"Best trivia I learned while working on this: 'Man, Farmville is so huge! Do you realize it's the second-biggest browser-based-social-networking-centered farming game in the WORLD?' Then you wait for the listener to do a double-take"

Thank you xkcd for the image AND lovely alt-text

Once upon a time in 1998 there was an 18-year-old young adult and her 17-year-old best friend at college in Los Angeles. The best friend’s mom was fond of reading about what’s popular “on the other side of the pond” and mailed to the girls the first couple of books about a young wizard named Harry Potter. The girls devoured the books. It was all they could talk about.

To each other.

Because no one else around them had read them yet. And the girls were shunned by their peers because they became annoying as they moaned on and on about this Harry Potter fellow.

But then, Harry Potter caught on. And soon there were midnight parties and fanfiction and websites and candy and t-shirts and movies and no longer were the girls solitary dorks but they were only two dorks of a bazillion dorky people who painted lightening bolts on their foreheads and discussed what houses at Hogwarts they would be sorted into.

And now I totally forgot where I was going with this. Oh yeah, community! Community changed everything and made it all moonbeams and lollies and golden snitches.

My story, true as it is, is silly. But let’s trade Harry Potter fans for perhaps an LGBT teen (or even adult!) who doesn’t live in an area where they have physical access to community. Or a person who is restricted to their home for health reasons. Online communities can change, enhance, and maybe even save lives. I know I’m getting a little soap-boxy (Harry Potter does that to me), but I see online communities as an integral part of community services that should be offered by libraries. Not everyone can come to your book club or your Wii Bowling tournament, but they may have something to share with others in the community. Yes, running online communities is time consuming and sometimes tedious and slow to be gratifying; however, I think it’s worth the energy. If I had a choice between looking at a wiki of recipes, edited by library staff, or being able to trade recipes and talk with someone else about recipes, I’d vote for the latter. It’s one thing to give a person a book on being gay or African-American or disabled or Christian or anything else and another to give the opportunity and space for community.