Last week Abby Blachly from LibraryThing, talked with a group of students, at Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science, about LibraryThing and how it is, and can be, used by libraries. It was good to hear an overview of what LibraryThing is from someone who works there. But, what really jumped out was how LibraryThing demonstrates that web-based community really does work.
More than once Abby said things like, “We just put it out there and the LibraryThing community runs with it.” Or, “The LibraryThing community tells us what changes/improvements we should make or consider and we pay attention” One fun example of this is the haikus users created on the LibraryThing help wiki.
The haikus are fun to think about in terms of teens and giving them a chance to write informational content in a haiku form. However, the haikus are also a great example of how it’s possible to throw an idea out to a community and, by letting the community run with the idea, the results are pretty fantastic.
Some librarians (and other adults) worry that if we give teens too much leeway in terms of online community that the teens will get into trouble in some way. They might post something bad, they might get propositioned by someone bad, they might…. And, of course these things are possible, but so too are the benefits of web-based community which include the ability to create, collaborate, build identity, gain support, achieve, and so on. And, as we’ve said before on this blog, if we take opportunities to educate teens about web-based community we help them learn how to keep away from the bad and keep up with the good.
Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) and Abby Blachly say the same thing. Web-based community works. People get invested and involved, they take charge of the community and make sure it runs smoothly and safely. Those involved in online community feel that they are a part of something important and useful. Teens should be provided with that and LibraryThing, along with other web-based community resources, can provide it.