Okay, this may be a bit out of my stated bounds of blogs and social bookmarking, but it includes a blog, so not totally out there? What am I even talking about you are now asking yourself. Well, I am talking about the Teen Reading Club or TeenRC website that is sponsored and run by a coalition of libraries and librarians for teen readers. It is a site for “Canadian teens who love to read. You can introduce people to the books you’ve read, post reviews, share your writing, and discuss your favourite (and least favourite) reads with teens and librarians.”
Why am I including this site in my blog? Well for starters, I am looking at blogs and when I went to the Teen section of the VPL’s site the blog was little more than another news feed. But when I clicked on reading club I was taken to the TeenRC site. (and it has a blog) Another thing is I am also interested in childern and youth services so anything that is reaching out to younger readers I am interested in. Finally, this is a collaborative way a community of libraries can reach out and encourage a dialog with teen readers and to create a larger community of teen readers.
The site is easy to get to from the VPL’s teen page, it’s right up there in the main navigation bar and it is in the rotating feature menu at the top of the teen page as well. 72 libraries across BC participate in the TeenRC website and link to it from their own site. That’s just in BC. Libraries in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia participate as well. A google search for teen books or teen reads turns up the website in the first 5 results. This website is accessible and out there.
This site provides teens a blog they can contribute to as well as read contributions from other teens and youth librarians. They can also use it as a social bookmarking and review site where they can make book lists, write reviews, give ratings, and have discussions around books, reading, novel themes, etc. Some discussions are incited by website administrators but many discussions are started by users. There is even an area where users can publish their own writing. This is a site fueled by user generated content, tailored to teens and meant to be a safe, comfortable place, moderated by professionals who want to engage in conversations with the users.
A big part of making this site a safe and comfortable place for users is the strict adherence to anonymity. Users are given a list of ways they are not allowed to identify themselves and posts are monitored for breaches of anonymity. Posts are also monitored for any form of cyberbullying that might arise from anonymity. This is important because the creators want a true and real interaction with youth readers where the users can feel free to share their real thoughts or feelings. In this way, the site staff can take what they learn from the site and change their library services to better suit teen users. Is this working? I don’t know. From my investigations I can say that the forum discussions have lots of postings and conversations. There are lots of book lists and reviews. The site seems well liked and well used.
Would I use this? If I was still a teenager, I would have been all over this! I would have loved the opportunity to post reviews and share my opinions in a welcoming environment. Is it still necessary when libraries like the VPL have a lot of the same functionalities incorporated into it’s library catalog? Maybe not for the VPL, but this site may be a little more welcoming to a teen than the official library catalog, especially when you know your audience is other teens. But look at all the libraries that participate in the TeenRC. This site is still valid and useful, especially for all those libraries that don’t have the huge collection of the VLP nor the resources to have such a complex catalog system. The Teen Readers Club is about building community and community connections and I believe it has done that and will continue to do that for a while yet.