I’ve been following the ban of Mishawaka Public Library of MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites and I have a few thoughts…
For those you haven’t heard about it – I first heard about this through Michael Stephen’s blog Tame the Web: http://tametheweb.com/2008/03/18/no-myspace-facebook-at-mishawaka-library/
1. It makes me want to scream when I hear people disparaging the way people use the library as not being worthy enough. I hope that those who see these sites as ‘mere entertainment’, only check out mathmatic textbooks and have a miserable time while using them. We’ve heard this argument a million times, a million ways – It’s the old ‘Give them what they need vs. Give them what they want’. It’s amazing to see librarians that would never state that librarians should dictate or control what books patrons check out, don’t see that disparaging MySpace in this way is the exact same thing.
2. Are they just targeting sites that the library (mistakenly) thinks only YA’s use? Are they also targeting Ebay, Netflix, all blogs, my beloved 43 Things, and Kiva? How about LibraryThing? Information on this might inform my next point.
3. As we all know, censorship does not only happen when there are active protests against materials. Most intances of censorship occur through the non-selection of materials or barriers placed between patrons and materials. One thing that really stuck with me in my collection development class was not to focus so much on ‘people with pickets’, but to look at the results. The proof is in the pudding, so to say. If there’s black hole where infomation should be or if you can barely see the stuff behind its literal or metaphorical gates, then you’ve got a much more difficult problem to combat. Covert censorship, because it is so emeshed within the libraries own culture, is harder to see and harder to fix.
My ultimate point is this: Is their intent to ban social networking or to ban young adults? If the answer is social networking, but at the same time you notice that all the YA’s have stopped using the library, then does it matter that your intention was only to ban social networking? You effectively censored a whole segment of our population and weakened your mission to serve your community – your entire community. And if you think that getting rid of some YA’s isn’t such a big deal, lots of other people use social networking sites and/or think that a library restricting access to information is wrong and will find other places to go. I would be one of them.
Also from Tame the Web: Lexington County Public Library also bans social networking – http://tametheweb.com/2008/03/29/another-pl-banning-social-software/
In this article they blame social networking sites for making their computers vulnerable to viruses. How can an infomation professional simultaniously believe this and that they should be allowed to manage a information center like a library? If your library can’t handle this, perhaps they should revoke all the library cards and become a used book store. Methinks the stated intent might not be the actual one….