Many of our teen patrons come in to the library for one reason and one reason only – to use the public computers. They shouldn’t be faulted for taking advantage of a technology that is almost absolutely necessary for everyday life. Teens need computers and technology for research, homework, and communication. Oh, and probably for games too. What many people forget is that while teens are using this technology, they are in fact reading. They are reading their friends’ status update on Facebook; they are reading the lyrics to their favorite songs; they are reading the detailed instructions for that online game that seems entirely too complicated. The young adults that we see every day are using this technology and they are making connections online…shouldn’t we bring our services to them?
There are many ways for you to connect with your teens, but social networking should be one of your top priorities. If you’ve walked through the computer area at your library and briefly glanced at what your teens are doing, chances are probably at least half of them are checking their Facebook. Does your library have a Facebook page? How about a Facebook page specifically for your teens?
Developing and maintaining your Facebook presence can be tricky. Consider your administration and seek out some advice before jumping right in. Your library or system may have a social networking policy already in place. Questions you will also have to consider may include: who exactly will create and maintain the page? What information will be posted and how often? How will the page be promoted among your teens?
Finding resistance from administration? You may face some questions about collecting personal information from teens or questions about the true value of using social networking in the library. By representing your library as a “page” instead of an individual person, you are able to post and share information without personal access to others’ profiles. Facebook is everywhere! Many businesses and companies, large and small, are finding ways to promote their interests through social networking. There are commercials on TV that may feature the Facebook symbol or logo in the corner. Some restaurants may have notices on their tables or menus that shout “Find us on Facebook!” If so many of these companies are finding ways to promote themselves online, why shouldn’t libraries?
Also seek out help from fellow librarians and YALSA members. There are lots of libraries out there with great Facebook pages or blogs, and someone had to make them! There are also some great resources on the YALSA page for Social Networking including an informative guide specifically for teens.
Don’t have enough equipment for the teens at your library to encourage creativity through technology? If you are advocating for these or other types of teen programs at your library, we want to hear about it! Enter YALSA’s Thinking Big About Advocacy Contest and you could be awarded the $500 grand prize.