Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Grown-Ups on Facebook: Bad Idea Jeans?

The NY Times has this nifty weekly column, called Cyberfamilias. I love that, in part because we sometimes call my Dad The Paterfamilias, and I just think working Latin words into everyday conversation is funny, and in part because our age is such a perfect one for portmanteaux. Also, every time I see a word ending in "-familias", I think of George Clooney in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? shouting about being the "Got-damned paterfamilias".

Where was I? Oh yes, Cyberfamilias. How appropriate that my introduction to the column was this gem, "omg my mom joined facebook!", which details the mortifying process of a mother of teenagers attempting to join her daughter's online world, only to be coolly and thoroughly rebuffed: "everyone in the whole world thinks its super creepy when adults have facebooks.”

Looking at my own anecdotal evidence, I'm starting to think she's right.

I have a MySpace, which I signed up for thinking it'd be a good way to keep in touch with the teens who use my library. Turns out the teens who use my library aren't all that interested in being friends with me on MySpace -- they're perfectly cordial in person, but they seem to regard The Internets as their world, not mine. At any rate, I haven't logged in since January, at least, and I don't foresee logging in anytime soon. I may delete it, I may not. Turns out, it's a nice way to find long-lost friends from high school.

I think what it comes down to is that often in libraryland, some of us who are into technology (and I am most certainly including myself in this category) suffer from what Marcus calls "Oooh, shiny!" Syndrome -- we are like magpies, hunting down and hoarding up anything new that we think we can use to better connect with our patrons. This is not intrinsically bad, but when we adopt a technology without thinking through how we're going to use it, or how much time it will take to make it yield the results we're hoping for, we are setting ourselves up to look really stupid.

I'm not arguing against experimentation, or trying things out, and certainly not against chucking our field-wide terror of Not Doing Things The Right Way. I'm just saying that just as "Oooh, shiny!"-itis is not intrinsically bad, neither are all of the nifty little (and not-so-little) technological innovations intrinsically useful for us.

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  • At 7:18 PM, Blogger CPL said…

    These're complex questions: should librarians invade teenspace? or, more generally, should grownups invade teenspace? -- and the answers are complex, too.

    I think, for instance, that adults are often unaware of the social norms governing sites like Facebook -- and make newbie mistakes that may embarrass teens. So, savvy behavior may help to establish legitimacy.

    And these sites are viral -- and what's popular in one place, may not be in another. I was at a local YA Roundtable meeting on Tuesday where a librarian said that teens in her community are still using MySpace. We're just a few miles away, the teens here aren't on MySpace at all anymore -- they're on Facebook, where I've followed them. So it's a mistake to say, "well, our library MySpace page flopped, so we're done with social networking."

    I've been experimenting with using Facebook to promote one particular program offered by our library -- and it has been really successful. But I only communicate with the teens in the context of our GROUP. I don't try to "friend" them, and I don't contact them at all unless they contact me, first.

    I agree that we shouldn't jump on board with shiny new technologies just because they're shiny -- but I think that social networking is here to stay -- and that we need to figure out how to be respectful and relevant in those spaces.

    teen librarian
    Cheshire Public Library

  • At 8:55 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    SKM, I agree that social networking is here to stay, and that we need to figure out how to be relevant in social networking spaces. As you say, savvy behavior can help to establish legitimacy.

    I think, though, that we might consider some spaces off-limits to adults. As you can probably tell, I am thinking out loud here -- on the one hand, I think it makes perfect sense to work at reaching teens where they are. On the other, I think many well-intentioned librarians bark up the wrong tree when they try to bandwagon-jump, even when they've done their legitimacy-building homework.

    My library is by no means done with social networking, btw -- we are blogging our hearts out, and we have a Flickr account, even if we don't update it as frequently as we should.

    I think my overall point is that I see a *tremendous* amount of ink, digital and otherwise, going towards "rah! rah! social networking RULZ!" -- and I have contributed some of it, myself -- but now that the first blush of enthusiasm has receded for me, I'm trying to think more critically about how my library in particular can make the best use of these technologies with the limited time & staff resources that we have.

