things, other events are really for everybody. So, so those are the types of things that I work on. I, probably my favorite part of the job is that I, I get to scout talent. I, and some of that happens online, like on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and stuff and some of that happens face-to-face, when I go to conferences and other events and unconferences and things like that. Where if I’m in the audience and I’m having just a really great conversation with a fellow participant and I get their card and then we later strike up a conversation online, or via email or whatever, and I learn about their particular interests and expertise in a given area and I think, “Oh, that really fits in well with our strategic goals and we could maybe, I’ll see about putting on the schedule for our webinars for next year.” Of if the presenter at the session that I’m at is really great and I, I love their topic and I think that it would be really valuable for our members, I’ll talk to them about doing something with us. So, I love that because I’m learning, I’m bringing a great learning experience to my colleagues in New Jersey, I’m able to help another colleague forward, further their career goals, help them improve as, as a presenter. All of those things, I just love that combination of opportunities. So, that’s, that’s really fun for me and also valuable and here we are again at that intersection of fun and valuable [laughs] and, which is my favorite, that’s my favorite thing, thank you for helping me identify that. So, yeah, those are, those are, that’s a big part of my day and I would say the other big part of my day is spent on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and to a certain degree Pinterest as well, just scanning the landscape, what’s going on, what are things that I want to share with our members in those various channels and paying attention to conversations and important topics that are burbling up. So, most recently I would say that the really intense and interesting conversations that have been happening around the new ALA conference code of conduct. That is something that I would definitely, I’m thinking about what’s the best, where should I begin with this. I definitely want to make sure that our members are aware of it, what makes the most sense for me, how, how do I, how do I start and what resources do I provide them with and how do I begin that conversation. I think that’s, that’s really important and really interesting and something that everybody needs to consider, so, so yeah, those are, those are big things that I’m, that I’m always working on. And then the other part of it is writing. I do a lot of writing every single day and some of that is stuff that everybody does, I write a lot of emails obviously, but a lot of it is also I, I produce two newsletters for Library Link NJ. One is a monthly e-update, which, that’s actually very collaborative, that’s, we all participate in contributing topics and content for that.
And then the other one is a bi-weekly publication called “Social Media Snapshots.” Be, which came about because we did this survey of our members this past fall asking them about how much they were using our, our social media presences and I would say about half of our respondents said they followed us primarily on Facebook, but also on a couple of other channels, but half said I don’t follow you at all on any of those channels. And I thought, “Wow, I’m investing a lot of time and energy into doing a really good job with this. I need to do this better so that people can make use of this information in a way that is easier for them.” And a bunch of people who said they don’t follow us on Facebook or whatever, they had a bunch of different reasons, some people really wanted to keep their personal stuff personal and they didn’t want to follow us, they only had a personal account on Facebook and they didn’t want to follow us that way, and I thought yeah, I respect that boundary, that’s important. Other people said and there were several that respondents who said this and I thought I wish I had asked this question earlier because this makes so much sense. [laughs] They said I’m a director or I’m a manager and in order for me to share things with my staff, which I see that you’re sharing this valuable information, in order for me to share it with my staff, it’s much, much easier for me to do it via regular email, I want to be able to forward things to my staff. And I thought, “Oh of course, we can do that.” So, so we had a conversation about how, how can we do this and we send out the e-update, or our monthly newsletter via email and so it was really very simple for us to create a best-of our social media channels newsletter and I just, I do that in Google docs every couple of weeks and that’s actually really, it’s a very valuable exercise for me in part because it’s a, reminds me of what we’ve done and it also helps me stay on track in terms of what I’m sharing, because another one of the questions that we asked in the survey was, “What do you enjoy most and find most valuable in terms of what we’re sharing? And, and what do you want us to share more of?” And the top response for both questions was more information about what’s going on in New Jersey libraries and I thought, “Well, that’s easy, now that I know this, I will be happy to share more information about these things.” So, I mean I was already sharing. A big part of what I try to do on our social media channels is highlight, showcase and celebrate the wonderful things that our colleagues in libraries across the state are doing and I’m, I have a tremendous amount of New Jersey pride. I’m from the Garden State and I’m very proud to be from New Jersey and I take a lot of pride in the excellent work that my colleagues are doing all over the place. I just think that this is a very creative, engaged, thoughtful, terrific community and I, I like to, I like to celebrate that, so now I feel like this, the response to the survey gave us license to do that even more. So, so that plays a big role in what I do and, yeah, that’s, that’s been very well received so we’re going to keep doing that and I’m so glad that we did that survey because it just, it really helped me to focus on some particular goals for the, for this year and think about where do I want to be. Not necessarily in terms of specific benchmarks for, for increasing followers and stuff like that, obviously I, I love it when we have more people following us, interacting with us, but it, it just, it validated the value of what I’ve been doing so far and it’s really helped me to think about how can, how can we do a better job with this.
