Thursday, April 27, 2006

MySpace Is Our Space

Been really swamped with various meetings and trying to stay close to on schedule developing my online class for the Summer (more on that later), but I have been taking time to read the MySpace discussion going on on LibRef. Sarah Houghton had a couple of great posts on the list and a good summary on LIB so I won't recap too much. But basically the discussion got started with a question about whether or not to block MySpace on a library's computers.

While I really don't like to label someone a censor for doing what they think is right in their library, I have to agree with Sarah on this. From LIB:

"It is not our place to judge what our users do with their time online, as long as it isn't violating any of our policies. To damn one site, when there are literally thousands of other sites out there just like MySpace (just not as popular at the present moment), is addressing a symptom, not the root cause--which is the behavior that is unacceptable in the library."

Even if you take all of the "materials" selection and who can use computers for what issues out of it, dealing with a perceived behavioral problem (no matter what it is) by simply blocking one website isn't going to work. MySpace is the hot thing today but tomorrow it will be something else. Anybody remember Friendster?

Dealing with the "problem" by blocking sites one at a time is just an exercise in frustration. Have a reasonable computer policy. If someone is violating it by constantly viewing porn or whatever you deem a violation deal with it on an individual basis. Not everyone using MySpace is a sexual predator or looking at "inappropriate" pics. It's just mainly folks socializing w/ their 9,000 friends (watch the social networking clip if you have a good satirical sense of humor, but probably not at work!).

I also found it interesting that many of the academic librarians in the discussion downplayed or outright rejected anything other than a directly school related function for an academic library. Sure our main purpose is to support the education initiatives of our institutions. That's the main thrust of our collections, instructional role etc. But most academic libs I've visited a provide at least some type of popular book collection, be it purchased or rented. And popular magazines. In my small library the academic journals mostly stay on the shelf and we put Oprah back several times a day. And that's fine.

Same with computer use. I think it is very cool that more and more of our students see the library as a place to come hang out between classes and use our resources. Whether that's working on a paper, studying from reserve materials, reading Oprah or looking at Facebook. There are certain times of the day when it is really hopping in here. We do have a policy where academic use of computers takes priority but we rarely have to use it. Between the workstations and laptops we usually have enough computers for everyone. Although occasionally all the laptops are in use! And there are more and more students taking advantage of the wireless with their own laptops. They're probably not all searching the catalog or typing a paper.

Sure student X is probably going to spend more time in the library using the computer to check email or MySpace than doing research. But she is going to do that stuff somewhere. It might as well be the library so when she DOES need to do school work she'll be more likely to use our resources and maybe even ask for help since she's already comfy in OurSpace.

Note: The Blogger spellcheck wants to replace "MySpace" with "Mishaps". Thanks for your 2 cents, spellcheck!


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