On January 14, I had the pleasure of attending the Libraries and Teens event presented by CLASY (Canadian Libraries Are Serving Youth) and the CLA. I am considering becoming a youth services librarian, so I was excited to see what I could learn. The workshop included a session on using Web 2.0 to create a space for teens on the library website.
First up was Alan Harnum of Toronto Public Library. Harnum discussed TPL’s teen summer reading site, Word Out (http://torontopubliclibrary.typepad.com/word_out_2010/), which used a blog format to get teens posting about what they were reading each week. Harnum stressed the importance of understanding what you can (and can’t) do with the technology available to you and to always borrow from others when you can rather than reinvent the wheel. It’s also necessary to have a plan in place to keep content updated rather than rely on library users to create all of the content. While the ultimate goal is to get teens participating in creating library content, they may need encouragement at first. If teens see that the blog or Facebook page is updated regularly, they are more likely to return and to eventually contribute. Another excellent tip Harnum offered is to avoid using the “library website voice.” Teens will react more positively if your voice is less formal. Be yourself rather than try too hard to be cool. Teens will appreciate authenticity, and at the same time, you can encourage teens to be themselves as well.
Following Harnum’s presentation, John Pichette and Vivien Hogg of Vaughan Public Library talked about the recent redesign of VPL’s Teen Vortex site (http://www.vaughanpl.info/vortex/). The old website was dark blue with neon green, which teens thought was ugly, and required too many clicks to access information. How many teens would have the patience to go through several steps just to access a booklist? In order to improve the website, a working group was formed. The website took the form of a blog, which is easier for teens to access since the most current information is always at the top of the page. Booklists were pared down to more concise topics, and a plan was established to keep them updated. Having a maintenance plan is also valuable, since a website full of dead links will not impress teens. The new site looks great and the booklists link directly to the catalogue, making it easy for teens to find great books to read.
I’ll be posting more about the workshop soon on the CLASY blog (http://clasy.wordpress.com/) if anyone’s interested!