Via the South Bend Tribune and a bunch of folks who emailed me:
You can no longer use MySpace, Facebook or other “social networking sites” at Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library.
Fights, lewd language and cars being blocked in the parking lot by teenagers are among the problems Director Dave Eisen said have plagued the downtown library lately.
He told library board members that adults have complained about not feeling safe at the library. Eisen and his staff believe the teenagers are there to use MySpace, Facebook and other social sites.
Oh boy. This is my hometown library. It saddens me that the space between “social networking sites” to “not feeling safe” seems so short. The article notes the ban is probably working:
It might have worked, as there were few teenagers going to the computer room by 3:30 p.m. Friday, a half hour after it normally begins to fill up. There were few teenagers even coming in to the computer room at the library.
I wonder where the teens will go? Maybe to SJCPL, which has wifi and computers at all locations. I wonder how the library will be perceived in a few years as these young people grow up, graduate Mishawaka High and begin the next chapter of their lives. Will they remember the library later? Will they care about it? If you remember, this is where I got my first library card. Will they bring their kids? Will they rather go to the Panera, Starbucks, Martins Supermarkets (which has free wifi), the Info Commons at IUSB, etc.
Shouldn’t the library be participating in offering access to these spaces while actively intervening and educating these digital citizens?
I reminded of Maplewood. It’s a similar thing really: locking the doors of the library or blocking access to sites. Are there alternatives? I think there are but it depends so much on the library. I’d take a long look at services to teens at the library. Isn’t this a perfect time for engagement and education? I know some libraries have been successful with “Rock my MySpace” classes for teens while parents get “Social Networking & Your Kids” style learning opportunities. I’d love to hear what the teen librarians have done at MPL – have there been classes? Is there a teen advisory board?
I think I have some questions about this ban as well. Are the sites blocked via wifi too? Is it just teens or everyone? I communicate with my students via Facebook and just joined the Dominican group there. Could I check in on my students via Facebook if I happened to be at the library? I’m also wondering about sites like Flickr. What if I was home for a few days and my Comcast went down? Would I be able to upload pics to Flickr at MPL? Or maybe I could just head to Panera. The teens, however, might not have a laptop to take to Panera.
My former employer, the SJCPL is mentioned:
Don Napoli, director of the St. Joseph County Public Library, said the staff there has discussed problems with teenagers but decided to try to get them into the library instead of trying to get them to leave.
“They do cause problems,” he said. “But that’s life.”
Amen. I think my heart would break a little if a library system so progressive as SJCPL banned access to social sites.
I’d love some feedback and inspiration here to help me understand. What has worked for you, TTW readers, when encountering young people who cause “all kinds of disturbances” as Mishawaka Public Library Director David Eisen states. Have you banned and blocked? Have you intervened and educated? Please share.
And if anyone from Mishawaka Public Library can offer more insight, please do.
Further reading for Mishawaka Public Library folk: http://www.librarycrunch.com/2007/01/responding_to_teens.html
Update — see also: