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Training in Canada’s Public Libraries: What our Users Tell Us About Their Experiences

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  1. Training in Canada’s Public Libraries: What our Users Tell Us About Their Experiences Heidi Julien Presentation to EPL PD Day December 13, 2006

  2. The Study • Research Questions • How do public library users experience the Internet? • How have they obtained their information literacy skills training? • What is the role of the public library in developing Canadians’ information literacy skills? • Definition of IL • skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information (ACRL, 2006)

  3. Methods • National survey of public libraries • Library & Information Science Research 27(3), 2005, 281-301. • Semi-structured interviews with 25 public library customers in Fall 2004 at 5 public libraries in Canada • Observations of users of public Internet access computers • Interviews with 28 public library staff at the 5 libraries

  4. National Survey Results • IL training not a priority in public libraries, though survey respondents strongly agree that this is a legitimate role for the public library • A minority of public libraries are assuming major responsibility for development of IL skills among Canadians • Need for more resources to assume more responsibility • dedicated funding • trained staff • training space

  5. Interview/Observation PhaseThe Libraries • Different regions of Canada (the west, central Canada, and the east coast) • a main branch of an urban public library in a city of about 2,000,000 persons • a main branch of an urban public library in a city of about 1,000,000 persons • a library in a smaller city of 75,000 persons • a library in a small town of less than 1,000 persons • a public library housed within a community centre on a small First Nations reserve serving a community of less than 100 persons

  6. How are the public Internet access computers used? • primarily as communication tools (email, bulletin boards, forums, chat rooms, dating services, instant messaging) • to view or listen to an online news source • entertainment uses were also important (accessing information about entertainment, or entertainment products such as games or music videos) • at three of the libraries, visiting foreign language web sites (including ethnic community discussion forums) was also a popular use

  7. Dedicated teaching classroom

  8. Teaching space

  9. Teaching classroom

  10. Public Internet access area

  11. Public Internet access area

  12. The Physical Space • customers are not encouraged by the physical surroundings to inhabit the physical space in which those computers are located • uncomfortable stools, or no seating at all is common, and little privacy is afforded • one library had installed privacy screens on the computer monitors • two sites had dedicated space for training purposes

  13. Who are the Internet users in public libraries? • more men than women • most appear to be under 35 years of age • in the large urban centers, customers represented a diversity of ethnicities and visible minorities were proportionally over-represented • residents, visitors, and travelers

  14. Who was interviewed? • 13 females, 12 males, of various ages • mean annual income was lower than Canada’s average • 10 of 25 participants reported an annual income < $20,000 • 5 customers had home Internet access • 10 had Internet access elsewhere (e.g., work, a seniors’ or community centre, Internet cafés)

  15. Why did they use the library computers? • because they provide Internet access (n=11) • to access email (n=6) • because the location is convenient (n=3) • because they want to conduct job searches (n=3) • only 1 customer mentioned the ability to ask staff for help • 8 had home computer; 13 did not

  16. Are customers confident in their skills when using the Internet? • 16 feel very confident • 7 feel somewhat confident (all females) • 2 feel not confident

  17. Are customers information literate? • 13 say yes • 8 are ambivalent • 4 say no

  18. What skills do they claim to have mastered? • evaluation • searching • web design • tendency to equate IT literacy with information literacy

  19. What skills still need development? • keyboarding • database searching • patience • learning a wider variety of sources • learning specific software packages • One woman said, “I always feel that I’m not good enough and I should make more effort and I want to be better…so I will never feel really accomplished.”

  20. Are poor skills a barrier to efficient/effective information access? • majority (15) say no • 6 say yes

  21. Where did participants develop their current skill set? • 11 indicated that they were self-taught • 4 participants had received training in a school setting • 4 got training in a university or college setting • 4 were trained by family members • 2 had workplace training • 1 was trained by a friend • 1 mentioned the public library as a source of training

  22. How do users experience being information literate? • Nine of 25 customers reported feeling “nothing” special about being information literate. These participants made comments such as: • Doesn’t boost my self-esteem • Part of everyday life [like] brushing your teeth • It’s just another tool used around the home • For my age group it’s probably pretty normal…I’ve just grown up with it • I don’t feel very proud or anything like that

  23. How do users experience being information literate? • The ten customers reporting positive feelings used phrases such as • It’s a lot nicer than not • I think I’m in control • [I’m] just not easily coerced…I have a pretty good idea to watch out and be aware • Confident • Really pleased • Really proud • It’s a sense of empowerment • It’s exclusive • You are informed

  24. Where would participants like to get more training? • 11 of 25 would like to take further training • 6 would prefer to take such training in a school, university or community college setting • 5 indicated that the library might offer useful training (prompted)

  25. What kind of training is helpful? • Hands-on • Offered within a coherent and logical program (so people who need to start at the beginning may do so) • Offered by instructors who have • Training skills • Resources • Interest

  26. What is the role for Canada’s public libraries in training citizens in information literacy skills? • There is considerable need • Citizens outside a postsecondary context have few training opportunities • Experience using computers may develop confidence, but not IL skills • IL skills are fundamental to successful information seeking and use in our digital society (for citizenship, personal decision-making) • IL skills increase sense of community, of self-efficacy

  27. Conclusions • Currently most public libraries play a very small role • There is ample potential, but resources are a significant barrier • Libraries and customers may need convincing

  28. Acknowledgments • The library customers and staff who participated in interviews • The public libraries who allowed us to visit • Research Assistants • Claire Banton • Reegan Breu • Cameron Hoffman • Sarah Polkinghorne • Ina Smith • Michelle Whitehead • Funding by Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada, SRG 410-2003-004