This is the best book I’ve read this year. Are your teens taking it out?

A hefty 800 pages, This is All is literally ALL: a brain dump of a nineteen year old’s intimate chronicling of her late adolescence, leading up to the birth of her daughter, with whom she intends to share the pillow book when the daughter turns sixteen. Cordelia, who lost her mother as a very young girl, does have guidance as she navigates her teen years; adult mentors come in the form of richly drawn characters of an aunt and an English teacher.

At the ALA President’s Program last year, Aidan Chambers said he believes life imitates art – that young readers look to their literature to discover how to BE – and Cordy is a model for supportive adult relationships, planning and decision making, spending time constructively, even reading for pleasure (she adores Shakespeare, whom she affectionately calls Shakes). The volume is unabashedly sexual, but teens are sexual beings, and everything in it rang true for me, and though her romance with clever musician Will is the hinge on which the plot pivots, Cordy’s writings address many many other universal issues of faith, friendship, ethics, loss, trust, and ponders her future writer and the nature of poetry.

Just a reminder – if there is something you read and loved this year, it’s too late to NOMINATE IT! Deadline was December 15, 2006 for YALSA selection lists. Nominations from the field are ALWAYS encourages, and the Printz award committee only discusses nominated titles (by themselves and YOU!). Suggest a winner for 2007 published titles after January 1, 2007.

I’ll be waiting breathlessly on Monday January 23 2007 to hear the winners announced, and to see if any of my contenders are in the running.

As a library consultant I miss working with teens (especially doing fun programs with them!) and putting my hands on great young adult literature, Doing an online author chat with a young adult author certainly modeled the process and technology to youth services librarians, but it was also a great way to get back in touch with some of those things I miss.

As part of a Meet the Author program founded by my colleague Susan Babb at NMRLS, I invited one of my authors to join us virtually. Ned Vizzini, author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Miramax, 2006), Be More Chill (Miramax, 2004), and Teen Angst? Naaah!… a Quasi-autobiography (Free Spirit, 2000) was a willing test subject for this experiment.

Bonus! You can listen to Ned’s presentation and read the transcript of the session online

We used the free Internet telephony program Skype to connect with Ned in New York (I was in Massachusetts). Skype is just like AIM, but… instead of typing, you actually talk! No phone numbers required, you just “call” your buddy and a two-way audio channel opens up.

Skype has a recording feature, but since I don’t have and fancy equipment, like a digital sound mixer, I could only capture my half of the conversation.

A quick fix was to stick my iPod with attached iTalk Griffin microphone next to the computer speaker. It picked up both our voices pretty clearly. The glitch was that the Internet was a bit intermittent, so there were a few times where we couldn’t hear Ned too well, but I posted a transcript to fill in most of the gaps.

After the event, I plugged the iPod into my computer, used a free program called Audacity to transfer it to an MP3 file, and then uploaded it to Lib Syn’s easy to use web interface.

Haven’t heard of Lib Syn? Me neither, until a week ago. Someone on an email distribution list mentioned it, and when I started having trouble with Ourmedia, a free media hosting service, I signed up for Lib Syn on the spot.

For $5-$30 a month, depending on how much storage and bandwith you think you’ll need, you get audio/video hosting with an integrated blog for your show notes. Lib Syn helps you through creating IDV3 tags (metadata! think of it as a MARC record for your podcast), builds a feed for you, AND pushes your podcast out to iTunes, Yahoo! Podcasts and Odeo podcast directories. It also tracks stats so you can see how many people are listening and how they are listening – direct from the web, or though a podcatcher.

Another great option for podcasting on the cheap and easy is Gabcast. You can post by telephone for FREE. Yes, FREE! Set up a free account, call their 1-800 number, and fill out a short form to connect your existing blog to their service. It’s as easy as leaving a message on an answering machine, except your audio is turned in a digital file and embedded into a blog with a feed, so it becomes subscribable. It works with Blogger, Livejournal, Typepad, WordPress, and Friendster, among others.

I’ve embedded audio into my region’s Storytelling blog and am demoing it in the Advanced Blogging class I’m teaching this afternoon.

What can you do with teens and podcasting?

  • Author/Illustrator visit recording
  • Battle of the Bands recording
  • Booktalks
  • Book Reviews
  • CD Reviews
  • DVD Reviews
  • Instruction: how to place a hold request!
  • Library News
  • Library Tours
  • Poetry Slam recording
  • Program promotion
  • Storytelling
  • Other?

