18 March 2011

Libraries: Bigger on the Inside

Library = TARDIS[1].

Think about it: just like the Doctor's famous Police Public Call Box, people have preconceived notions of what a library is. Libraries are viewed as antiquated and quaint institutions of the past that people completely ignore. And when we do catch their attention, they assume they know exactly what to expect. But as our most loyal supporters have realized, there's a lot more to libraries than what appears on the outside.

Come inside and there are countless programs, resources and, yes, books -- enough for years of exploration. When the time comes to change, we do. And just as the Doctor never tires of introducing new companions to his home, librarians can exude that same glee about our professional homes.

What happens when someone new discovers the TARDIS? Disbelief quickly gives way to wonder. They learn where the wardrobe room and the pool are. And as they become comfortable there, TARDIS becomes their home too. They want others to experience it. And yet, no matter how much time they spend in the TARDIS, there is more to discover.

That's what we want people to think about the library: come in, join us on the adventure; invite your friends and there will always be more to explore.

[1] Yes, this is the kind of stuff that comes to me at 6 a.m. when I'm brushing my teeth.

14 March 2011

nook: The Afterparty

I have owned my nook just about six months now. Let's look at some numbers.

In that time, I have read a total of 51 books. 12 of those (roughly 1/4) were eBooks read on the nook. Part of me look at that and thinks "Only 12? Pshaw!"[1] But then again, it was never my intention to go digital-only. Not to mention I've yet to do any significant traveling since I bought the nook.[2] So when you think about it, 1/4 is actually a pretty major shift in the way I read.

I've also been tracking how long it'll take me to "pay off" the purchase too:
Spent: $197.91 (nook, protective cover, reading light, $2.98 in digital-only content)
Saved: $136.83 (12 books)
Not there yet, but it's getting close. I've currently got 116 free books in my digital library that haven't been read yet (I check two sites pretty regularly to get new stuff). I'm sure I won't actually read all of those, but having options is good.

So what do these numbers teach me? I made a good decision. Having an eReader adds convenience and diversity to what I read. The up-front cost can seem a bit steep, but it can pay for itself without a lot of effort.

[1] In my defense, one of those books was over 800 pages long. It took awhile.
[2] Just road trips so far, and road trips are for audio books. The way this summer is shaping up, though, it'll be getting some significant usage soon.

08 March 2011

New wiki collecting legal research/pop culture examples for use in class

I’ve Got a Hit! is a new wiki which collects examples of legal research concepts found in movies, TV shows, songs and print. Entries give detailed information about where to find the example, which research concept it demonstrates, how it can be used in class and more.

Please join us! We’re looking for new contributors and listings. If we’ve missed that classic example you use in class – or if you run across a new one the next time you’re watching TV – feel free to add it. Editing access is available for law librarians, professors and others interested in expanding this area.

More information is available at the wiki itself, or you can email me directly with any questions.

14 December 2010


(This has been bothering me for weeks now. And has nothing to do with law. Sorry.)

It started with rain boots. The intersection in front of the law school tends to flood during heavy rains, so I wanted a pair. I saw an advertisement for some officially-licensed Marvel rain boots in a comic book. My first reaction was delight. Then I actually looked at the boots.

I hate them. The comic images are of a woman in some sort of troubled romance. There is a lot of pink. And tears. I don't know if they come from an actual Marvel comic or not. I suspect not. But regardless of the source, I scoffed at ever owning a pair. If I bought a pair of Marvel-related rain boots, they'd have Storm on them chasing the bad weather away (AMIRITE?) or something, not some weepy woman proclaiming her relationship problems to the world. Trying to buy a comic book t-shirt is no better. The official Marvel shop barely has any "women's cut" shirts. And most attempts to get licensed shirts into brick-and-mortar shops focus on the "X Male Superhero is My Boyfriend" type design.

The boots and shirts are only representative of a larger problem. Comic book companies do not know how to sell to women. No, strike that. They only know how to sell to a certain type of woman: the stereotypical one that spends all her time thinking about her nails and her boyfriend. I am sure there are customers out there who love these products. Yay for them (really). I don't have anything against pink or girly rain boots in general. Heaven knows the pair I decided on instead is pretty darn feminine too.

My problem, I think, is that there is no viable alternative. You want a comic book t-shirt cut for women? I hope you think Iron Man and the Hulk spend all their time fighting over you. But me? I want the hilarious Hammer Time shirt and the Deadpool logo one. They're fun and clever and, you know, about comics I actually read.[1] Why do I have to buy the unisex version that will not really fit me and therefore make me look like I'm wearing a tube sock? Why can't they just produce their "guy" products in women's sizes too? Or consider more licenses to companies like Tokidoki, that tread the line between gender and design with more thought?[2]

Comic book companies are trying to reach out to their female audience. Good on them. But they still don't seem to understand that lumping us together under the target audience header "women" is lazy and reductive. It's like when your parents suggest you should be friends with somebody because "you're the same age". Age is an immutable characteristic that generally does not give off much of a spark in the quest for kindred spirits. So why assume the audience you're marketing yourself to can be won over by appealing to a characteristic like that?

This is a snapshot of me: I love reading comics. I'm a huge fan of "literary" series like Fables and The Unwritten, and I dabble in ones like Ed Brubaker's pulp stories and Brian K. Vaughan's stuff[3], but mostly? I read Marvel superhero comics[4]. I like the adventure and the optimism and the fact that writers can actually make me care about the characters under those garish costumes. And yeah, I also dig the occasional romances that are thrown into these stories[5]. Chocolate and peanut butter. But when you take the adventure stuff out and just try to make it all about the romance, you lose me. And this is what the products I'm sulking about do: give you one or the other.

I'm not saying every woman who reads comics is like me. Exactly the opposite, really: not every reader/buyer is the same. And if there are pulp comics and superhero comics and literary ones and tie-in-for-TV-shows-that-died-before-their-time ones and zombie comics and Jane-Austen-and-zombie comics, then clearly the comic book industry is smart enough to have recognized that diversification of products is a really clever business strategy. And here's when I belabor my point a bit just because I want to throw in a quote I like. I realize that trying to define an audience is a lot like the Doctor trying to describe time:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly ... timey-wimey ... stuff.
It's complicated. Very complicated. So keep selling the shirts you've got. Keep licensing the boots that started this whole thing. Somebody is obviously buying them. But take a page from Threadless and TeeFury and offer your other current designs for men and women both. Get somebody to design those Storm boots. Think about your female audience like you do your male one: not just as a gender group, but as a discerning aggregate made up of a lot of smaller, often quite diverse factions. Comic book fans are well-known for being willing to drop significant amounts of money on products they like. So give 'em what they want. What they all want.[6]

[1] Weeeell, I don't currently read Thor. I've been planning to. But that t-shirt makes me want to start right now.
[2] I will take one of each, please.
[3] Just bought the last couple Y: The Last Man TPBs. So excited.
[4] Hence the beating in this post. Sorry, Marvel!
[5] Seriously. Bigby/Snow? Bucky!Cap/Black Widow? MOAR PLZ.
[6] I realize that I am being extremely optimistic in my vision. The reason there are products like this at all is because comic book companies are trying to make more money. And when a product line is not making enough, they stop selling it. Trust me, I've watched a lot of series I like go under the ax. But this is my rant, okay? And even within that framework, I still think there's a lot of room for improvement.