Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Own Cafe - Sitting in for Angela

Interactive Teen web portal - My Own Cafe
login name: guest
password: daffodil

How a western Massachusetts regional library system developed and marketed a website for teens for all the local libraries in the consortium. School libraries were included, but have not been active, possibly because of the greater security on their computers

Goals: Increase teen participation in libraries by offering an interactive one-stop interface for library electronic resources as well as interactive features popular with teens.

How My Own Cafe was developed
  • The library hired a web development consultant, Pixel Bridge to assist in setting up the site.
  • Pixel Bridge recommended message boards as a medium for teen interaction, downloadable music (local bands submitted their own music for download), community information, college and job information,
  • The project started with LSTA $50,000 grant.
  • A Teen Advisory Council was created and scheduled face-to-face meetings, as well as chat, blogs, etc. The face-to-face meetings proved to be vitally important.
  • The Teen Advisory Council developed guidelines, including choosing a domain name and logo, seting age limits, defining rules for message boards and moderating message boards, etc.
Questions that came up during development:
  • Access? Asking for a library card might present a barrier to teens using the website, but in the end, a library card was required to register on the site. Once registered, a teen was not asked to present the card again, or to register separately for databases, catalog, message boards, music downloads, etc..
  • Selecting music? "Clean Music" guidelines were developed by Teen Council members.
  • Would message boards be moderated? Teen Council members volunteered to work as moderators, paying attention to language and content and dealing with inappropriate materials.
  • Who will have administrative access to site? Did not get the answer here.
  • Site name? Teen input was sought within the parameters of available and legal choices. - "my own cafe" was a compromise source.
  • Logo?- there was a clear division between what librarians liked and what teens liked - the teen choice was selected
  • Appearance? - The developers wanted easy one-click access to all library resources, but did not want it to look like a library page. Final choice was made by teens - the home page is heavy on content, and requires scrolling, which bothers librarians but not teens
  • Technical stuff - Windows 2003 server, DotNetNuke - open source content management system using asp.
  • Age Range? over 12, to comply with COPPA - Children's Online Protection Act.
  • Development and use policies? A written website policy was created and includes an agreement with terms including basic code of conduct developed by teen moderators Code of Conduct. Teens also collaborated with librarians to create a letter to parents explainng the website to parents.

Site kickoff at mall, promoted by teens, teen jazz band performed, was very successful
kids got the opportunity to win an ipod

Statistics - 326 teens registered as of April 16 - 76 users, teen and library staff, logged in 702 times during March 200u, nearly 11,700 posts since Oct. 2005 - Message boards are most popular

Challenges -
  • How to get kids to use electronic databases? Create a survey with questions that could be answered in electronic databases, and award prizes for best answers
  • Message Board and website content - created by teens, who also discuss acceptable content and set standards for posting; but librarians do also edit content
  • Marketing budget - it's vital to have a good budget, but depend on teens for marketing ideas
  • There have not been too many problems on the website with bullying, vulgarity, other issues.
Future plans: librarians are about to implement a "Creativity Center" with an opportunity for musicians to upload music , artists to post artwork, writers to post work, etc. Maybe even a chance for kids to do podcasts. Librarians hope the Creativity Center may increase level of participation - teens without library cards will be able to contribute to the Creativity Center.

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