Filtering the Internet in the Library

Working in the youth services department means there are many requests to use the computer for games and internet access.  The youngest children of what must be no more than 5 years old always amaze me at how easily they navigate the fun games provided.  Talk about the Digital Divide! The older children already have homework assignments and projects.  What I also notice is how many of the kids are usually on the internet without an adult next to them to provide some guidance.  Yet, I continue to ask myself if these kids really need an adult next to them to monitor their usage since they are in what is considered a safe place, the youth computer area.  This had me thinking of the debate among librarians and patrons alike about filtering the internet in the library.  How far does freedom of information and access really reach?

I am reminded of a situation proposed by a former professor.  She provided an example of a child being abused at home and asking the librarian for help.  I have no doubt that computers and internet access play a role in that search for help.  This raises the question of not only just how much privacy the child is entitled, but also how filtering affects this child’s ability to research for help.

Reading this posting by David Lee King on his blog, had me asking the same questions he does.  Then I have to ask what happened to access of information?  Despite the objections we may have against what people are looking at on the internet, they should be able to access the information they desire.  That’s what makes our country so great, is because we do have access to all kinds of information and the right to make our own decisions about what we read and see.

A commenter on this post brought up a great point that libraries do filter through collection development, policies, etc.  Yet, a physical collection can only be so big fitting the size of the building and the means of the library, so not every material can possibly be purchased.  We as selectors need to be sure we are addressing a diverse point of view or at least making the attempt. We also need to be sure that we meet the needs of the community served. Does this entail ‘filtering’ our collections?  If the intention is to filter because a librarian doesn’t agree with an idea, then yes. If it’s a matter of cost and space, then no.

There are no easy answers to these questions and no easy solution.  I could probably write an entire dissertation about the subject.  What I find myself comparing are the banning of books and filtering.  While they raise many of the same issues, the reach of the internet and the role in our daily lives makes this issue so much more complicated.

For more about Banned Books Week, which starts on Sept. 24th, check out ALA’s robust resource page.  I personally love reading banned books, but I was always a bit rebellious!  Enjoy.

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Recap: Community Outreach Events

I had the pleasure over the past month to take part in two community outreach events through my internship.  What a rewarding and wonderful experience to bring the joy of the library to kids who otherwise may not be able to either visit the library or have access to books and learning outside the classroom.

The groups of kids we visited were both in the local neighborhood, one was in a community clubhouse and the other a school.  All the kids were about 3rd through 5th grade, although I’m sure there were some younger ones too.  What was amazing is that these kids were as my colleague said, “hungry” for books!   They literally attacked the books when it was time to choose new ones to take home.

Both programs were essentially the same format and highly successful.  Attendance is volunteer, so these kids want to be there! The theme was tied in with the summer reading program and began about 4 weeks ago.  While there were new children in attendance, many had been attending each week and were familiar with the flow of the program. Each program began with an educational session in which we interacted with the children about knights, princesses, castles and medieval weapons (to go along with the Midsummer Knights Read theme). Many hands went up when questions were asked and they were excited to hear what the topic for today would be which was court jesters!

There were lots of smiles and wide eyes as a story was read and then the children worked hard on a craft.  There were also crossword puzzles and coloring sheets.  The kids loved all the activities.  For an hour long program, it was packed full of fun.

One of the two groups gets to choose books to take home and return ones they’ve read.  It’s done on an honor system and they were all very respectful of returning the books.  It seems to work similar to a bookmobile model where we bring the books to the kids because there is really no feasible way for them to get to the library.  The community these children live in is essentially an immigrant neighborhood, with lower income families, where there is no bus service and it’s a bit of a long walk, especially in the hot Chicago weather.  To be able to bring to them a “mobile” program each week and feed their strong desire for learning and books is what will keep them hopefully interested in learning throughout their childhood.  It also brings them a positive experience of reading and learning that they may not be getting at home or in school.

When I saw these children run for the books, attack the stacks we had, and search for something particular because they liked a series or a subject it was a event I never saw before!  I loved it!  What was disappointing to me and them was when we didn’t have enough of a subject or the next in a series for example because of the limited resources.  Yet, once I knew what they liked, I could find another book in the piles that would probably appeal, and except for one or two instances, they took it home.  I wanted to make sure these kids, who were so incredibly “hungry” for books to not find one they would like!

I can’t think of a more rewarding experience as a librarian then to see these young people RUN for books and learning opportunities!

Ethics, Freedom, and Access

The Ebook Challenge

I have been intrigued by the idea of Ebooks all throughout my time in graduate school and have struggled with the idea of getting one for myself because of my love of the physical book.  However, what cannot be escaped are the principles of ethics, freedom, and access, both to patrons and libraries through strict DRM policies by companies such as Amazon.  The topic is hefty, and this paper touches on the major issues of access to information, copyrighting and ownership of information, as well as embracing new technology as librarians.  The Ereader is not just a trend and that the library must embrace the technology as a service and not a threat to its existence.

Abstract:

The Electronic Book Revolution has hit the American mainstream with the advent of the Apple Ipad, the Amazon Kindle, and the Barnes and Noble Nook, to name a few of the more popular e-readers of current times.  In fact, the Ebook revolution has hit such popularity that a Google search of the simple term, “Ebooks” brings about over 23 million hits.  The Ebook medium needs to be reviewed by librarians as one more available tool for its patrons just as it promotes the use of the internet and social networking tools.  This underlying nature of sharing, sharing books, thoughts, words on ‘paper’ through the Ebook format is one that is truly revolutionary.  It is through these ideas that makes the technology unique for libraries.  Librarians are champions of advocacy for libraries, the physical space, the print book, and they must also be advocates for the Ebook before someone else takes the reins.  The librarian must set the standard and the status quo with the publishing world in order to take the control back of the disbursement in their library. Considering Ebooks as complimentary rather than a struggle to the library and its services can only expand its popularity in the community because of its ability to bring books and literature together with our digital world.

Read the entire paper