Friday, August 15, 2008

IFLA 2008 (part 14): Canada's Teen (online) Reading Club

[From Part 13]

8.30am, 14 Aug 2008. Libraries for Children and Young Adults Section.

This presentation sounded interesting. It's a reading club for teens. And there's an online element. The paper can be downloaded here (PDF, 742KB).

Canada’s Teen Reading Club is a library-based national online reading program for teenagers that promotes reading and libraries. The site features peer-to-peer book recommendations, discussion forums, scheduled chat times, and a creative writing section. The program is sponsored and administrated jointly by government, professional association and library partners. Librarian moderators from across Canada contribute to the site by previewing book reviews and moderating discussion forums. This presentation gives an overview of the site features, budget, privacy and safety concerns, and overall administration of the program.
Here's their website:
Teen Summer Reading Club

Ms. Kirsten Andersen (from the Greater Victoria Public Library) explained that it's targeted at teens ages 13 to 19.
Canada's Teen Reading Club

Basically teens submit a book review and get to win a prize. Librarians will review all submissions to ensure they are descriptive and aren't plot spoilers.
Canada's Teen Reading Club

The website has a discussion forum, with a librarian or teen volunteer moderating each thread. They do not allow teens to use real names for privacy reasons.
Canada's Teen Reading Club

She said, "Things discussed are not always profound. Teens mostly want to socialise."

The "Off Topic" discussion thread is a very popular thread. The site also has a online chat feature, a ' Your Words' section for original writing, a Winners section, and Links page.
Canada's Teen Reading Club Canada's Teen Reading Club

Each summer has a different theme (e.g. movie, beach, scrapbook).

The project outcomes exceeded their goals. They received 5,000 book reviews and there was active participation in the discussion forum.

There are 600 libraries involved in some way, and 75 teen volunteers and librarians involved as moderators.

About 3,000 teens actively using the site. The highest number of users at any one time was 170. The site costs C$40,000 a year to maintain.

Quite cost-effective considering that it practically supports the entire Canada and with so many libraries involved. There are graphics that libraries can download and print for their own use.

They provided reading lists but since teens read other things not on the list, they created a section called "Other Stuff" which proved to be the most popular.

For the moderators, there's a hidden moderator forum, and teen moderator forum. There's also a wiki for libraries to add their ideas.

Why they started the service
Prior to this, they only had Summer Reading programmes for children ages 6 to 12. In Summer Reading, you read, record what you've , and redeem prizes.
Canada's Teen Reading Club

They recognised that teens spent time online. Kirsten said in Canada 95% of teens have access to computers. They also recognised that "peer relations are paramount" so in conceiving the project they decided to buid on the "teens' natural preferences" for peer recommendations.

Learning points
Teens are motivation by prizes. They have teens who would've contributed reviews without prizes but some teens also say they were there to win stuff.

Kirsten emphasised how they've been very careful about teens giving personal info online (they have a national Privacy Act, I think).
Teen summer reading club - registration page

Teens users are also fast to report spam. And some fedback that they glad librarians are moderating the site.

Future plans
The programme is currently slanted towards English. So they but will include French reviews to make it inclusive for provinces whose first language is French.

They also intend to involve Pre-teens.
Canada's Teen Reading Club

Some one asked if there was a fee to use the site. Answer: It's free.

I asked how they verified that the teens who use the site are who they claim to be. Kirsten answered that they relied on trust (from what I see from the site, you can register for an account if you input the right fields). But people who volunteer as moderators have to make a personal appearance at the library.

I also asked if they expected it to be a success when you started? She replied yes (interesting... I wouldn't have that confidence in trying this for Singapore).

I think sometime in the near future, we should try this in Singapore. Will have to discuss with colleagues and see how to push for this.

But we certainly won't build our own site. For one, there are already Singapore agencies and sites with their established youth portals.

Most likely we'll see how to work hand-in-hand with agencies like Youth.SG. They already have a forum so maybe we could have a section there. Our librarians can moderate and manage that thread. We could work with Youth.SG for joint publicity.

The hard part for Singapore might be to get teens to actually participate.

Kirsten explained that Canada is a vast country. Some small towns may only have a handful of teens. I can easily see how their site serves a need for Canadian teens to connect to their peers through reading.

Singaporean teens are such a busy bunch, and they can easily meet their friends face-to-face. They'd probably have online social circles.

But we'll see. Since we don't have to build the site itself (if we work through a partner), it's easy to start and just try it out.

[Next: Part 15]

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