Last spring at a presentation for librarians on MySpace and social networking, a local district attorney mentioned how important it is for teens to think about how they select their online friends. As she was talking I started to wonder about the criteria librarians use to decide who to add as friends on their MySpace spaces. Should librarians take just anyone who requests to be a friend? Should librarians only add teens from the community? What are the boundaries for friendships with libraries on MySpace?
I hadn’t read or heard too much about teens and librarians coming up with guidelines for deciding who would or wouldn’t be approved as friends on MySpace until I talked with Theresa Maturevich – teen librarian at the Stoneham Public Library in Massachusetts. Theresa talked about two things that really stuck with me. She mentioned that she regularly thinks and re-thinks the library’s Friend selection criteria for MySpace. Just because Theresa started with certain ideas about who would be added as friends doesn’t mean that continues to be the criteria. Also, she was easily able to articulate how she makes decisions about approving or denying friends requests. She knew who and why she’ll make an approval.
The criteria Theresa uses includes:
- Adults who are connected to teens in specific ways. For example, she’ll add teen authors and librarians with MySpace library sites. Adults who might be connected to libraries in some way, but their spaces are personal, don’t get added.
- Teens who are in the Stoneham community, or have a direct connection to the community, are added. Teens that are mystery people, just like mystery adults, don’t get added.
The most important thing to me in this conversation was that Theresa showed she’d thought about the issues related to adding friends on MySpace and could respond to questions about how she handles those issues.
It would be interesting to hear what teens have to say about how librarians should make these decisions. What guidelines would teens put in place for the library? How would they think MySpace friends for a library should be managed?