Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

These Days, Libraries Are About More Than Just Books

Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

Most sessions at SXSW go like this: You go to a room in a hotel and find a seat in a conference room, where someone speaks for 45 or so minutes while you dutifully take notes; this is followed by a 15 minute Q&A session. But it was immediately clear when I arrived for Libraries: The Ultimate Playground that this was not how this particular session would be unfolding. The room was set up with a few stations where the crowd—librarians, lovers of libraries, and more—could talk about the challenges facing libraries and what they’re doing to be about more than just books. There were chips and beer, poster board displays, and an actual sandbox. Within two seconds of sitting down, I was bopped on the head by a playground ball (which brought back a lot of elementary school memories…but that’s a post for another time). Obviously, I would not be taking notes during this particular hour. Instead, I left my laptop in my bag, circulated between stations, and learned all about two creative ways libraries are diversifying.

Embracing the Maker Movement

According to Tina Coleman of the American Library Association, making is something libraries have been doing for years with their teen crafts and scrapbooking circles—they just didn't realize it. "That all falls within the make rubric, so a lot of libraries are starting to realize that they can use that as a way to expand into bigger things like robotics or partnering with their local maker or hacker spaces," Coleman says. "Maker spaces are starting to show up inside libraries, and [libraries are] building relationships with maker communities." Chicago Public, for example, has a space where people can engage in digital making, using equipment to craft mix tapes or using software to record their own music or edit a video.

Other libraries are looking into how they can use 3D printers in maker spaces and to help communities. "They’re exploring the options of doing things like, you know, 'I broke this piece of my bed, and it’s going to cost me $40 if I order it online. Can I just print it because somebody already did the work of creating a file?'" Coleman says. "That's the kind of thing [libraries are thinking about]: Pop down to your library, print something out. Sort of like the old photocopier system that all of us probably remember." Other things some libraries are looking into having in their maker spaces: soldering stations, laser etching and cutting, and more. "I think it’s really going to depend a lot on what each library finds out that their community cares about," Coleman says.

Crossing the Digital Divide

Rural areas face many challenges, including limited access to wifi. Enter the Library Box, a project by Jason Griffey, Head of Library IT at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. This portable, private digital distribution system is a router that connects to a battery pack, and acts as a self-contained webserver. "Basically, it’s closed circuit," says Cindy Fisher of the University of Texas at Austin Libraries. "He did it so that when you’re in a space where you don’t have wifi but you have files that people need to be able to download, [you can use this]. You can't, as a user, upload to it on the fly, but it's got a USB card so [librarians] can take it out and load [information] on here, so users can download ebooks, music, a web archive, web pages, video, all that stuff."

The materials needed to create a Library Box cost just $40, and the code is all open source. During SXSW, the devices were deployed on pedicabs, so riders, using nothing but their smart phones, could download books as they traveled to their destinations. "We were like, 'These could totally go on pedicabs along with books to show that libraries are both digital and physical!'" Fisher says.

These Library Boxes aren't just good for areas that lack wifi; Fisher thinks that it also has applications for travelers going to conferences. "Let’s say that you’re going to a conference and you have a lot of stuff that you want people to be able to download, but you know that the wifi network is just not going to be as fast as you want it to be," she says. "This is super fast because it’s a direct connection. [Library Boxes] take the availability and speed of the internet and close it off a little bit [so people can] curate it and make it accessible [to the people who need it]."

Learn more about how the Library Box works by watching the video below:

How Mondo Posters Get Made

If you're a fan of movies, you've probably heard of Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based shop that creates limited edition screen-printed movie posters that make typical one-sheets look like child's play. (TV shows get the Mondo treatment, too.) The company and its artists have put their spin on everything from A Christmas Story and Office Space to The Shining and E.T. (You can check out the full archive online.) Mondo's Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, told mental_floss how these posters get made.

m_f: How did Mondo get started?
One of our current Creatives, Rob Jones, who is heavily involved in the gig poster scene, approached the CEO/Co-Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse and suggested that they commission various artists to create posters to promote the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow. He contacted his friends in the music poster scene and got them to do re-interpretations of classic movie posters. We got a following from there. When Justin Ishmael came on, he suggested that we elevate the business model to feature licensed properties, our biggest one being Star Wars in 2010. Over the next couple years, our fan base got bigger and bigger, and marketing teams at studios starting taking note.

m_f: What’s the process of creating a Mondo poster?
Justin and I handle the legwork of obtaining the rights to older titles, or negotiating with the marketing teams at studios on newer properties. Once we have a title, Justin, Rob, and Mitch [Putnam, Mondo Creative Director] spend a good amount of time brainstorming who the right artist would be for the property. Mitch contacts the artist and once assigned, Rob directs them from there. Once the design is done, we circle back with the studio for any revisions—if any; the studios typically have guidelines, usually for legal reasons, that they give us in advance to follow. They vary from title to title and studio to studio—and then move to print. It can get more complicated than that at times, and we all wear a lot of hats, but that's the general process.

m_f: What happens more often: Do you seek out the license, or do companies seek you out to create posters?
It's honestly about half and half at this point.

m_f: Once you have a license for a particular film, can you create a number of posters for that film, or just one?
We can create more than one. On some titles we have several artists we think would be a good fit.

