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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.