Friends Don’t Block Friends (2)

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According to the social media policy for Montgomery County Memorial Library System (MCMLS), “Library social media offerings are intended to create a welcoming and inviting online space where library users will find useful and entertaining information.”  Sounds  great!  But then why does MCMLS restrict access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, and Pinterest from all MCMLS computers, including staff computers.  Not very “welcoming or inviting,” if you ask me.   And, how are users supposed to find this “useful and entertaining information” if they can’t access these sites?  Oh, I know, they have to have their own computers and access the sites from home – too bad for those of you who don’t have that option.  Or, they could have a smartphone, but will need 4G to access within the library because the sites are still blocked through the WiFi.  But wait –the library will unblock access for anyone over 18 who asks, but only on the MCMLS computers, not on personal devices. 

Huh.  This blocked access to social media says many things to me, none of which are good.  I understand blocking pornography sites, especially from minors.  I don’t put any of the aforementioned social media sites anywhere near the realm of pornography sites in terms of content.  

Social media sites need to be removed from the filters for many reasons including:

  1. Because anyone over 18 can have the restrictions removed, this policy sends the message that MCMLS does not welcome teens in the library.  What? That’s not true.  How can you say that? MCMLS welcomes teens – hosts YA book clubs, gaming nights, social and advisory groups.  MCMLS loves teens.  Well, all that may be true; however, by not allowing access to social media sites that teens use MCMLS is sending the message that teens can’t be trusted with these sites or are not valued enough as patrons to provide free computer access to them.                                                                                                    In 2006, legislation was introduced to Congress seeking to prohibit minors from accessing chat rooms and popular social networking websites such as Facebook or MySpace.  “The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools and libraries to block access to a broad selection of web content including commercial websites that ‘allow users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves’ or ‘offer communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.’” (ALA Like CIPA, the legislation would affect e-rate funding for schools’ and libraries’ internet access.  The House of Representatives passed the bill, but it did not pass the Senate.   Because this bill did not pass, MCMLS does not lose any funding by providing access to these sites.
  2. Social media sites are valuable sources of information.  Isn’t that the role of the library – to provide access to information?  Isn’t that the stated mission of MCMLS’ social media use: to provide spaces for patrons to find useful and entertaining information?  Blocking access to these sites is a form of censorship which is clearly in violation of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, “III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  3. It is a bit counter-intuitive for MCMLS to say, “Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter” but just don’t do it at the library.  We want you to be our friend, but we don’t trust you to use these sites responsibly, at least not on our computers.  
  4. It is the library’s responsibility  to provide access to information to ALL patrons, not just the ones with home computers, 4G, or who are over 18.

If MCMLS wants people to friend them on Facebook, then they have to treat people like friends.  Friends welcome friends… friends trust friends… friends include friends.  Friends don’t block friends.

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3 thoughts on “Friends Don’t Block Friends (2)

  1. Carleen

    Wow. I mean. Wow. I thought we had gotten past this phase? I worked in a public library back in 2006, I remember full well how libraries all over were remolding policies so they could block social media sites. They’re excuse was always something along the lines of “it just makes the teens too noisy, they always end up gathering in groups around the computer” or “we must protect our children from evil social media because only evil people lurk in those evil online spaces”. Since then, study after study, book after book have come out supporting the use of social media and the need to provide more access to it. The book Hanging out, Messing Around, Geeking out comes to mind. How are people supposed to build transliteracy and metaliteracy skills when our public libraries won’t even provide access to some of the most heavily used social media sites?

    Reply
  2. Nicole Wiley

    My coworkers and I grumble plenty about Facebook (the website doesn’t work well on some of the public computers for whatever reason) but I would never dream of blocking it! Do you think blocking websites like Facebook is similar to censoring books?

    Reply
  3. kallierees Post author

    Hi Nicole,
    I think blocking access to information is similar to censoring books. I think deeming that one group of patrons can have access and another cannot is akin to censorship. For some people the library is their only way to access the internet. It is not the librarian’s role to decide how people use the computers, it is merely to provide access. So I guess yes, I do believe that blocking websites like Facebook is similar to censoring books. It is denying access to content based on a one-sided judgement about that content.

    Reply

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