Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Intellectual Freedom & Social Networking

Social Networking has really taken off over the past five years with networks like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter being the major networks. I myself have been part of a social network for four years now and it has replaced my address book. Social Networks can help families stay connected by easily communicating with them at both family members convenience. My sister recently moved to Colorado and I was able to see pictures of her new apartment with in a few days of her moving in. The way people use to interact with one another is evolving because of these social networks. Such as mailing out invitations which can now be distributed through these sites; I had a friend who recently sent out all his wedding invitations via Facebook. Business entities, local musicians and even libraries are part of these networks updating their statuses to inform people when the next show is or what special collection is currently running.

American Library Association recognizes the importance of social networking and the roles they play in the library (“Podcast Script”, 2009). A social network can also be used on school projects as a learning tool such as collaborations between students and teaching them how to use a new application. The Young Adult Services Association also points out that another benefit of social networks to minors is that they “make sure teens are able to plan and manage projects.” (“Social Netwroking and DOPA”, n.d.)

With the improvements of recent web browsing technologies on your mobile phone you can now be connected to these networks all day long. However what if you can not afford one of these phones or internet access, than you would need to access these networks through the local library.

However the federal government was trying to pass a law that would block the access of many people who use these networks at the library. This act is called the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006 to protect children from being taken advantage of on the internet, and “require recipients of universal service support for schools and libraries to protect minors from commercial social networking websites and chat rooms.” (“H.R. 5319--109th Congress: Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006. “ 2006).

Therefore any library that receives any federal aid must block minors from many interactive websites such as Facebook and Myspace. However ALA believes that this act is so general and the terminology used is very broad that it could affect the intellectual freedom of all users. If the federal government uses this act to block minors access to social networks they could eventually begin to block other applications from minors using them. They could also block email access along the same foundation as blocking the social networks. Therefore this act could eventually also interfere in the use of blogs, wikis and online emails. It could start with just minors using them and then possibly eventually all users at the library could be blocked because anti-government groups are meeting to discuss issues. Even the basic blockage of social networking sites would infringe on the library users intellectual freedom because they would not be able to access information sometimes only found on these social networks, such as invitations to a local hip hop concert that was only advertised on Facebook and Myspace. It also would discriminate against the people who cannot afford to have unfiltered internet access in their home. Since librarians are dedicated to equality for all people and the freedom of expression they want their users to have unimpeded access to these networks. On these networks you can view people’s ideas and opinions; you can even reach out to local area business that might be on that network. As well as the information that can be found on these networks they can also be used as learning tools. ALA Washington Communications Director Bernadette Murphy also points out that such a block “would squash kids' first attempts at becoming acquainted with applications that will soon be essential workplace tools,"( Evans, M. K. “The Pandora's Box of Social Networking” 2009). For example the message function is a precursor to email which is used in many businesses across the globe. Furthermore by preventing users, minors especially from accessing these basic general social networks they might not comprehend more professional networks like Linkedin. Intellectual freedom is a shared common value that most people have on a daily basis, even in communist countries people are on social networks expressing themselves and posting artwork they have made or pictures they have taken.

As these social networks continue to grow the debate will continue over the benefits and the dangers of these social networks. Furthermore future bills may appear in congress trying to block access to social networks through the libraries. Librarians will have to continue to defend the right of intellectual freedom when it comes to social networking and possible other applications on the web.

I will end with a few questions for you to ponder.

Are social networks more of a danger or a benefit to society?

Can social networks really be used as a learning tool for children?

Should the Federal government be able to tell libraries that they help fund, what sites their patrons can access?


Evans, M. K. (2009). The Pandora's Box of Social Networking. Retrieved October 6,

2009, from

H.R. 5319--109th Congress: Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006. (2006). In (database
of federal legislation). Retrieved Oct 2, 2009, from

Online Social Networks. (2009). Retrieved October 6, 2009, from

Social Netwroking and DOPA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 6, 2009, from

Podcast Script: Online Social Networking and Intellectual Freedom. (2009). Retrieved
October 6, 2009, from.


Wendy said...

I’m sure in some ways social networks can be used as a learning tool for children, but they sure can benefit society as long as people, adults and children are careful about pictures and information given out over social networks such as Facebook or Myspace. Social networks benefit society in many ways. They allow family and friends to exchange pictures, find each other, and keep each other up to date on their activities. Just as social networks can be a benefit to society, they can also become a danger if the correct privacy options are not used. Without the privacy options any stranger can gain access to pictures and profile information. It’s up to the user to set their privacy options and only allow certain people they know and trust to access their page.
According to the Library Bill of Rights books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation (Haycock & Sheldon, 2008, Pg. 220). The Federal Government has no right to tell libraries what they should allow patrons to access even if they are helping to fund the library. Just as libraries don’t take away the freedom from their patrons to read what they choose, they shouldn’t allow the Federal Government to control what the patron gains access to on the computer.
As for children using the Internet at the library; it’s up to the parent to make sure their child knows their limits on the computer and is aware of predators. It’s not up to the Federal Government to raise our kids. If they want to protect children from dangers on the Internet, they need to make sure that this becomes part of their education at school. Children today are born into a world of technology. As adults, parents, and teachers we need to educate them and teach them how to stay safe. Blocking them from social network sites and trying to keep them na├»ve of the dangers will only hurt them in the long run.
The Federal Government may help fund the library with tax dollars, but this does not mean that they have a right to control the library. The library is a public place with free access to books and the World Wide Web.
Haycock, K. & Sheldon, B (2008). The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts. Greenwood Publishing, Pg. 220, Appendix C, Westport, CT. 1st Ed.

Florence said...

Users also need to remember that there is a degree of personal responsibility when it comes to social networking. Once something is put out there on the Internet for all to see and read, that is what all who visit the site will do. If the publicized information is incriminating in some way, this can put them at a disadvantage, for example, when seeking employment.

Amy Smola said...

As our textbook states regarding the Library Bill of Rights, "all libraries are forums for information and ideas" (Haycock & Sheldon, p. 220). The government may fund the library, but the library should maintain the right to provide freedom of information to all of its patrons.
Children should be able to access the internet, and they should not be excluded from social networking sites. These sites can be used as a learning tool for children. Any type of technology is a learning tool. Social networking sites are so much more than just "poking" someone or testing your 80's pop culture knowledge. You can sign up to receive updates from so many sources. You can sign up for school activity sites, museum exhibits and activities, community events and so much more. You can interact with people that you may never have the opportunity to meet. Obviously, depending upon the age of the child, the responsibility would fall upon the parent to monitor activity on such sites (or on any computer site for that matter). We all know that there is a lot of information on the net that is inappropriate for people of a certain age, and many people lurking out there that we would not want our children to meet. That being said and assuming parental guidance and control, it is not the library's responsibility to parent the children who use its resources. Nor is it the job of the library to prevent their use of its resources. As article V of the library bill of rights states, "A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views" (p. 220).
To answer the question posed about whether social networking sites are/are not a benefit to society, I believe they definitely are. According to , there are more than 300 million active users on Facebook alone. For those of us who use Facebook (or a similar application), think about all of the people that you have "found." Old friends from high school or college that maybe you had not been in touch with for years. How nice is it to re-connect with old friends? It provides an easy way to stay in touch and schedule events. You can sign up for countless topical updates which give you information you otherwise would not have known about. Sure many people use these sites to take little quizzes or tend to fake farms... I do that too. But what's wrong with a little leisure activity too during our busy days? If it gives you a chuckle to see which Brat Pack movie best defines you and you want to share that laugh with your friends, go for it. In our ever busy world with so many commitments, sometimes this is the best that some of us can do at maintaining relationships with people. So to those 300+ million people using Facebook, enjoy it and use it to share, learn and laugh with others.

Haycock, K. & Sheldon, B (2008). The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts. Greenwood Publishing, P. 220, Appendix C, Westport, CT. 1st Ed.

Facebook (2009) Retrieved October 9, 2009 from

Tom Trupiano said...

What bothers me the most, I think, is not so much that the federal government feels obligated to "protect" us from ourselves (it is a little ironic to me that these initiatives usually come from the same politicians who preach smaller government, but that's another discussion). My bigger problem is that 1)The legislated solution to a real problem is such a quick, shooting from the hip response; and 2) the government ties their solution (however poorly or well thought-out) to funding, meaning that libraries must choose between the money they need to survive and doing what they believe is right. Just because you can impose your will through financial blackmail, doesn't mean you should.