I bet that you, like me, have had this video link emailed to you. I’ve found it in my mailbox at least four or five times. It has been sending a chill up the spine of many a librarian and could represent a trend in public backlash.
Here’s the back-story. The Nebraska Library Commission is filing suit over $400 spent by teen librarians for gaming equipment. Here’s the link to the full video report. They posted a video on YouTube of themselves playing the games on worktime. A local citizen came across the video and filed a complaint that it represented an abuse of tax payer dollars.
I’m following this because it demonstrates some of the challenges we face in modernizing the relevance of libraries. We have to invest in these resources and the training of our staff to meet teens where they are. However. Remember the jumping the shark metaphor from a couple of blogs ago? For many of our more traditional customers this can come across as a leap over the shark.
Prepared organizations know to anticipate this kind of response and develop a game plan of talking points long before it gets to this point. How about bringing the media in to involve them in this effort and educate them on why this is a right course for libraries. In this case the television station doesn’t even sugarcoat their viewpoint as you can see by how they frame the viewers poll question: "was making a video of setting up a video game an appropriate use of taxpayer money?" Clearly they aren’t interested in the context.
But what I’m especially intrigued by is the power of this video image to do damage. Where did the video come from and who posted it on YouTube? Who forgot to think that posting it there is like sending up a signal flare for a major P.R. headache?
At my library we’ve been mulling over policies and procedures as reflected in a world where every digit has the power to circle the globe in a matter of minutes. Twitter messages YouTube video, flickr all allow an unleashing of expression. And most of the time those doing the expressing are focused on what they are doing — just practicing gaming — without awareness that they have made themselves and their institution vulnerable.
We need to have clear policies in place to prevent this kind of P.R. nightmare from developing in the first place.