Please don’t mistake this post a bit of schadenfreude, but I was very interested to read an article titled “a spam filter for questionpoint” the other day. In it, Caleb Tucker-Raymond, the Statewide Digital Reference Coordinator for the L-net project, describes the issue of spam coming through QuestionPoint. He also does a great job describing the measures he considered implementing, and the one he actually has implemented to (mostly) stop the arrival of virtual reference spam. Regarding IM security, Caleb hits the nail on the head:
I havenâ€™t used Meebo or other web IM clients much, so Iâ€™m not sure if embedding and HTML image or movie or piece of malicious code would be a problem, but something tells me the IM people have it figured out already.
What interested me most about this post, and others about patrons changing font colors within QP by (perhaps) writing some HTML and leaving tags open, is how vendor driven VR products are seen as safe and instant messaging is seen as insecure.
There are a number of reasons why librarians started believing this, but one reason I want to bring up is the not so subtle ageism I see present in many libraries. Because of their age and associated lack of power, it is easy for libraries to manage their behavior. Even though both groups might be participating in the same activities, librarians can much more easily act on biases they have about young people than they can act on the the biases they have about other people. There’s no difference in one patron emailing friends, and another IMing friends. Both are legitimate library activities, and should maybe even be encouraged. “Libraries? Oh yeah, that place where I connect with my friends.” That has a nice ring to it.
It is only possible for librarians to take issue with web activities like gaming, IM, blogging, and MySpace because these things are (incorrectly) seen as the territory of kids. If these things were introduced to the library world not as things that “those crazy Millennials are doing” but rather as new information trends, I doubt librarians would have been able to take such objection. Just because younger people were among the early adopters of these technologies does not give libraries the right to treat them as illegitimate.