With such great, cheap options, there’s no reason not to give it a try! Some great teen podcasts to listen to for inspiration (note: all are subscribable through iTunes, but I’ve provided links to their websites):

OCLS Podcast
Teens… promoting library programs!


All things Harry Potter

Coulee Kids
A variety of student projects

You don’t have to know how to podcast or edit or transfer audio to do this; chances are your teens know how, or can figure it out in two minutes or less. Give them the resources and paramaters, and let them do it.

Podcasting has potential to build developmental assets in all eight categories! Podcasting could build self esteem, make teens feel part of their community, engage teens in after school programming, offer a creative outlet, create a socializing opportunity, foster role model and mentor relationships, encourage reading for pleasure, provide an occasion to show responsibility, utilize planning and descision making skills, and enforce boundaries and guidelines.

How can podcasting enforce boundaries and guidelines? It can be a perfect springboad to discussions about SOCIAL NETWORKING SOFTWARE, INTERNET SAFETY and CYBERETHICS! Discuss how much personal information they will (or won’t!) give out), what they can (and can’t!) say in their podcast, what music is ok to incorporate and how and where to write for permission or locate “podsafe” music, and cover the ethics and legalities of blogging, for what is a podcast, if not an audio blog?

When your successful podcast is up and running… tell the library world! Add it to the Library Success: Best Practices Wiki’s Podcasting Page at!

Teen: It’s not spicy
Librarian: It’s the library, it’s not supposed to be spicy!
Teen: More people will come to the library if you have a spicy profile

-from MySpace? YourSpace? WhoseSpace? program, Northeast MA Regional Library System Haverhill Public Library, Haverhill MA

Yesterday afternoon I attended a continuing education program that consisted of a panel of three fifteen year old MySpace users, and three librarians who have created MySpace profiles for their libraries as a marketing tool.

The first teen said his page is private “because when you are under a certain age they make it private. “My site is pretty much me I’ts my personality.” This theme was reflected by the other two teens, the concept that my site is ME. His tour of his page included: music he listens to, an About Me (short but it descriptive: age, school, grade) that tells “what type of person I am,” his heroes, his status (what I’m here for), and a long list of friends, with a hierarchy to it–those in top row are the people he knows in RL. Sounds like identity defining behaviors to me!

When asked WHY he had a page, he explained he can use it to talk to my friends if they are on, and can find old friends. He visits friends page for updates, and to search to find people he know. He used codes to make it look a certain way, citing Photobucket, a website that allows you to plug in slideshows.

All three teens are caught up in the friend collection competition. “Some people add me and I don’t talk to them I just add them.”

The next teen said her page is private, and that her parents said she cannot show her face on any photos. “My mom has a MySpace and she checks it because my dad is a cop so I have a bunch of people checking my page all the time.”

Her tour included the intro, “basically this is me.” She was proud of making her layout. Her My Heroes has slideshow of friends. She has 664 friends. “My first, like, 12 people are the most important people to me… [the rest are] friends that I’m not superclose with.” When asked, “Are you the only one you know who can’t put your picture on your page?” She responded, “YES!”

The third teen stated that she used her page different than the other two panelists. One difference is her page is public. She offered more limited info , has a friends only hidden blog and got rid of contact box. She admitted to lying about her age in her profile (adding two years) to take part in features like trains (like a webring) and said “I add 1760-something friends, most of them I don’t know I only add them if there are attractive.” She mumbled something about hot emo boys…

Librarians Alissa, Theresa and Melissa demonstrated their library MySpace pages. Alissa caught wind of the popularity of MySpace a year ago, but couldn’t get approval from director. She created a proposal that defined social networking and stated that it is not going to go away, and that problems stemming from MySpace are happening outside of Mypace too. The goal of the Haverhill Library’s MySpace page is to connect teens and authors, promote library programs with bulletins and a blog, because the blog is a medium teens check. She told teens about the page and it spread through word of mouth; the library’s MySpace page is linked from Teen Cyber Center website. A teen designed the MySpace page and created the profile from the point of view of the library. They are up to 123 friends, and the friending policy is to add local teens who friend the library, teen authors, and other libraries. Alissa stressed “I don’t put pictures of kids on my website” as she explained to those present that the friend photos on the library page are photos posted to the teens own pages.

