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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Information Needs & Opportunities

As Librarians, we are in constant search of information and we are typically the first to embrace new technologies, ideas and concepts to better our library, serve our patrons and help positively influence the community.  This desire also means we are in constant search of recognizing and understanding the needs of those patrons and communities, and identifying the opportunities to better assist in serving.  These two blog postings best exemplify two opportunities libraries currently face; addressing the needs of the Millennial Generation and making smaller, the Digital Divide plus understanding the need that arises as a result; The Hyperlinked LIbrary.   Links to referenced articles are included.

Blog Posting: Original Date October 24, 2010

In thinking about how libraries can better “reach all users and understanding users,” I am reminded of a conversation I had with my two Millenial generation cousins about Facebook.  They each have hundreds and hundreds of friends, and I asked them if they even knew who all those people were.    They each replied with the same response…”well, yes, I either go to school with them, or play sports with them or met them at a party…it’s just what we do, it’s what everybody does…” and I realized how natural it was for them to just friend people.  I used to be a person who friended everyone I knew or met because it was simply fun, and then upon realizing I was sharing information with people I really didn’t know or cared about, cleaned up my list dramatically.  The difference between our two generations was apparent with this simple idea of Facebook friends.

I had this difference in mind when I read the article titled, “How Millenials Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations” in the Harvard Business Review.  I could understand how these differences in generations was also permeating my life at home and at work.  The sharing aspect does appear in more ways than just sharing with Facebook friends and Twitter.  The life of the business world is no longer about personal growth and promotion, although those are still a strong goals, but more about the Team and what is good for the Team and how can I make the Team better.  This sharing aspect of collaborative projects and reviewing drafts while I believe is great for certain types of work, also takes out the individuality of the work.  No longer am I the author of a newsletter article, it’s the marketing department that wrote it because of the team meeting they had to brainstorm about the topic.  I am one of the narcissistic Gen X’rs that likes my name on the byline.

In libraries, however, I think this sharing aspect beautifully combines the best of what is needed in order for libraries to succeed.  Libraries are there to serve yes, the individual patron, but also the community of patrons.  The Team is essential in order for the library as a place to thrive because of the purpose it serves; learning, literacy, advocacy are goals that can start with the individual, but will essentially need a team or a group in order to truly be at its best.

Read “How Millenials Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations”

Blog Posting: Original Date November 6, 2010

The Hyperlinked Library

Upon reading the article, “The Visitors”, the image that kept sticking with me was the reference desk in the library.  The reference desk has always been the place where I remember the image of the “shhhhhshng” librarian to be, her bun and glasses firmly in place.  In my local public library, they have moved the reference desk to the center of the library, it’s round and has loads of information already available and the librarians are very visible.  I don’t feel so afraid to approach them, and in fact, they appear more professional and helpful than ever.  I find this point from the article extremely beneficial for libraries because it makes me think of all the ways the library is and could be hyperlinked to its patrons: “The potential for the commons/community space in libraries to be many things–fun, playful, engaging, useful. A totally red romance room, games available to all, a chance to view local history and add to it are all part of the space.”

In this article, the “Unquiet Library” discusses the positive effects of being “unquiet” in a library and how it fosters activity.  Activity in a library can mean so many things to different people, and in the library, activity can mean a group of men reading the newspapers, teenagers playing a game in the young adult area or families choosing DVDs to take home.  I find activity in the Rebecca Crown library at Dominican University to be engaging everytime I go inside and I am always looking around to see what people are doing.  The interaction between students and even those patrons looking for books or working on homework is interesting for me to see how the libraries resources are being used.

I am reminded of a blog I subscribe to called, “Designing Better Libraries” which talks about not only the physical design, but also the design of its materials and use. There is a great article about the topic of “Experience Design” that I think you’ll enjoy. Hyperlinked libraries can certainly increase the effectiveness and enjoyment of the library because by the very concept create a unique and fun experience design, full of activity that everyone can utilize and love.

Read “The Visitors” and “Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked.”