There is no denying that social technology is becoming the standard format for information sharing (and in some cases information gathering) for children and teens today. Annette Lamb observes that “according to the NETS (National Educational Technology Standards), to be successful in today’s information-rich society, students must be able to use technology effectively” (p. 1, 2006). This fact hasn’t changed in the six years since this text was written and students today are mastering that technology with or without us. It is, I believe, part of the role of youth librarians to guide their patrons in getting the most out of social technology while teaching them the dangers and pitfalls that come with such a world-wide connectivity.
Although we would love to see our patrons face to face when they need help and reference assistance, realistically, we can expect more and more younger patrons to seek out information through online sources. From wikis to ask.com, they are increasingly seeing less need to leave their homes and come into a library which means we have to go to them. In fact, the Pew Internet & American Life Project called the internet the “go-to” source for information for patrons in generally, not just juvenile patrons (p. iii, 2007). Having internet access is great (and is honestly considered essential in most libraries today), but providing quality resources and hands-on guidance to younger patrons is more of a challenge.
Most of the public libraries I looked at while researching this blog entry featured remarkably robust ‘kids’ pages but I noticed that some of the tools that kids are already using were omitted instead of embraced. Facebook, strangely enough, is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of social technology. It is not what we, as librarians and library staff, would normally associate with information gathering and education but it can be used for just that. There are social groups and organizations that network extensively on Facebook and provide up to the minute, relevant information to our young patrons. I would argue that science organizations like NASA, educational groups such as PBS, government informational pages, and the like provide a valuable service that our social-network savvy teen patrons can really understand. Our own libraries should go that extra step to reach younger patrons through Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and other social networking tools to remain relevant and reach more young patrons. I can certainly see the value in a reference librarian answering information-seeking ‘tweets’ and linking to interesting articles and resources through the library Facebook page could expose younger patrons to some great tools. As much time as teens spend playing social games on Facebook, perhaps we could work to channel some of their attention to homework sites or trivia games instead?
In short, I believe that we are on the right track in providing teen and kids pages on our library websites and library computers, but we should also go where the students are (Facebook and social networking sites) to make the library a very visible presence where they already ‘hang out’ in cyber space. There are, I’m quickly seeing, a wealth of useful resources for kids, we just need to get them out there where our patrons will see them!
Lamb, A. C. (2006). Building treehouses for learning: technology in today’s classroom (4th ed.). Emporia, Kan.: Vision to Action.
Pew Internet & American Life Project. (2007) Information searches that solve problems : how people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help. Retrieved June 10, 2012 from http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2007/Pew_UI_LibrariesReport.pdf.pdf