Theresa’s library was going to ban MySpace. Her successful argument for not doing so was that if they banned MySpace, you’d have to ban ALL social networking, as only banning the sites the teens use is ageism. Her recommendation is to “Give an ounce of education rather than say no you can’t have it.”

She set up the Stoneham Library MySpace page as though it were from the library point of view, not the librarian. They only have 98 friends, and their policy is to only friend local teens and children and teen authors. She noted that bulletins are a good way to send out notices to other people, and it’s a way that she herself finds out about author visits. The page is linked to outside blog hosted by Blogger. IM contact info is posted; library offerings go under interestsShe developed a a pamphlet for teens that covers the basics of MySpace account set up with a focus on privacy. She added that You don’t need to know HTML to use MySpace, and really, “It’s an excise in futily to make a library’s website look cool… it’s a library!”

The MySpace page is part of the library’s first foray into teen programming. They also are doing DDR programs, and “it’s been drawing them in like fruit flies to bananas!” She concluded that “although kids do not look at our website, they DO look at our myspace. They kind of look at the blog, and I’m trying to get them to write for it.”

Melissa explained that the Peabody library has had a YA dept mascot for a couple of years, designed to promote the summer reading program Wally the YA Wizard wears at tie dye shirt, stands on a DDR mat, and holding a book and a yak, a symbol of the Young Adult Council (YAC). Perspective of Wally YAC helped to develop page. She reported, “I put it up and then the kids were like… “This is lame, you need help.”

Other places in the city are starting to create MySpace profiles George Peabody House is on library friend list.

Fliers around the library promote comes up as the homepage on our library computers. Melissa said that when she tells kids about it they are are “like oh, ok and then they don’t friend me,” but noted they were getting more through word of mouth.

Melissa is the only librarian with a personal myspace account that I use with my friends, and she is a friend of Wally’s as well.

Librarians in attendance voiced concerns such as what about bulletins that are inappropriate? (they are viewable only when logged in – they are not part of your profile viewable for the public, so it’s not an issue).

When the teens were asked, “How can I get teens to look at the MySpace once it’s up?” the teens recommended that you put something on there that is interesting to them, and ask them to help you do it. Alissa said that every six months, they create a new profile. “It’s a great way to get teens involved…they do all the work, and and you just say, this is pretty!”

Someone asked about the ads on the pages. Most people know the ad is not associated with your profile and the same ads are on their page most people tune out the ads

Another librarian asked about questionable content on the teen’s page. Alissa pointed out that the library isn’t responsible for what the teens post on their pages. “It’s their page their right to express themselves; I only censor based on WHY they are friending not their content.”

Concerns over Internet safety were adressed. Theresa said, “Its easy to say well, teens don’t do what their parents say but a lot of kids actually do.” Some parents are unaware, but the teens themselves said they don’t talk to people they don’t know, and they could tell which people were creeps. They might get accepted, but get unfriended almost right away. Some of them are really gross, some of them are really nice. When asked, “Do you think they are who they say they are?” the teens said not always. They aren’t worried because if someone says things they don’t like, you tell them, and then delete them. One of the girls said, of the dangers of youth meeting strangers and being assaulted or abducted, “If they get abducted it’s their fault… they cause their own demise.” Another said “If you have an ounce of common sense you won’t be trying to meet up with people.”

My own concern is that there are not just safety issues involved here, but ethical ones as well. Teens (and some libraries) are technically violating Terms of Service agreements, and few sources or credits are given for items posted that are not user created.

One school librarian from an all boys Catholic school said MySpace is banned because of 2 incidents that happened over a year ago, and that very day there had been an incident involving Facebook at lunch. He asked the group, How do we work with this in the school of boys to with families from 70 different towns in a tuition driven environment? There is lot of potential for good use…

I recommended tailoring school assignments to incorporate new technolgoies. Instead of a traditional 5 paragraph biography report, have middle or high school students create a myspace style page for an artist, writer, scientist, etc. What would Honest Abe’s page look like? Who would be in his friends list? What kind of music was popular in his era? What were his interests? What would his blog of daily life look like? And, of course, sources for all info would have to be cited, and music and photos and quotes would have to be used in accordance with fair use… such an assignment would meet our teens where they are and create an opportunity to discuss “what does it mean to have someone on your friends list?” and “how does one obtain permission to add a song or photo?” and “what measures could Abe take if he didn’t want to be found in this directory?”