m_f: How do you match an artist with a particular film for a poster?
It varies. Sometimes when we first start working with an artist we ask them "Hey, give us the top 10 movies you would kill to do a poster for," and then match them up from there. Other times, we'll have an artist we want to work with in the wings for the perfect assignment. For example, Justin really wanted to work with David Peterson who does the comic Mouse Guard. When we added Brave to our list of posters for our Oscars series we spent some time going "hmmmm..." and then all of the sudden it was like "Oh man! Of course." And that's that. We like to match artists with movies that they are passionate about so it remains fun and doesn't feel like a job.

m_f: How much collaboration is there in figuring out what the poster will be?
We try to give the artist as much freedom as possible. Because Rob is a designer himself, I think he's able to act as a sounding board if an artist ever gets stuck or needs some direction. I stay out of all of those conversations though because they typically happen at 3 to 4am while I'm trying to get some sleep.

m_f: For some posters, you release variants. Why is that, and how do you decide which posters get them?
Variant posters are part of the established practice of screenprinted gig posters, which is what we stemmed from. They're designed to be more rare and therefore more collectible. We'll create a variant copy when both the film and the design calls for it—Attack the Block, for example, with the glowing teeth, or Iron Man II on metal.

m_f: What licenses have been particularly tough to get?
Taxi Driver was a challenge. We worked over a year to make that one happen. Once we got the approval to make the poster we had to track down Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese and request their blessing for their names and likeness on the poster. It was an inquisition but worth it. It was such an exciting day when I got those emails back.

m_f: What film would you love to see a Mondo poster of, and which artist would you put on it?
I'd really like to acquire the Toho license for Justin so we could do kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra. He's wanted those for a long time. Personally, I really want to make Ghostbusters happen, with full likeness rights. It's so aligned with what we do and our fan base. We could do amazing things with it.

m_f: You put on two shows during SXSW—one for Game of Thrones, one with artists Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. Why do those two particular shows during SXSW?
HBO approached us after our collaboration during San Diego Comic-Con last summer. They asked if we had any ideas, and we thought a gallery show and poster series during SXSW would time nicely with the season premiere of the show. Stout/Taylor was planned to coincide with Flatstock, which is a poster show during SXSW that brings in really great artists.

m_f: How often do you have Gallery shows like this? What do you have on the walls between shows?
Gallery shows typically run four weeks with a week or two in between to prepare for the next one. There's nothing on the walls in between shows because we're typically rapidly patching up nail holes and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or occasionally an artist will be in town creating a mural on the walls for the next show.

m_f: If I were you, I’d make sure to grab a copy of every poster before it went on sale.
Yeah, but they take up more room than you'd think! My favorites so far from this year are Taxi Driver by Martin Ansin, Django by Rich Kelly, and Jaws by Laurent Durieux. Oh man... and Beetlejuice by Ken Taylor...

Erin McCarthy
8 SXSwag Items from the Film and Interactive Conferences
Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy

The first few days of SXSW are all about attending panels that will make you think, and seeing films that make you laugh, cry, and shriek from fear. But another huge part of the festival is waiting in line, roaming the exhibit halls, and going to parties where people hand out swag that is sometimes useful, sometimes useless, sometimes wonderful, and sometimes weird, all creatively designed to get your attention. Here, the superlatives of the stuff that made it back to NYC in my suitcase.

1. Most Ubiquitous: SXSW Festival Bags

Each year, SXSW commissions artists to design bags for the festival’s badgeholders. Interactive, film, and music each have their own bags; because I had a gold badge, I nabbed film (above), which was designed by Jay Ryan, and interactive (below), which was designed by Jessica Hagy. Fun fact: In 1998, South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone designed the interactive bags!

2. Weirdest: Vampire Diaries 3D Ian Somerhalder T-Shirt

At a party for the CW network, my friends and I put on costumes and posed as supervillains Admiral Joe, Naughty Frostbite, and Horrible Q-7000 (me!) respectively:

We also got custom screen-printed Vampire Diaries t-shirts. But the weirdest piece of swag I picked up was a large tee with Ian Somerhalder’s face printed on it in anaglyph 3D. They were on a table in front of a huge anaglyph 3D painting of the actor, who was also there, in the flesh, standing next to the portrait. It was pretty surreal all around.

3. Most Blasphemous: This Record Sleeve

I don’t remember Johnny Cash looking quite like this. I picked this up at the CW party; it’s a real record, and a promotion for 99 Tigers. Slogan: "Rock Your Brand."

4. Most Nostalgic: National Geographic Channel Slap Bracelet

Ladies dressed in the finest ‘80s fashions—leg warmers, sweat bands, and so much neon—handed these out while I was waiting in line for Much Ado About Nothing. I immediately slapped it on, because slap bracelets are still cool.

5. Biggest “Um, What?!??”: Underwear

Behold the underwear I picked up in the press room, a gift from GoToMeeting. One size fits all. (Also given away: Anaglyph 3D glasses, pens, huge dog treats.) Thanks?

6. Best Photobooth: The Iron Throne

Nearly every party has a photobooth, but I got my favorite snapshot souvenir in the convention center next to the Vimeo theater. Watch out, Lannisters—I’m no Targaryen, but I’m coming for the Iron Throne!

7. Best Investment: Moon Property

After I interviewed the filmmakers behind Lunarcy!, they were nice enough to give me the deed to the first parcel of land I’ve ever owned: one acre on the Moon. Now all I need to do is figure out how to get there, and I’ll have a nice little vacation spot.

8. Coolest Drinking-Related Accessory: Space Camp Coozy

After I snapped a picture with TOPPS, a person in a giant inflatable astronaut suit, I nabbed one of these cool coozies, which I plan to use on everything it will fit on.

Which one of these pieces of swag would you want, and why?


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