Well, and to bring it back to our, the, our beginning of our conversation, I think what you did with that survey was you connected with your community now and that’s, I mean your community now is other libraries in New Jersey, so you, you did your job as a librarian.
Yes, thank you, well we are always trying to do that.
So, I actually had a different last question in mind, but I’m going to use one of Liz’s instead [laughs].
Okay, that’s fine.
What, what is one your professional bucket list? What’s left to do? What you really want to do and, get into in your future.
Oh my goodness, oh, that’s a, that’s a really good question and I’m very fortunate in that I’m, I’m going to be able to check one of those items off my professional bucket list this year which is I’m serving on the Margaret A Edwards award committee this year and, and in fact I’m serving as Chair which I’m thrilled and maybe a little nervous about. And for listeners who are not aware of the Margaret A Edwards award, it is an award that YASA gives to an author of one or more works that have been meaningful to teens over a period of years. So, the works that are honored must have been published at least five years ago and they have to be in print at the time of the award. And the award cannot be given posthumously, so we must honor an author for their work which is currently in print and which is at least five years old, or more. So, that is a totally different way of looking at an award than what I’m used to. I, I was very fortunate to serve on the Printz committee, 2011 committee. We honored When Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley and four other wonderful honor books and that was all about and strictly about literary quality, not about appeal, it was just about how good is the work based on this list of criteria that they have in the policies and procedures document, and.
And I believe that that’s true basically for most other literary awards, I think right?
Mostly it’s just about the content itself.
Right, right and this award actually fits in beautifully with readers advisory in terms of its retrospective, it’s about backlist and it doesn’t have to be a teen author, which I also think is very interesting. And so to me that award is always a really big surprise, there’s definitely authors who I think, “Oh I wonder if they’ll honor Terry Pratchett this year,” and then they did, and that kind of thing. Or not Terry Pratchett this year, but it was more like, “I’ll wonder if they’ll honor Terry Pratchett sometime,” and they did.
As well they should.
As well they should, absolutely. And Susan Cooper and Tamora Pierce and actually for the last few years it’s been science fiction and fantasy authors, which I find deeply gratifying. So, of course I’m, but it’s, it’s a surprise, it’s not, because it’s not for the previous years work, where you know exactly what the pool is, it’s for a much, much, much, much bigger pool of authors and their works, so, so of course I’m passionately curious about who’s going to win this year. Not only because I want to wish them a hearty congratulations, but also because that means they won’t be within the pool for my committee to consider this year [laughs]. So, that, that’s definitely been on my bucket list. As Liz knows I am interested in accomplishing a, a librarian EGOT [laughs] and so our version, they, the original egot from 30 Rock is the Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony combination that performing artists can, can shoot for. And there’s been some, some fun conversations on Facebook and Twitter about what would constitute a library EGOT and I think we’ve all decided that it’s different for, for librarians in different disciplines of librarianship. But, we accomplished something that was on my list which was being published in the Hornbook magazine which, we have an article about new adult in the current issue and that is such a thrill to me, even still, I, every time I see it, I’m “Oh, I can’t believe we did that.” [laughs] I would love to be on the Newberry committee one day and beyond that I don’t know. I mean, I, I need to think about that more, I really do, I need to think about that more. I, I have finally admitted to myself in the last couple of months that I am a very ambitious person and, so, the next step is thinking about well what are my ambitions, what is it that I want to accomplish. And I am not there yet, that’s something that’s very much in progress.
You’re still at the, you’re not quite, you’re not quite to the take over the world part.
No, not quite, not quite.
You’re still on that question mark, question mark, question mark.
Right, exactly, exactly. So there’s, I, I feel very fortunate to have accomplished what I have accomplished so far. I think I’ve had a really wonderful career up until this point and I hope that there’s many more years of interesting, exciting, useful challenging and fun work ahead. And I don’t know what that will be exactly, but I’m, I’m hopeful.
I’m sure there will be, so.
Thank you, thank you very much.
So Sophie, how can people find out more about you and your work?
Sure, to find the work that I do for Library Link NJ, we are on a bunch of different social media channels. On Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest and handily enough our user name for all four services is LibrarylinkNJ, that’s all one word and to find me personally, probably the best way would be to find me on Twitter, where I am @sophiebiblio, b-i-b-l-i-o, and, oh I should mention about the readers advisory Twitter chat. It’s called Readadv, that’s r-e-a-d-a-d-v and people can search the hashtag, that’s the first and third Thursday of each month at 8pm central time. And we also have a blog which is Readadv.wordpress.com.
All right, Sophie, thanks a lot for talking to me today.
Oh you’re very welcome, thanks for having me.
