Define Teen Services: Innovation, Risk, Change, Relationships, Passion

Last week I had the chance to attend meetings of the Hennepin County Library Media Mashup project. Media Mashup is an IMLS funded project that looks at how innovation and change happens in libraries. The way that’s being investigated is through the use of Scratch software with teens in libraries in Hennepin County and around the country. Last week’s meetings were inspiring and I left with several words bouncing around my head: Continue reading

Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in Our Networked World

The title of this blog post is the title of a report published by OCLC that focuses on perceptions and use of social networking in countries around the world*, and perceptions and use of social networking by library directors in the United States. The text of the report is worth reading by anyone who works with teens – teens as young as 14 were surveyed as a part of the research process. The findings provide insight into social networking use and a useful analysis on how the public and librarians see social networking fitting in (or not fitting in) to library programs and services.

Report findings include:

  • The digital native and digital immigrant generations are starting to merge. In other words there is less and less difference in knowledge of the basics of how technology works between those who were born after the beginnings of the web and those born before (even well before) that time. The report states, “.. many digital immigrants are indoctrinated into the culture.”
  • Use of the web doesn’t vary between rural, suburban, and urban populations. No matter where someone lives their use of the Internet for social media and networking is pretty similar.
  • Japan is the only country, of those covered in the research, that reported no growth in reading over the past year. All of the respondents, outside of Japan, showed an increase in reading. The survey asked participants to consider all types of reading – traditional print as well as online text – which may demonstrates an understanding that reading no longer has to take place in traditional forms.
  • Amazon and eBay were the top commercial sites across age groups surveyed. However, in third place for 14 to 21 year olds was iTunes, whereas WalMart was number three for the 22 to 50+ respondents. Media continues to be an important part of teen online and face-to-face lives.
  • In the 14 to 21 year old age group, MySpace and Facebook were the number one and two favorite social networking sites. The number one social networking site for the over 50 year old group was Classmates.com. This is particularly interesting as a distinct portion of the directors surveyed as a part of this research were in the 50+ age range.
  • Another comparison can be made between teens and librarians in their reasons for using social networking sites. 14 to 21 year olds reported using specific sites because their friends use the sites (the #1 answer) and they are fun (the #2 answer.) The librarians surveyed reported mixed reasons for using social networking sites, however they often noted using the tools for work. Does this difference in reasons for use have an impact on the ways in which librarians understand how teens use social networking?

The report also covers perceptions of research participants and library directors on topics related to safety and privacy in the online social world. These findings highlight the different perspective librarians have on these topics when compared to many of the people they serve. The general public seems to have less qualms about security than librarians. That of course has an impact on social networking services in and provided by the library.

The report also notes that for the public, and for many librarians, social networking is not thought of as something in which the library should become involved. Is that finding because the public doesn’t understand what the library might accomplish in this area? Looking at the data presented, it looks like the public is focused on a very traditional view of the library’s role in the community.

Many education and library experts were interviewed as a part of the research process. Many of these people mentioned that they thought the library has an important role to play in educating their customers about social networking, how it works, how to be safe, and so on. But, are we missing something when we make our primary, and maybe only, focus to provide educational support? Yes, that’s important. But, if librarians want teens to feel comfortable in their physical spaces and if librarians want teens to hang-out and socialize in their physical space, isn’t it an important extension of that to find ways to connect to teens in their online hanging-out spaces? Some libraries are already doing that of course.

Another interesting aspect of the report is the way in which OCLC integrated current social networking styles and norms into the visual presentation of information. Tag clouds are used as a visual representation of some findings. Visuals throughout the report highlight the way many people access and process information. Is this an example of how libraries should present information to teens?

The full report is available for download in pdf format. Later this month it will also be available in hard copy. Get your hands on it, read it, and consider what the data tells you about how you need to support and serve teens in your community.

* Countries surveyed for the report – United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom.