Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Social Networking

I wrote this for my boss, and thought I might share it here as well. This is a bit of what I am doing when I am not on the desk.

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Digital divides exist on many levels, and often within the homes of parents and their teenage children. To help bridge this gap, I have collaborated with Youth Services Librarian Rebecca Stine to offer workshops for parents about MySpace and other social networking tools. Our goal was to educate parents and guardians about the site, explore how the site functions in terms of profiles and search capabilities, examine the risks and dangers, and some of the constructive ways the site is used. We wanted to provide a space where parents could ask questions, see live examples, and gain an understanding of the benefits and risks, and leave with an awareness of social networking. We had an impressive turnout for our last session, 13 people and Channel 12 News did a brief spotlight about the class as well. Due to the recently publicly, and the interest it has generated, we will be offering this workshop again next month.

Professionally, I have been traveling to other libraries and conferences to speak about social networking tools to other librarians. These presentations examine how various libraries are using the technologies and the potential application within library framework. Web 2.0 tools, like blogs and wikis, have created environments that support collaboration both locally and globally, with other professionals or with patrons. With a working knowledge of these tools librarians can understand the context in which today's patrons, especially youth are connecting with each other and the world. Text messaging, YouTube, and Google have created an environment where information needs can be immediately met and the user may not have the same concerns about authority that information professionals have. As librarians, our roles are to help mitigate these differences by educating youth about information literacy and authority, and perhaps providing library services in these formats. Similarly, with the technology boom of the last decade and the rapid development and adoption of new applications, it is important that we, as librarians to keep our fingers on the pulse. Libraries are community centers for people to explore and utilize new technologies, where services on the cutting edge are offered. Libraries are community centers for people to learn about, explore, and utilize technology, and to be offering services on the cutting edge it is essential for librarians to be aware of the trends and future developments.

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