Discord is a voice, video and text communication service used to hang out and talk with friends through communities called servers. Each server has the ability to host text channels (for text messages, videos, images, links, music, and more) and voice channels (for voice chat, screen sharing, and video streaming).
Using both types of channels, Discord servers allow for asynchronous as well as real-time communication and participation. Here's a quick video from Discord that provides a quick introduction/demonstration:
It is important to note the following from Discord's Terms of Service:
(retrieved on 1/14/22)
Teen Services at the San Antonio Public Library provides library services to teens that are between the ages of (and including) 13 to 18. Discord is not a suitable platform for virtual library services for young and older children (ages 12 and below).
In regards to virtual library services to teens, this dual model of asynchronous + real-time virtual communication and participation is essential for a successful virtual library space for teens as it allows teens to cultivate the space on their own terms.
Other platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams provide an intermittent/temporary space for teens since they rely on specific start/end times and do not provide an optimal environment for teen ownership to occur - similar to hosting an in-person teen program in a general meeting rather than a dedicated teen space. This sends a message to teens that although the library is interested in hosting virtual teen programs, the library is not interested in (or not able to invest time/resources in) offering a virtual library space for teens where teens can thrive.
On the other hand, Discord servers exist as persistent spaces where teens can interact in and own the space at specific times, sporadic times, and any other time they choose. Discord servers can be customized through various means, which allows teen-serving library staff to create servers that are primed to foster high levels of teen participation and empower teens to activate the space. By recruiting a dedicated group of staff members and teen volunteers who are willing to learn the logistics of smoothly running a Discord server, teens receive the message that the library is interested and invested in offering a legitimate and authentic virtual library space for teens.
You can read more about what makes Discord different here and Discord's history here.