Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Twitter and Teens

As I was refreshing my browser today to see the myriad of Twitter comments on the HarperCollins e-book issue, I started thinking again about my students and their general disregard of the microblogging tool. In my freshman Information Literacy & Technology course I cover digital footprint and review many of the social networking tools available. We cover how to use them effectively, how not get yourself in trouble and how people use them for communication and to reinforce social norms. My students had all heard of Twitter but most had not looked at a profile or understood what it was all about. I set up a page for the library (@GSLMC) after I realized that I was following some co-workers who had protected their tweets and I was essentially violating their privacy by showing their tweets to the students when using my page (@liberrygurl) for demonstrations. A handful of the teens had their own accounts, but they were few and far between. They thought it was interesting and the videos on the Common Craft site did a fantastic job of explaining how the process works. At the end of the lessons I gave a "quiz" where they had to tell me one Web 2.0 tool that they hadn't used before but thought was interesting, one that they didn't see the need for and what they learned about the importance of maintaining a good digital footprint. Most of my students put Twitter as an interesting, but unnecessary tool. Facebook essentially does the same thing. I wonder if we had spent more time with it that they would see the value in it. I use it for professional development, but they don't have to worry about that yet. Their world, at least at this point in their lives, doesn't extend much further than the county lines. My constant reminders to consider anything online international and permanent was surprising to some of them. Perhaps I should have spent more time and picked a current events trend and showed them another use for it. When I see workshops at conferences espousing how to use Twitter and Facebook in classrooms I wonder if I'm not seeing the big picture or if the presenters don't really understand how teens use these tools - or which tools they really use. Teens, mine at least, don't seem interested in Twitter and I really don't want the legal liability of having to report things I accidentally come across on their Facebook page while trying to incorporate it into a project. I can see value for using Twitter in the classroom, especially with current events, but it isn't a tool that teens are gravitating toward on their own.

26 books

The library world is up in arms at HarperCollins, who announced recently that it's e-books would only be able to be checked out 26 times before the library would have to purchase another copy. This is an interesting dilemma in our digital world. On one hand, 26 seems like a rather low, arbitrary number. I have been reading the numerous blogs, articles and tweets on the issue since the announcement was made and haven't found the answer to that yet. Certainly most library books of decent quality can be circulated more than 26 times before they disintegrate in our hands. However, on the other hand, unless formats change radically in the next few years (which is not out of the realm of possibility), HC has a point that digital copies don't have the wear and tear of paper books and therefore they could lose money on replacement copies. If my memory serves me right from library school, I believe most books go out of print within 5 years, so finding replacement copies for some books may not even be possible anyway.

But to get back to the topic at hand, have we created this through current licensing practices? We basically rent most of our subscription databases on an annual basis. My library spends thousands of dollars a year for access to World Book, Historical Newspapers, all of Facts on File's products, Global Issues in Context and a number of other resources. My patrons don't have access to those resources if I don't get the bills paid every year. Have we already set the precedent of being willing to pay for some digital products and rent others? I'm not saying HC is correct in their actions, but this is yet another issue that needs to be sorted out in our digital world. Librarians have the right to choose who they purchase their materials from and, as long as publishers are upfront about the purchasing rules, this issue should sort itself out soon.

I don't know the solution, but with today's social networking tools it is amazing to follow how quickly the issue was taken up, blogs were written and boycott HarperCollins web pages were created.