The teens pointed out that when they ban websites they forget that you can find workarounds and you can hide the workaround by deleting the history. Several of these workaround sites were posted on YA-YAAC at the end of last month. Nancy Kunz reported that “some kids at my library found that by logging into AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) and then searching for myspace using that AOL search engine, they can then get to the site via the search link.”
Do No Good:

HOWTO bypass Internet Censorship

Sites like this certainly demonstrate that the kids are always going to be one step ahead of us. Banning it isn’t the answer; educating is.

Still looking for Teen Read Week ideas? Physical activity is only one way to active @ your library, and if you’re looking for program ideas, I found MetLife Foundation/ Libraries for the Future project Get Real, Get Fit! to be a great resource. Thanks to library school student Debora Duerksen (who sent me an email inquiring why ALA didn’t have more information about the grant, thus planting the idea for this post) and to Hali Brindel and Marilyn Ratner at LFF for providing data.

Targeted at teens and their parents, Get Real, Get Fit! was announced at the end of 2004, awarded in 2005 and implemented at 41 libraries. The challenge: create an intergenerational dialogue on the benefits of fitness and healthy eating through four or more programs. The program is also an opportunity for partnerships with community organizations, and for marketing the library to a wider audience. Latest data from the Center for Disease Control’s study Prevalance of Overweight Children and Adolescents: United States, 2003-2004 reports that 17% of adolescents age 12-19 are overweight, and several physicians have predicted that today’s adolescents will be the first generation to have lowered life expectancy than their parents, due to poor nutrition and unhealthy, inactive lifestyles.

Based on the tremendous success of the program, LFF will be offering Fit for
Life–also funded by MetLife, this year. Fit for Life, the next phase of the program, focuses on urban library systems. While teens will again be the target audience, Fit for Life libraries will use this population to access the entire family. Twelve systems will receive grants of $5,000 to $20,000; winners will be announced in early October. Library systems will partner with LFF in helping stimulate similar programming throughout the library community on the state, regional and national levels.

You can replicate these model programs in your library’s offerings. Three of the participants won a NCLIS Health Information Awards in 2006.

One key component of Get Real, Get Fit! was the incorporation of the health-related episode of In the Mix, the award-winning topical TV series for teens on PBS. “Fit for Life… Eat Smart and Exercise” is available from PBS for $69.95 and includes a discussion guide and public performance license. During the grant, “Fit for Life” was used as a springboard for and intergenerational discussion about teen lifestyle issues and strategies for forming healthy habits.

Jeanne Farnworth, at the Portneuf District Library, Chubbuck (ID), held a showing of Napolean Dynamite, precluded by a rousing game of kick ball. Over 50 teens attended and stayed to watch the show. “I’m also really conscious of what I serve for snacks at teen events,” says Jeanne. “They eat the healthy stuff just as quickly as the junk food.” The Napolean Dynomite event was just an offshoot of the Get Real, Get Fit project. Jeanne reports that four Get Real, Get Fit events were held, featuring a 1 mile fitness walk, fitness stations, sports samplers and information stations. Many community businesses partnered with the library to provide the events. Each teen that participated got a free pedometer, t-shirt, dental health kit, water bottle and more. Jeanne says “We are planning another fitness event during Teen Read Week- it will be Get Active, Get Healthy @ the Portneuf District Library (featuring similar stations, info booths and a power walk -weather permitting). During that week, are also doing a Get Active Outside w/Frisbee golf,Get Active w/Art event, Get Active w/Games and Get Active w/CSI at the Portnef District Library.”

Sarah Kaufman at Tempe (AZ) Public Library offered four Sunday afternoons health festivals featuring 14-18 booths that offered fitness information, activities and games. Prizes including pedometers, jump ropes and exercise equipment and Dance, Dance Revolution. Physical activities included fitness drills, hula-hoop, hackey sack, situp/pushup contests, and exercising games with yoga and Pilates.

Joyce Pernicone at the North Miami (FL) Public Library reports that “Staying Fit With the Miami Heat Dancers” demonstrated routines while “Hip Hop Aerobics” explained about healthy heart exercises.

