BookCrossing against Censorship: A Program for Teens Amanda McKinlay LIBR 528 Judith Saltman April 13, 2007 BookCrossing against Censorship: A Program for Teens There is a lot of talk in library literature these days about reaching teens in their technological playing field. In fact, YALSA1 just held it’s first annual Teen Tech Week (March 4-10, 2007), a promotional initiative that highlights “the important role technology plays in teen life and the need for librarians to integrate the ways teens use technology into their programs and services” (Braun). Internet technologies in particular have become “an important communication tool for publicizing programs and services, as well as an avenue for providing some of those programs and services” (Bishop and Bauer). Approximately 90% of American teens (12-17) are Internet users (Lenhart, Madden and Hitlin i), with 55% of online teenagers using social networking sites in which users “create a profile and connect that profile to other profiles for the purpose of making an explicit personal network2” (Lenhart and Madden 1). It only makes sense for libraries to attempt to relate programming to teens through the Internet medium, and social software in particular. To follow is a simulated social networking program for teens organized by the fictitious TeenLibrarian of West Vancouver Memorial Library (WVML). Wanting to reach teens in their virtual playing field, WVML’s TeenLibrarian set up a library space in Facebook (the preferred social networking site of local teens); any library-card-holding teen is welcome to join the group, which TeenLibrarian titled “TeenSpeak.” Here is where TeenLibrarian uploads photos of teens at programs and posts questions on the Discussion Board to which the teen advisory group (TAG) and other interested teens may respond. The TAG is usually quick to reply and start their own threads of discussion on The Wall, the site’s message board.3 The online forum facilitates the discussion process, since it means the TAG does not have to meet in person as frequently; TeenLibrarian notices that posts are often made in the wee hours of the morning. 1 American Library Association’s Young Adult division (YALSA). 2 Of teenagers online, the most prevalent users of social software are older female teens aged 15 to 17; 70% of older girls have created profiles in a social networking site compared to 57% of older boys, 63% of teens 14-17 and 37% of teens 12-13 (Lenhart and Madden 3). 48% of teenagers “visit social networking websites daily or more often” (Lenhart and Madden 2), half of them with the purpose of meeting new people (Lenhart and Madden 2). 3 TeenLibrarian has the power to delete any inappropriate or offensive posts. TeenLibrarian was about to post her latest idea. Based on poor participation in YA reading programs,4 TeenLibrarian wanted to make an effort to revolutionize the traditional book club for this new era of tech-crazy teens. After all, the fundamental thing about YA programs is that “they allow teens to connect to the library in a different way” (Jones, Gorman, and Suellentrop 220). She thought community teenagers just might be interested in sharing books through a social networking initiative called BookCrossing. What is BookCrossing? The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines “BookCrossing” as “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.” The intention is to create a form of global book club. TeenLibrarian would explain it like this: Read a great book… Register it at BookCrossing.com. Make a profile for yourself (use a screen name if you want to stay anonymous) and post a comment or two in the journal (if you like); then record the unique BookCrossing ID number in the (downloadable) label you stick inside the book cover… Release the book into the wild (ie: leave it on the bus, on your friend’s doorstep, in the change room at American Eagle… wherever!) for some other lucky teen to find or “catch.” Whoever catches a book will go online to tell you about it. You’ll get an email message to tell you there’s been a post to you about your book. These are the "3 Rs" of BookCrossing. But, there are other features to explore as well. You can post “release notes” on the book so that teens interested in a particular title can go “hunting” for it and try to catch it before somebody else does. You can start collecting friends and form “Bookring” groups to discuss your favourite reads, just chat with random people, and invite people to visit your own blog or website. You can even submit an article for publication on the site. TeenLibrarian thought BookCrossing had not only the obvious capacity to promote