All right, bye bye.
Are we recording already?
[laughs] We are, but.
[laughs] You can leave this out.
But luckily it’s not live, so.
Okay, good. Yeah, if it, no if it were live it would be way more professional or something.
Well the first official questions of course is to ask about Lady Hat and her Free Rides,but.
Oh, yeah. No, that’s, that’s a gross violation of all kinds of ethics.
It’s an abuse of power, I’m pretty sure.
It is an abuse of power and we’ve really get to see tiny glimpses of the ongoing struggle between Sir Topham Hatt, or as he was called in the original books, the Fat Controller.
[laughs] Yeah, I’ve, I’ve heard that. And I’ve never read the original books, but [laughs].
Oh, oh we have them. If we were doing this as a video call I would show you the duvet on my daughter’s bed which is a, a vintage duvet cover featuring Tom, a scene from Thomas The Tank Engine which previously, well I guess my husband would say it still belongs to him and is only on loan to our daughter [laughs]. I’m married to the most English, Englishman who ever Englished and part of, part of that is he’s, he’s very, very interested in historic steam railways and, in fact, before he moved here he was a volunteer on a historic steam railway where they were rebuilding old engines and, and bringing them back to look really really beautiful and so yeah, he’s, he’s really interested in historic steam railways, particularly British historic steam railways. And so Nell has been the lucky long-term borrower of his vintage Thomas The Tank Engine duvet cover.
So did, did he have the book when he was, books when he was growing up? And.
He did and I, well, I think he did. He must have done. The books that we have that are the original British stories, they’re reprints, but they’re, they’re very nice and similar to the Beatrix Potter books. You know how they’re just the right size for children’s hands, these are similar to that, they’re a little wider format, they’re like wide.
I, I think we have, I mean they’re just paperback versions, but I think they’re the, basically the same.
Layout anyway, I mean they’re sort of landscape format and.
Exactly, no they’re very, they’re really nice and yeah, they’re, paternalistic and quasi-racist and stuff like that [laughs] Those are teachable moments though, you can talk about that with your children. [laughs] And, and we do [laughs] so.
Yeah? I don’t think we’ve really, we haven’t read a lot of the older ones, I don’t think we’ve, I think we’ve only read the sanitized [laughs] newer versions and watched the computer animated cartoon, and.
Right, right, I actually, I really enjoy the older ones with the models. Partly because I really love all their facial expressions. And, like when they roll their eyes with excitement, or disgust. And I also really enjoy comparing and contrasting the narrators because you’ve got Ringo Star, which has a charm of its own and then you’ve got George Carlin, which I am always waiting for him to drop one of the seven words you can’t say on television. Like “Come on George, do it, do it.” Or, and.
Yeah, I think I read that he said that he took that job just because he wanted to show people that he could do something else.
Yeah, yeah, well I mean that’s like when Steve Bushemy was in Monsters Inc. He wanted to be able to take his kids to one of his movies and he just never felt like he could do that, so, I totally get that motivation.
I think, I think Alex Baldwin said that’s why he was in that Thomas movie that they did, a while back.
Right, yes, oh, oh, let’s talk about that for a minute. That movie, okay, that movie, we have watched that movie many times and it is, as a couple, but what’s, the fun of it for an adult is when you compare the performances of Peter Fonda, who does a really amazing impression of a piece of plywood in that movie. He is just there for the pay check, that’s it. And then you’ve got, then you’ve got Alec Baldwin who is clearly just having a wonderful time, hamming it up, just, he’s beside himself with joy and I feel that, that is true professionalism. If you can show up and really give your all to the Thomas And The Magic Railway, or whatever it is, then you’re an actor, you’re a real actor.
Right, I mean even if you took the job just to make your kids happy, and.
Yes, yes. Well I, again I think that’s a perfectly valid motivation.
I heard the same thing about, who was that? One of the super hero movies. Oh I think it was when Tommy Lee Jones was in one of the super, Batman movies, he was, “I have no idea what this is, but my grandkids like it and they told me I had to do it.” So [laughs].
Yeah, I think that’s completely reasonable, that’s a, that’s a good way to take career advice.
Right, well especially people, like what you said with the Steve Bushemy, who normally make rated R movies and cannot take their children to their own movies. To be able to show their kids what you do for a living and not wait until they’re a teenager to be able to show them.
Yeah, exactly, exactly [laughs] right, it’s, I think that’s a really, a really good thing to do. So, yeah. There’s so much to the Thomas universe, there’s just so much, we could spend an hour at least on backing it all, but I feel like I’m really here to talk more about library stuff.
Yeah, I mean.
We can get back to it later, we can get back to it later. It will be there.
It’s always there as a touchpoint.
It is, it is.
Okay, that should be good.