Last night some friends and I were sitting around at dinner, and conversation turned to the recent National Equality March. Don’t recognize the name? You’re not alone–though news organizations report tens of thousands of participants, almost none of us at the table had heard about the march before it happened.

This came as some surprise, as we were a table full of very politically involved women–many of us participated in rallies in the wake of Proposition 8, or phone-banked for marriage equality in Maine and New Hampshire, or stumped for candidates in local elections. And we’d certainly gotten wind of other marches and events in the past, often making sure to mention them well ahead of time at our weekly dinners.

And then it dawned on me: we weren’t on Facebook.

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A couple of recent blog articles about Facebook privacy settings got me thinking, once again, about the importance of informing parents, and other adults who live and work with teens, about how to setup social networking accounts to maximize privacy.

The first post I saw is on the Read Write Web blog. The article has a title that says it all, How to Friend Mom, Dad, and the Boss on Facebook…Safely. In the text readers find a clear rundown of how to use the various privacy settings on Facebook to decide what profile information to make available to specific users. Read More →

I’ve been on Facebook for a little while now–maybe three years? When I was at my last job, in a school library, I didn’t friend any of my students, because there was too much personal information on my Facebook page…and it would be, I think, crossing a line. But I use it to keep in touch with friends. It’s probably the number one way I communicate with people these days, and I also use it as my photo management tool.

So now that I’m here in my new position, in my new community, I decided to use Facebook as a way to reach out to teens. I set up my new Facebook account at the end of the summer, with one picture and some rudimentary information on it, like my name, where I work, and some innocuous “personal information” that I thought might appeal to teens. (My favorite TV shows, for example–and this isn’t made up, they really are my favorites: Gossip Girl, House, Friday Night Lights, Project Runway, The Office.)

I also set up a fan page for my library. For information on how to create a fan page on FB, read this.

And I waited.

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Yesterday morning the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsored a session titled Your Brain on DOPA.’  The program was designed to give attendees an opportunity to find out:

  • What is happening with federal and state legislation related to social networking (and with technology in general).’  John Morris, General Counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology presented this part of the program.
  • What current research says about child and teen use of online tools in the areas of cyberbullying and predation. Dr. Michele Ybarra, President of Internet Solutions for Kids presented on this topic.
  • How libraries can educate their communities about the positive impact of social networking. This was the portion of the session that I presented.

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YALSA just launched two more ways for you to connect with the Division and its members:

  • YALSA’s new fan site on Facebook (FB) gives you the chance to become a fan of YALSA and connect with YALSA and teen librarians.’  If you don’t yet have a Facebook account, this might be a good time to set one up.
  • YALSA’s new FriendFeed (FF) space is a one stop shop for finding out whenever there’s an update on YALSA’s twitter account, blog, additions to YouTube and Flickr that are YALSA related, and so on.’  If you haven’t heard of FF yet, it’s an aggregator of social networks. Setup your account, add YALSA as a friend, and you’ll be able to see what’s new on a variety of YALSA social networking sites all in one place.

If you won’t be at ALA Annual FB and FF are good resources to keep up with so that you’ll be up to date on what’s up with YALSA during the Conference.’  And, if you are at Conference, you’ll hear more about these tools at YALSA 101 and other programs and meetings.

My brain has been spinning for days thinking about the library’s role in the social graph. It started when on a recent TWIT podcast Kevin Rose, of Digg, mentioned the social graph. I’ve heard that term bandied about before, but when Rose said it this time I wondered if I really knew what it meant. A Google search led me to information on the social graph and the confirmation that this graph is really another way of talking about six degrees of separation. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is often quoted when people write about the social graph. For example, “Zuckerberg attributed the power of Facebook to the ‘social graph,’ the network of connections and relationships between people on the service. He said, ‘It’s the reason Facebook works.'”
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In the January/Februrary 2008 issue of American Libraries, Meredith Farkas in What Friends Are For writes about social technologies such as Twitter and Facebook which can be used as professional development tools. Farkas’ concluding paragraph is, “The next time you see a colleague logged into Twitter or Facebook while at work, don’t assume he or she is playing on the job. Your co-worker may just be learning something that will benefit your library and its patrons.”

Free Image Hosting at Being on the island in Teen Second Life when I took this snapshot in the sandbox reminded me of the article. The teen with the virtual cup of coffee in front of the DNA structure he was creating said he was doing this to help him with his bio test for tomorrow in school. Of course. The next time a teen is on RuneScape or MySpace at the library, maybe they are using it to help with their school work. Maybe they would be interested in knowing how other teens use similar tools for professional development something directly tied to a homework assignment if they hadn’t thought if it that way before.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki