Banning Social Software

November 15, 2006

I choose to be apart of this group project on Online Social Networks (OSN’s) not because of the date at which it fell (although it was strategically due right after conference week… i give you that… :D), but because this is the topic for the reason behind why i took this entire course.

 In this post, i’d like to discuss an issue raised by Meredith Farkas concerning some libraries blocking OSN sites. i think back to LIS 501 when we spoke about the roots of the library; we spoke about how there are several key factors to libraries, including: storage of books/materials, access to knowledge, and also a location for the democratic discourse. Now, one of the things i thought about was that in the ‘digital library’ age as many of the services/resources provided by libraries are moving to the digital realm, one thing that has yet to move to the digital realm is the library as a hub of democratic discourse. this is where i feel OSN’s are CRITICAL to the continued digital development of libraries.

Ebooks, E journals, OPAC’s, online virtual reference, chatting with librarians over MSN, online course pacs, e-reserve, RACER, IUTS, the ability to renew books online… these are ways in which library services have moved online…. but again, notice the one thing missing: the library is a place where people meet to discuss issues… in 501 we called it ‘democratic discourse…”…. where is this feature? seemingly, almost every other library service has been born to the digital world, but not the social networking function also served by the library.

As we see huge amounts of teens/students/adults interacting in online worlds, sharing their opinions on blogs, writing academic entries on wikipedia, posting comments on blog entries… these are all very academic scholarly ways of interacting with others that have not yet found their way into libraries (for the most part). So, as these technologies grow in popularity, libraries should be embracing them, not blocking patrons from using them to interact with one another. As the ALA states on their website: “ALA promotes the creation, maintenance, and enhancement of a learning society…” what about a society that is slowly moving online? how counter-productive is it then  to actively block these technologies which can move democratic discourse into an online realm with all of the other online library services ?

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