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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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

Creative Solutions

With the advent of social media and more and more libraries embracing these technologies, it becomes necessary to define just how these tools and technologies will be used.  One creative solution is to establish a Social Media Policy in the library so that these technologies are used to their full advantage in promoting the library, reaching out to patrons, and in a manner reflective of the library’s goals and mission.

I wrote these guidelines with the intention for a small, public library with the notion that it would be given to all employees at a new hire orientation and regardless of their role in the library.  The assumption is that all the librarians and staff will have some type of use for social networking tools whether it be the youth services department posting photos of a recent event or the reference librarian using an IM service.

Social Media Buttons From Mashable.com

Social networking is an important part of the library communications with our patrons.  It allows us as librarians to use various online tools such as email, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and instant messaging in order to virtually answer reference questions, share book reviews for reader’s advisory services, and even keep the local and larger communities connected to our library through discussions and photos.

Remember most, that the reputation of the library, its employees and the community it serves is foremost when posting to the web.

We advise all those working in our library to keep the following in mind when using our social networking tools for library purposes:

Communication

Our social networking tools are used in order to not only provide service, but to community and learn with our fellow librarians and industry professionals, our patrons, and the community around us.  We encourage everyone to seek out new uses of our tools, develop relationships through these tools and to learn more about the people we serve.

The social networking tools we use at our library are as typical as the majority norm of Facebook and Twitter and yet must remain fluid to keep up with the advances in social networking and technology.  If a social networking tool becomes obsolete or we find another tool more apparent that serves our needs and the patron’s needs, all efforts will be made to review the tool and test it in real use.

Respect

Please remember that even though we are online through social networking tools and our patrons or fellow employees don’t see us, we are still visible.  We must maintain professionalism and service through our choice of words and (for example, typing in all caps can often mean you are shouting to the other person), in addition to the actual answers and information we provide punctuation even though the tone of our communications can be more conversational.

When in doubt of whether or not the information you are posting or using, use the side of caution and save a draft.  Look at the information an hour later and if you still agree with the post, move forward.

Privacy

We also need to be aware that not all patrons want to share their information and may only provide a first name or just an email address, and that they are our patrons seeking our help.  We also need to be sure to get permission of patrons when posting photos, captions, names and other personal type of information.

In addition, we also need to be aware to not disclose any personal information about our coworkers or other sensitive library operations information that is not public knowledge, such as salaries or board member phone numbers.

For questions about or suggestions to these guidelines, please send them to the technology department.  The department also reviews our social networking sites regularly to ensure they adhere to these guidelines, maintain professionalism and legality.

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.”