Bill Landau at the East Flagstaff (AZ) Community Library, says “Our hiking club and discussion group went very well… Some of the trails we visited were just steps from our door and many of the participants had lived her for years and didn’t even know those trails were there…We drew new people to our library who weren’t even aware there was a Branch library.” A hiking program at Olive Hill (KY) Public Library resulted in computer donations! A park naturalist at Carter Caves State Resort Park led a hike and cave tour; librarian Vickie Rose reports that fitness computer programs will be implemented at both the library and Carter Caves State Park so citizens can assess and monitor fitness goals from either location. Bill says that “the best thing that came from the whole Get Real, Get Fit grant was a core group of teens that have become the Teen Council. Older teens leave and younger teens move in, but it really helped establish this group for us. We had lots of adults who were really jealous of the teen hikes and have asked that we do some for adults who don’t have teens. So we will be scheduling some of these events in the near future.”

Other program ideas from Get Real, Get Fit!:

* Cooking and fitness demonstrations
* Dance, Dance Revolution
* Discussions with health and fitness experts

* Exercise sessions led by fitness experts
* Health festivals
* Hikes
* Hip hop dancing
* Information sessions
* Kick boxing

* Nature walks
* Salsa dancing
* Yoga

If the idea of getting active by playing video games intrigues you, check out the summer issue of YALS, featuring an article by myself and Alissa Lauzon on Dance Dance Revoution at the library.

The YALSA YALSA Teen Read Week web site has lots of other ideas for Getting Physical @ the Library –check it out!

My friend Kelly sent me an article on teen brain development last week; a British scientist just did a study on teen brain in areas such as empathy and decision-making. And today I got an email from a psych student who found some old handouts of mine and had questions about behavior and brain development.

What is the link? It turns out that even though those tall gangly young adults LOOK grown up, teen brain development rivals that of the toddler years, and the activity creates a lot of “noise” in their heads. Recall the terrible twos: temper tantrums, challenging authority, sleep deprivation derived crankiness…

Are these concepts intriguing to you? Space is still available in Pain in the Brain: Adolescent Development and Library Behavior, a YALSA online CE workshop that runs from Oct 2-30, 2006. Find out exactly why teens act the way they do and learn how librarians can address patron behavior issues in a way that will develop relationships with young adults. By the end of this class, participants will:
1) Understand the physical development of the adolescent brain and how it manifests into physical and emotional behaviors,
2) Examine the developmental needs and assets of adolescents, and the role libraries must play in helping teens grow into healthy adults,
3) Discuss how to apply newly acquired knowledge and techniques to improve library services to teens in ways that meet developmental needs and build developmental assets.

Ok, that was blatant and shamless self-promotion – I’m the facilitator. But YALSA delivers LOTS of great CE right to your desktop! Several other additional courses will be offered in October, including a re-run of the very popular New Technologies and New Literacies for Teens with Linda Braun, and OutReaching Teens with Angela Pfiel.

To be a successful student in a YALSA Online CE course, you need:
* Regular unlimited access to a computer (Pentium II-based PC or a G3 PowerMac machine, using Netscape 4.7 or higher, Internet Explorer 5 or higher, or current versions of Mozilla or Opera)
*Reliable Internet connection (high-speed Internet access like cable, DSL, or LAN-networked T1 lines preferred)

I personally recommend 2 hours a week to dedicate to readings, activities, and responses.

Registration for YALSA’s fall session of e-courses runs through Sept. 25. The courses are meant to be the equivalent of a full day workshop.

The cost is $135 for YALSA members, $175 for ALA members, and $195 for non members. Register online today!

Just in time for the DOPA vote in the Senate:
“One of the more important findings presented in the report is that schools appear to help narrow the disparities between different types of students in terms of computer use. Differences in the rates of computer use are smaller at school than they are at home when considering such characteristics as race/ethnicity, family income, and parental education.”

“Computer and Internet Use by Students in 2003” a National Center for Education Statistics Study examines the use of computers and the Internet by American children enrolled in nursery school and students in kindergarten through grade 12. The report looks at the overall rate of use (that is, the percentage of individuals in the population who are users), the ways in which students use the technologies, where the use occurs (home, school, and other locations), and the relationships of these aspects of computer and Internet use to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics such as students’ age and race/ethnicity and their parents’ education and family income.

According to the findings from the study, 91% of students in nursery school through grade twelve used computers in school, and 59% used the computers at school; 83% of students in nursery school through grade twelve used the Internet at school while 68% accessed the Internet from at home – my interpretation is that 25% of students surveyed don’t have home Internet, and 17% have Internet exposure ranging from zero to elsewhere (friend, cafe, library, etc). Could this mean that a QUARTER of the Internet-using youth population will be cut off from accessing social software web sites in schools–from using tools that have revolutionized the way we work and learn–when DOPA passes in the Senate?

