Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ban Facebook?!?

So many teens today come and spend their time in the library to enjoy the services that has to offer.  It is perfectly understandable, really.  Facebook offers teens a chance to interact with their peers in a semi-structured environment. They create their identity based on their interests and public social interactions.  They are free from adult monitoring over behavior and interests.  They can publicly display their intelligence by posting articles or commenting on the behaviors of others.

I am outraged to report that teens intellectual freedom is in danger of compromise by a recent challenge to the beloved communication channel commonly known as Facebook.  The grape vine has informed me that the challenge is based on subject matters a few individuals have chosen to discuss using this Internet resource.  I have heard that bullying is a problem, and that teens are using it to organize gang communication.  I am strongly of the opinion that our library system must manage this challenge in the same way that we would respond to a book challenge.  We have no control over how individuals choose to respond to a resource.  It is our social responsibility to offer alternatives to unsafe behavior and well rounded information regarding controversial topics such as social networking.  I firmly believe that preventing teens who are legally of age to be members of Facebook from accessing the site is a disservice to their intellectual development.

Our appropriate response would be to invite those challenging the resource to utilize the proper procedure for electing to remove an item from the collection.  Typically there is a form to fill out and a series of meetings in which the merits and shortcomings of the resource will be formally discussed.   I would predict that we will discover the issue at hand is not precisely Facebook as a resource.  It seems that the real issue is rather teen behavior, specifically and the manner in which they behave toward each other.  Welcome to Rochester, where one of the many symptoms of our poverty problem is black on black crime.  What do we need to do?  Teach kids to be kind to each other always.  This is no small task, and the only way such a major cultural change could occur is if the movement comes from within.  >>sigh<<

And that brings me back to the basic truth that is the foundation of quality library work.  Relationship building is the foundation through which quality information can be successfully communicated.  Small ideas can be communicated gently through routine interactions as the information becomes relevant.  RPL is in a unique situation to help promote this sort of cultural change, if we are up to the challenge.  We can't even begin to do it without adequate funding.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

21st century library websites and a rant about the state of this City

After asking a few people some questions, I've learned that no one wants to take on the responsibility of drastically improving the MCLS library website.  Why?  Probably because all the librarians employed here are already overworked, and part time employees don't have enough hours in the day as well.  The tech people in particular, I am told, have far to many responsibilities to do an outstanding job at anything.  Besides, the website was just revamped last year! Yet it looks so 2003!

The general appearance of the website does not provide me with a feeling of social and cultural relevance.  It does not give me the impression that I am connecting with a 21st Century institution.  It seems old.  It seems like history is overemphasized.  It seems like current technology and popular trends are beyond our capacity or perhaps even (uh-oh) our ability.  THE LIBRARIES ARE UNDERSTAFFED!   Hey Rochester, did you realize that we could meet your needs much better if you provided the funds to employ the number of people that require the amount of work that needs to be done?  Any citizen following the budget deliberations is aware of the city's financial problems.  But what can anyone do about it?  Let us all just throw up our arms and say NOTTA-THING NOTTA-THING while the world goes to hell in a hand basket.  Thank you, Mayor Richards for your realistic depiction of what Rochester is all about in your recent state of the city address.  This city as I see it is so similar to the city as you see it.

I need to make one thing clear:  The poverty problem in this city is not unsolvable.  Not all the kids are spiraling downward into a state of uneducated drug withdrawal madness.  Yes, there are many serious problems.  When I meet highly educated, "landed" property owners in this city who are also parents, I have noticed an important trend:  They send their kids to private school.  So it's likely that they are on the wealthier end of the spectrum than the Brightonites who just send their kids to public suburban schools.  If these parents all agreed to send their kids to public schools and demand the quality of education that today's children deserve, the drop out rate certainly would not be hovering just under 50%.  The kids from poorer neighborhoods would have access to better schools, and might even be less likely to drop out with peers who value education and come from more affluent socioeconomic roots. If we create a culture in the city that places an emphasis quality education and rewards those who achieve above and beyond their peers, we can slowly ditch the poverty problem.  As a teen librarian, I would be working with a population at the highest risk of experiencing black on black crime.  This population is key to unraveling the poverty problem.  Yes, there are problems in the elementary schools, but it seems that people are afraid of black teenagers and don't want to offer them the benefit of the doubt or the opportunity to prove themselves capable of handling responsibility.  Can't we trust each individual until they give us a reason not to?

Don't forget that libraries are an important aspect of community education.  There aren't the organizational problems in Rochester Public Library that exist within the Rochester City School District.  Individuals come to the library not because they are being compelled to do so by the law or the threat of a less enjoyable future, but rather because they are interested in using library materials and services to improve their minds, entertain themselves, and experience intellectual and popular culture.

30.4% of the people are below the poverty line.  That means that about 70% is above it (myself not included.)  Housing values are relatively stable, some homes even increasing in value.  I wonder how many people actually have high speed Internet connections in their homes?  I think that most educated people probably do.  Anyway, the visual and organizational appearance Rochester Public Library presents to our online customers not only gives them a snap judgement about our ability to meet their informational needs, but it also offers the rest of the world an impression about the quality of life in this city.  Why does our website look so "retro" in comparison to or  Is it because we simply don't have the staff or the funding to correct the problem?  What if we had the opportunity to change this problem?  Are there any grants available to remove these barriers?