Right now, Kathy and I are visiting friends in Boston. One of our friends who is a teacher was talking to Kathy about book selections for a summer reading program. The talk was about the choosing one book for the high school summer reading; something that would appeal to the all of the different age groups (freshmen through seniors). It just popped into my head: why not a summer blogging program?
While I can understand the emphasis on reading of the One Book campaigns as it related to our main trade in books, I believe that we are equally well positioned to call upon the writing talents of our patrons. A Summer Blogging Program would act as a parallel to the Summer Reading; patrons of various age groups sign up for the program which provides a defined reward for writing entries (off the top of my head, I’m thinking teens could get credit for writing a 500 word entry on any subject, maximum once per day). Alternatively, a theme for a week could be announced in which people are asked to blog their thoughts, create videos, post pictures, and engage in creative expression. The types of themes or issues could be a variety of non-threatening topics such as pets, family, summer memories, and others that will not result in mass protests.
While I’ve tagged this as a Summer Blogging Program, it really is a shell of its potential. It could be a Winter Blogging Program (to run opposite of the Summer Reading); it could be a “One Blog [insert state, city, town here]” in which blog entries are solicited from the area sought; this type of program could honestly hold any format, really. The flexibility of user created content makes this as open or closed ended as the library could manage. (I’m thinking that, in a school setting, it could run parallel to writing instruction from English classes.)
The “downside” would be concern for obscene or inappropriate postings by patrons. Personally, I don’t see this as any different from a concern about patrons potentially viewing offensive material on a nearby computer, but it is something that would need to be addressed. It would require such programs to be constructed in a manner that would permit a certain level of moderation on the part of the librarian/library while allowing patrons to express themselves freely. I’m sure there are some First Amendment issues nestled in here, but I would rather dance around them at this time since there are many potential contexts for patron posts.
For me, this feels like a natural progression of library offerings. We nurture creativity with our computer and craft programming; this would be another step into the realm of online user generated content. Libraries could take this creativity and focus it in a community building activity; writing sows of the seeds of intellectual development and growth. I believe it would foster further inquiry into issues aided by the information resources we have. It also helps patrons find their voice, express themselves, share ideas, and start dialogues with others that may not have happened otherwise. Libraries can be the catalyst of the community for a greater dialogue about our homes, our towns, our nation, and our future. It is within our grasp, we just need to act on it.