What if a site like MySpace was hosted by a non-profit library system, supervised by adults and served to promote libraries and literacy, with Internet ethics and safety thrown in for good measure? The Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Library System’s LSTA grant-funded MyOwnCafe does exactly that, providing a virtual space library card carrying teens in southeastern MA to connect with local bands, programs, and people through moderated forums.
Did I mention teen developmental needs and assets? MyOwnCafe is a mix of creative expression, boundaries and limits, responsibility, meaningful participation, reading for pleasure, socialization, homework support and more.
Librarian Aaron Schmidt posted a fantastic interview with MyOwnCafe administrators Vickie Beene-Beavers and Kathy Lussier at http://walkingpaper.org/330 calling it “a great example of libraries providing an online community for its young patrons without being too librarianish,” and going on to say “I think My Own Cafe is the best library site for teens around.”
Would DOPA block e-rate funded libraries in this region from participating? MyOwnCafe offers homework support through access to library materials, databases, and 24/7 reference but it could be viewed unfavorably as a social networking website. MyOwnCafe is an excellent example of libraries positively using social networking sites that you can share with your senators to demonstrate the realm of possiblity–and what opportunities we might be missing out on, if our powers to host, use and instruct with such web applications are pulled out from under us by DOPA.