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Archive for March, 2009

Glasgow Libraries Barred Website Message

Spent the weekend at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow; soaking up the atmosphere from the latest Aye Write Book Festival.  Attended a couple of really good events too.  However, despite enjoying both of these events immensely they’re not what I remember most about my visits…

I had thought it might be a good idea to tweet about the events I attended but when I tried to access Twitter on The Mitchell Library’s public access computers I was informed that Twitter was considered to be an ‘unacceptable website’. Surely not, I thought, so I tried again, on a different computer.  Same message again.   Made me wonder about what else would be blocked.  Attempted to login to Facebook and although the ‘unacceptable website’ message did not pop  up, a strange login screen did and when I attempted to type in my user name and password I realised that nothing was appearing on the screen. Seemed to be locked out of that one as well.  Tried MySpace, same thing! Okay, they’re blocking social networking websites I thought….but then something happened that made no sense whatsoever.  I was able to login to Bebo no problem.   I also tried to access Flickr and YouTube but they were inaccessible too.  Stranger still was what I found out later.   Glasgow City Council had been using Twitter to help promote the Aye Write festival, and there were buttons on the Aye Write website encouraging users to visit their profile on both Facebook and MySpace…  

Confused and annoyed I asked a few different Library Assistants why I couldn’t access these websites and they all gave me the same answer; “all social networking sites are banned in the library”.  I asked each one  why  social networking had been banned and also, if there was a ‘blanket ban’ like they were suggesting, why was I able to access Bebo?  None of them could answer this question but they did invite me to write my queries on a customer comment card, which I did.  I’m looking forward to receiving a response because I really do want to know why Glasgow Libraries have taken this stance against social networking, especially when they appear to be using social networking themselves to promote their own  book festival.

I know that Glasgow is not alone in their approach to social networking but I am also aware that a growing number of library authorities are using  these new technologies to promote awareness and engagement outwith the constraints of the ‘walled garden’; providing users and staff with an opportunity to learn web 2.0 skills; educating users on how to effectively manage their virtual lives; and encouraging participation and collaboration.  

I understand the need for AUPs in public libraries and I am also aware that social networking is sometimes presented negatively in the press but instead of banning these websites wouldn’t it be more beneficial, for both the library service and the users,  if more public libraries took on the role of educator rather than censor?  

obamafb3gordonbrowntw3After all, when two world leaders, Barack Obama  and Gordon Brown, start using these very websites to communicate with citizens and promote awareness,  is it not about time that we stopped banning access to them in our public libraries?

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