The survey of nearly 30,000 students included a question about video game use on home computers – 56% play games at home on their computers. Also, the is a correlation between parents’ level of education and likelihood that children play games at home.

No data is presented on for in school gaming on computers, but 38% of students say they play games online. No differentiation was made between the school/home location in this report – a question “where do you access each activity?” would be very interesting.

You can download, view and print the publication as a PDF file.

Happening Now! Everywhere: A new teen mag for the myspace era?

As teen magazines begin to fold, I think it’s interesting that here is a new one starting up. At the YALSA Teens & Technology Preconference in January 2006, Anthony Bernier talked about young adult literature that is created for teens, by teens, and Happening Now! Everywhere is a perfect example. Happening Now! began as a school newspaper showcasing student art and news, and shifted to an international focus this summer.

The Somerville (MA) based compilation of teen produced and edited content ranges from essays to film and book reviews and include short fiction, photos and line drawings, interviews and the requisite poetry, crammed into 24 pages. The content is slightly remniscient of Merlyn’s Pen, but the schizophrenic design is myspace style -layout changes, random images, varied fonts, all-caps “shouting,” and natural language (though surprisingly few typos). A handful of half-sheet inserts on heavy paper add color and texture.

The quality ranges from mediocre to fantastic, and there is a fairly even balance of fiction and news. The contest is diverse; right next to horror stories and poems about ice-skating, you’ll find lines by William Blake, an ending to Frank Stockton’s classic short story, “The Lady or the Tiger,” and excitement over a film remake of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Sadly, the website has little additional content, just a quiz and a link to the Museum of Virtual Art. The online layout, though inconsistent, is easier on the eyes than the print version. Switching to a local print distribution and allowing commenting and rating on every online article would be a great way to hook print readers in. Teens need forums to express themselves creatively, and Happening Now! Everywhere provides opportunity in a traditional format.

A second issue is forthcoming, and librarians can get a free sample from the website at

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 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.

I tried to reply to Linda’s post, but my comment was “invalid!” so here it is:


I didn’t check my email all day. See, bad things happen when you are offline!

I did compose a note to my Congressman, in the hopes he and his aides read their email in the AM.

Dear Congressman,

I am writing to implore you to vote AGAINST the Deleting Online Predators Act as it is currently written. The Internet today is a interactive and dynamic one, where ANY website that allows you to sign in and interact with other users is a social software website including online department stores like, WebCT (used for online courses), news sites like and Instant Messaging services used by over 75% of teens! An educational exception can be applied to each and EVERY use of blogs, wikis, and social software – I learn something new every time I log on to a social software website, where I read, discuss, analyze, create, think critically, search, hypothesize, and prove. I cannot echo Beth Yoke, Executive Director of YALSA, enough: EDUCATION, NOT LAWS BLOCKING ACCESS, IS THE KEY TO SAFE USE OF THE INTERNET.

By largest concern is for students themselves. According to the Search Institute (url), there are forty developmental assets that teens need to grow up into healthy, contributing members of our society. Things like support in the form of adult mentors who are not blood relatives (i.e. an aspiring teen writer talking to an author in an online chat or via MySpace), clear boundaries (i.e. by following rules set by individual libraries and communities), being viewed as resources (i.e. valued for their fan fiction and web building and video game modding) and socialization (i.e. journalling, sharing photos, and creating films), to name a few. Access to these asset-building social softwares are KEY to teens emotional and psychological and physical and spiritual growth! How would banning collaborative web applications stunt that growth?

My next concern is that librarians, who are on the forefront of this Internet safety issue (and ethical use of the Internet, I might add!) were NOT included in the committee, although this legislation affects those that get E-rates. Why were no librarians included, when such legislation would have such a major impact? We are working so hard to DECREASE the digital divide by provided access to those who cannot get it at home – people in impoverished areas of the country, often people who are minorities.

My final concern is that this piece of legislation takes power AWAY from parents, and I simply do not believe it is the job of the government to be a parenting institution.

Although I understand schools act in loco parentis, and that students may be distracted at school by games, instant messaging, blogging, etc, drill and practice is boring for kids who have grown up playing video games. They need a sense of engagement to think more deeply. Perhaps, assignments should integrate social software web applications to meet the needs of today’s students. It’s a whole new literacy out there! Let’s prepare kids for it – not censor it.

Kind regards,

Beth Gallaway, MLS
Library trainer/consultant
Hampton NH