reading, but also the potential for fun—the operative word in teen programming (Jones, Gorman, and Suellentrop 219). BookCrossing might “capture a teen’s sense of 4 Just 10%, as discussed below mystery” (Hughes) and help teens to express themselves, socialize, form new relationships, and engage with social software technology. In fact, BookCrossing could also be a way to promote intellectual freedom and the democratic role of libraries in the community. BookCrossing stands in the face of censorship; perhaps BookCrossing could be used to publicize the ALA’s Banned Books week. The more the idea churned in TeenLibrarian’s mind, the more BookCrossing sounded like an attractive program to try, fulfilling the core values of teen services5 and complementing the WVML’s strategic plan alike. Program Rationale Community: WVML6 is the sole library in the community, serving a population of approximately 43,600 people, 6000 (or 14%) of which are young adults (aged 10-19yrs) (WV Community). The population is highly educated and financially secure7. The library’s strategic plan is to promote literacy, resource sharing, and awareness of the library’s value in the community. The library’s mission is to “bring the world’s information, ideas and culture to the entire community.” TeenLibrarian considered a BookCrossing program to be an effective way to target such ambitions. In addition, recent surveys suggest that West Vancouver (WV) youths’ opinions are under-valued (See Appendix). TeenLibrarian felt that a social BookCrossing program aimed against censorship could be a proactive way to encourage youth to make their voices heard. 5 Patrick Jones outlines ten core values that “provide the foundation for all services to teenagers in school and public libraries” (17): developmental needs, youth development, developmental assets, youth advocacy, youth participation, collaboration, information literacy, adolescent literacy, learning achievement, equity of access and intellectual freedom. 6 WVML is located in the 1900 block of Marine Drive, West Vancouver 7 WV has an average annual household income of $115,000, although 22% of households earn less than $30,000 per year. Objectives: The purpose of the BookCrossing against Censorship program is to support the core values of teen services, taking into account youths’ needs for social interaction, self- expression, community involvement, literacy growth, and equal access to information. Specifically, TeenLibrarian intends for BookCrossing against Censorship to give teens: An electronic forum through which to share opinions and form friendships. A chance to participate in a community and global effort to democratize access to books The encouragement to share their favourite reads with their peers. Teenagers prefer to read what other teens are reading, especially teenagers who don’t like to read (Bromann 56). An opportunity to practice writing skills in the form of posting reviews and submitting essays about their BookCrossing experiences. An occasion to further develop print and computer literacy skills Insight into issues of censorship in the community and globally Awareness of the value of a public library to a democratic system To date, no book has ever been “released” into the community in this fashion. Consequently, the uniqueness of the program and its potential to become pervasive and ongoing within and without the teen sector could help to draw publicity to the library. TeenLibrarian concluded that promotion of WVML would also an objective of the teen program. Program Preparation Before getting too excited about the idea, TeenLibrarian knew she should consult her TAG. She decided to log in to Facebook immediately and get the idea out on the Discussion Board. Her post was dated Feb. 4, 4:31pm. It explained BookCrossing and described the details of the library program—including incentive prizes and contests8. 8 Prizes will be awarded to books that travel the most frequently, books that garner the most reviews, and books that travel the farthest. A writing contest will ask teens to describe their BookCrossing experience; the winner will be published at bookcrossing.com. Within 24 hours, a dozen TAG members had replied with enthusiasm9 and the program was on. TeenLibrarian began by drawing up a timeline and prioritizing the order of operations. Funding and Contacts First, TeenLibrarian had to organize the funding for the books and contact potential speakers to present on issues of censorship. TeenLibrarian contacted Chapters.Indigo, which agreed to donate 150 books. Funding was also collected from local teen-friendly businesses who donated in exchange for becoming an Official BookCrossing Zone, a “friendly place to take or leave a book.”10 In the end, the library had acquired enough for the purchase of about 350 books. TeenLibrarian calculated that she and the TAG would decide upon twelve titles and purchase thirty copies of each. Then, by email, she contacted the University of British Columbia faculties of Library, Archival and Information Studies, Creative Writing, Fine Arts, and Journalism, asking if there were students, professors, or alumni interested in being part of a dynamic panel presenting to teenagers on censorship. She also contacted news reporters from the CBC and from local newspapers with the same inquiry. Finally, she considered approaching those in the entertainment industry and sent requests to the popular teen radio station The Beat 94.3 and computer game developers at the Vancouver-based company Electronic Arts. And she waited. In tandem with the TAG, TeenLibrarian then developed a list of books that resonated with the theme of censorship or freedom of information.11 For the initial phase, 9 “omg that sounds so cool,” said little_maddie. “lol. we can be like ‘an underground society of booklovers’ (A.)” said cutiepie13. The TAG seemed excited. To them “BookCrossing seemed exclusive and secretive” (A.) and fun. Subsequent posts from other teens voiced concerns. What if teenagers just kept the books? What if teens vandalized the books? What if teens didn’t participate because they don’t like to read? TeenLibrarian considered the issues and reasoned that these were essentially the same worries that the library encountered in-house on a regular basis. The desire to try a new approach to the teen book club, and the teens’ positive feedback gave her the courage to set the program in motion. 10 These restaurants, fashion boutiques, entertainment stores, and coffee bar locales received BookCrossing signage from the library inviting traffic from teens looking to “release” or “catch” books at their establishments. 11 TeenLibrarian was looking for engrossing and important reads that exposed the unspoken, the hidden, the disallowed. She suggested a few dozen recommended titles from review journals. The TAG members all chimed in on The Wall, adding titles of their own favourite books as well as providing comments critiquing TeenLibrarian’s and each other’s choices. TeenLibrarian reminded them that they could release as many titles themselves as they wanted. In order to meet the criteria of wide appeal to teen males and females of she chose and ordered copies of just ten titles. On March 6, 2007, the ALA published its list of the most challenged books of 2006. TeenLibrarian selected and ordered copies of two more popular, critically acclaimed titles from this list. She featured the ALA list on the Teen Web site and used this as the catalyst for her program, also posting information about the BookCrossing program scheduled to begin the week after Spring Break. On March 26th, she would be out booktalking at high schools, promoting BookCrossing against Censorship, a six-month long educational, promotional, interactive and fun program about intellectual freedom. While students were on Spring Break, TeenLibrarian organized events and a panel of presenters on censorship (See Appendix). Promotion: When TeenLibrarian presented her booktalks, she also explained the details of BookCrossing, and described the incentives of participating in the program. She passed out a brochure featuring brief annotations of the selected books, the BookCrossing Web site, and information about upcoming censorship events at the library. Teens were then invited to come into the library to pick up a free copy of the book of their choice on a first-come-first-serve basis. TAG-produced posters were pinned up throughout the schools and in local hangouts. The library set up an Official Teen BookCrossing Zone shelf in the teen section.12 What Happened? The free BookCrossing books flew out of the library faster than anticipated. In just three weeks (according to bookcorssing.com) the number of books released in WV spiked from 0 to 58. Over the next month, the number increased dramatically to 176. Students were posting book reviews and comments to one another on the BookCrossing different ages, reading levels and interests, TeenLibrarian made the final choices based on the transcript of the teens’ posts. She was careful to include a graphic novel, a non-fiction selection and works from local and Canadian authors. 