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Training in Canada’s Public Libraries: What our Users Tell Us About Their Experiences. Heidi Julien Presentation to EPL PD Day December 13, 2006. The Study. Research Questions How do public library users experience the Internet?

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training in canada s public libraries what our users tell us about their experiences

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

Heidi Julien

Presentation to EPL PD Day

December 13, 2006

the study
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)
methods
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
national survey results
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
interview observation phase the libraries
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
how are the public internet access computers used
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
the physical space
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
who are the internet users in public libraries
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
who was interviewed
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)
why did they use the library computers
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
are customers confident in their skills when using the internet
Are customers confident in their skills when using the Internet?
  • 16 feel very confident
  • 7 feel somewhat confident (all females)
  • 2 feel not confident
are customers information literate
Are customers information literate?
  • 13 say yes
  • 8 are ambivalent
  • 4 say no
what skills do they claim to have mastered
What skills do they claim to have mastered?
  • evaluation
  • searching
  • web design
  • tendency to equate IT literacy with information literacy
what skills still need development
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.”
where did participants develop their current skill set
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
how do users experience being information literate
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
how do users experience being information literate24
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
where would participants like to get more training
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)
what kind of training is helpful
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
what is the role for canada s public libraries in training citizens in information literacy skills
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
conclusions
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
acknowledgments
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