Why you should let your teen patrons design the library's MySpace profile

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Cara Sawyer from the Cherryfield Free Public Library, a small independent library in Maine. Cara informed me that she recently decided to replace their little-used web site with a MySpace page, and she enlisted the teens that use the library’s two public access computers to help her set it up and maintain it. She also has plans to enlist some of these same teens to help her set up accounts for the library on other social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo.

Cara says that her embrace of technology has tripled the number of children and young adults coming into the library. She attributes this increase to:

the fact that I am a computer junkie myself and an avid computer gamer…. They have discovered that when I talk about computers I know what I’m talking about. I can help them with things. I can help them with homework. I can help them with online gaming or whatever it is they happen to be doing. They come in to use the computers, but I’m also getting them into reading programs that they wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. But they do enjoy having a librarian who can help them with the computers.

Throughout our wonderful conversation, I could tell how much Cara loved working with teens and children in the library. I can only imagine that the children in Cherryfield also see and appreciate how engaged she is.

Here are some great resources on MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites in libraries:

· Xavier Aubuchon-Mendoza’s blog post on Exploring outer Myspace

· Kami Griffith’s blog post on The Serious Business of Having Fun

· Marc Ruben of Techsoup with The 10 Commandments of Myspace

· Woody Evans of Library Journal with NextGen:My Myspace Comment, a bit of a criticism toward how libraries were using Myspace in 2007

Does your library have a Myspace or Facebook page? Have you noticed public access computers pulling in more children and young adults? How do you deal with greater numbers of children and teens in your library?

Jennifer Nelson
Summer Interviewing Intern
Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Science