12 Books were clearly marked with the BookCrossing logo so as to distinguish them from the library’s collection. site as well as on the Library’s TeenSpeak Facebook Wall. Books from teens’ own shelves started to be circulated in the community too. In addition, real friendships were occurring, facilitated by social software and a shared book. It wasn’t long before the media caught wind of the global teen book club. TeenLibrarian and a couple of her TAG members were interviewed in the local newspaper The North Shore News and then on CBC radio’s morning news show, The Early Edition.13 The in-house censorship panels were well attended and reviewed. Plus, the library’s circulation statistics of teen collections in particular and of adult and children’s materials as well were notably improved over previous years. The success of the BookCrossing program had a second wind as librarians visited schools again to promote summer reading clubs. Teens were reminded of the program and contests and were encouraged to release any and all books from their own shelves. The summer vacation gave busy teens time to read and release books, as well as the potential for books to be ‘caught’ in other cities. Grand Finale: The finale of the program coincided with ALA’s banned book week (September 29-October 6, 2007). A celebration was held at the library. Contest winners were announced for the most frequent, most reviewed, and farthest circulating registered books.14 Winners and runners-up received gift certificates from Javahouse. The library received close to 100 submissions to the “Don’t be Shelfish” essay contest describing participants’ experiences with BookCrossing. Future Store Depot (an Official BookCrossing Zone) donated an I-phone as the prize15. BookCrossing.com published the article online, as did WVML. 13 Host Rick Cluff promised on air to participate on the WVML censorship panel, sharing his personal stories of censorship in the media industry. 14 Believe it or not, one book (by a Canadian author no less) made it as far as New Zealand! 15 Wherever the winner goes, he or she can check out the status of a released book or conduct up-to-the minute book hunting. Evaluation Due to the teen program’s publicity, libraries in other cities in British Columbia and Canada contacted the WVML to inquire about how they too could implement a similar program in their communities. Teens in the WV community continued to participate in BookCrossing, sharing their own books with the community, expressing themselves in the online forum and establishing relationships with other teen BookCrossers in WV and the world at large. Membership of TeenSpeak group more than doubled. The teen BookCrossing against Censorship program was indeed achieving its broad goals to update teen services in a digital era, involve teens in the community and in literacy activities, encourage self-expression, and expand circulation of information in the virtual and physical spheres. Evermore, the WVML remained an Official BookCrossing Zone. Words: 2,078 APPENDIX West Vancouver Memorial Library Youth Surveys: In 2004, the WVML conducted two surveys—an on-site survey and a general public telephone survey—which continue to inform the Strategic Plan for 2006-2010. With the support of the WVML, the community also developed a 2002 civic youth strategy to confront “concerns … expressed, in various ways, by youth and adults… about whether the District's youth were full beneficiaries of [WV’s] many attributes” (Wagner and Chuback 4). In preparing the strategy, the city surveyed 3,198 students in grades 8 through 12. The findings clearly indicate that the community has work to do to improve the inclusiveness of young adults. Less than 50% of teens felt that “youth are ‘valued’ by the West Vancouver community” (Wagner and Chuback 7); just 30% felt that “youth are ‘respected’” (Wagner and Chuback 7). The teens cite two principle factors contributing to their sense of rejection: a lack of recreational spaces and a lack of interest in their opinions. 61.5% of library-card-holding teens use the library less than once per month; 23.5% of those report never using the library (Yates, Thorn & Associates 21). When teens were asked how they use the library, just 10.2% of teens indicated they used the reading club service (Yates, Thorn & Associates 21). In general, WV’s youth feel detached from the library and believe there are “no ways to make their views heard” (Wagner and Chuback 7). Censorship Panel & Events: TeenLibrarian received confirmation from several groups willing to deliver presentations addressing censorship issues. Anticipating some privacy concerns on the part of parents and teachers, TeenLibrarian’s first panel was on the issue of Internet safety. The following is the itinerary for upcoming months: Internet Safety Workshop: “When it’s Stupid Not to Censor.” WV TeenLibrarian speaks to parents and teens about personal online safety. (April 16) Teen Movie Night: Teens meet for popcorn and a movie about censorship16. (April 26) Censorship Panel I: Challenged Books. UBC School of Library Archival and Information Studies Professor Judith Saltman gives an eye-opening presentation about challenged young adult materials. Local teen writers describe their own experiences with censorship. (April 30) Blogger Workshop: WV TeenLibrarian teaches teens how to set up an account at Blogger.com. Read: Blog about your BookCrossing experiences or whatever else is on your mind. Make your voices heard! (May 5) Censorship Panel II: Entertainment. Game designers from Electronic Arts & DJs Kid Carson and Nira Arora from The Beat 94.5 encourage a debate about challenged video games and music respectively. (May 14) Censorship Panel III: Current Events. Local newspaper reporters and UBC journalism students present the top ten stories ignored by Canadian media and discuss freedom of expression issues. (May 28) Censorship Panel IV: Visual Arts. “Artists Busted.” A representative of the Canada Counsel for the Arts discusses and exhibits images of censored art throughout history. Local painters, sculptors, and photographers describe their own experiences with censorship. (June 11) In further preparation for the launching of the BookCrossing program, TeenLibrarian acquired podcasting software to make panel discussions available through the library teen Web site. She also created evaluation forms to be filled out by participants attending sessions. One to two weeks prior to each in-house program, TeenLibrarian put the word out on the TeenSpeak page and the library teen Web page. She also had TAG members post promotional bulletins within schools and at Official BookCrossing Zone establishments in the community. The in-house censorship sessions were well attended, with 46 teens attending the entertainment panel session and 120 teens and adults attending the media session with celebrity broadcasting personalities. 16 The TAG chose to screen the teen classic Pump Up the Volume. Works Cited A. Heather. “Wild Release.” Teen Ink. February 2005. 6 April 2007 <http://teenink.com/Past/2005/February/18695.html> American Library Association. “‘And Tango Makes Three’ tops ALA's 2006 list of most challenged books.” Ala.org. 6 March 2007. 7 April 2007. <http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=News&template=/ContentManageme nt/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=151926> Bishop, Kay and Pat Bauer. “Attracting Young Adults to Public Libraries.” Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. Winter (2002): 36- 44. Academic Search Premier. U of British Columbia Library, 9 February 2007. BookCrossing.com 2007. 6 April, 2007. <www.bookcrossing.com> Braun, Linda W. “Announcing Teen Tech Week: Don’t Miss It!” Young Adult Library Services. 5.2 (2007): 7-8. Bromann, Jennifer. Booktalking that Works. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2001. Hughes, Wendy. “Bookcrossing Dot Com, Pass it On!” 2005. Inquiringminds.org. 6 April 2007. <http://www.inquiringminds.org/newsletter/0502/bookcrossing.html> Jones, Patrick. New Directions for Library Service. New York: Neil Schuman, 2002. Jones, Patrick, Michele Gorman, and Tricia Suellentrop. Connecting Young Adults and Libraries: A How-To-Do-It Manual. 3rd ed. New York: Neil Schuman, 2004. Lenhart, Amanda and Mary Madden. ““Pew Internet Project Data Memo.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. 7 January 2007. 5 February 2007. <http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_SNS_Data_Memo_Jan_2007.pdf> Lenhart, Amanda, Mary Madden, and Paul Hitlin. “Teens and Technology.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. 27 July 2005. 26 January 2007. <http://18.104.22.168/pdfs/PIP_Teens_Tech_July2005web.pdf> “Some of the New Words in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.” 7 August 2004. AskOxford.com. 6 April 2007. <http://www.askoxford.com/pressroom/archive/coed11new/?view=uk> Wagner, Richard and Josie Chuback. Civic Youth Strategy for WV. 27 September 2002. 6 April 2007. <http://www.westvancouver.ca/upload/documents/youth_strategy.pdf> WV Community Profile. 2001. 6 April, 2007. <http://www.westvancouver.net/article.asp?a=1859&c=450> WV Memorial Library. Strategic Plan 2006-2010. 6 April, 2007. <http://www.westvanlib.org/about_us/strategic%20plan%202005%20internet.pdf> Yates, Thorn & Associates Consulting Services. Civic Youth Strategy: Youth Survey Results. 1 January 2002.
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