    A follow-up question for you: are you on Facebook as yourself, or is your Facebook your library's Facebook?

  • At 7:48 PM, Blogger CPL said…

    I love this thread!

    Thanks for your original post -- and for responding to my comment.

    I'm in full agreement with you on the need for JUDICIOUS use of social networking technologies by librarians and teachers. My hackles were raised slightly, though, by the girl who thought it was "super creepy" for adults to be visible on those spaces. I spend lots of time explaining (mostly to other adults) that it *isn't* creepy for me to be on Facebook. Inadvisable, maybe, in the long term -- and I think that's a question worth debating -- but totally uncreepy.

    And RE Facebook -- I have a personal account, which I used to set up a group for our library podcast program. Right now, my policy is only to respond to friend requests from library teens, but not to initiate them. Teen "friends" only get to see the most public part of my profile: my picture, my contact information, some other basic public information (and my favorite books).

    I love the privacy options on Facebook -- they're WAY better than on MySpace -- because they enable me to have just one profile that I can use both for professional and personal stuff.

    Also thinking out loud,


  • At 9:14 AM, Blogger zee said…

    Thank you for this article. I just cross-posted on my blog (giving you credit of course), which it just so happens feeds directly into my facebook page. I just recently set up Facebook for the same reason you cited, to connect with my teens at the library. So far it is going good. Of course, I do like to snoop in, but I never get involved with their angst. Maybe motive plays into this. Maybe the reasons you join will shine through. I am not here as a parent to snoop on my child, nor am I here to use bright and shiny technology. I am their because that is where it's at right now, and I care about my teens. Not everyone has accepted my invitation, but several of them have, mostly my TAB members. Now I can send them a bulletin and know they all will get it. No longer are teens checking their email, they are facebooking till the cows come home, though.

  • At 5:26 PM, Blogger Liz B said…

    Poor adults...they're damned if they wear mom jeans, they're damned if they are "trying too hard to be teens."

    Call me eternally optimistic, but I do think there is a happy medium possible. Not every adult on facebook is creepy; but there are no doubt some who are.

    And some adults (Parents, librarians, etc.) invade teen space in an unhealthy way, either to stifle/control the teen OR to because they think they are their teens BFF.

    My MySpace has been a semi exercise; most of my friends are authors & librarians with a handful of real life friends. I don't use half the functions; but I do now have a better understanding of how it works, why it works, and the appeal & uses. And I have heard anecdotal evidence of MySpace being a much better way to advertise program information for teens than any other source; tho, arguably, that can be done by asking a teen to send messages/ bulletins instead of having a library MySpace. A friend of mine had attendance jump 100 percentat an event once the teens saw poor turnout and jumped on their myspace pages.

    I'm a bit torn about the "stay out of teen space" idea. I feel that its an artifical divide; do we want a world out of Uglies (or Logan's Run, for that matter), with teens here, kids there, seniors hidden away someplace else with no mixing?

    I think the important thing in life (and libraryland) is to experiment with the various technologies available to gain a basic understanding; and then, find out if it's something that will work for your community. There's no one size fits all, whether its blogging, wikis, flickr, etc.

    I can equally be "ooh shiny"... but this is where libraries need to give staff room to play as well as the room to realize that it's OK to decide a new technology woesn't fit the community; and freedom to move quickly when the technology is a fit.

    Also (as sophie & others have heard me say over and over and are so tired of it!) with any new tech stuff, my question is what will you do with it? Not, ooh, a blog, let's get one! Like you said, how are we going to use it? Along with adminstration/management who realizes that no, you aren't wasting time on the internet... you're exploring and discovering and trying to figure out what is out there that will work with your community.

    A blog, a myspace...why? what will you do? What are your guidelines? If it's just "its the latest cool thing"...then it's not going to succeed.

  • At 3:49 AM, Blogger Kevin said…

    OK, I don't think it's creepy that you joined facebook but I think it's creepy you tried to add you daughter and all her friends. You should add your own friends, not your kids friends. THAT was the creepy part.


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