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What is the Value of LIS Education? A Qualitative Analysis of the Perspectives of Rural Librarians in the Southern and Central Appalachia. Johnson City Public Library, TN. Hancock County Public Library, Sneedville, TN.

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slide1
What is the Value of LIS Education? A Qualitative Analysis of the Perspectives of Rural Librarians in the Southern and Central Appalachia

Johnson City Public Library, TN

Hancock County Public Library, Sneedville, TN

Sevier County Public Library, Sevierville, TN

Lake City Public Library, TN

Bharat Mehra, Kimberly Black, Vandana Singh, Jenna Nolt

School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee

agenda
Agenda
  • The ITRL Purpose
  • Research Context
  • Research Questions
  • Research Methods
  • Research Significance
  • Research Participants
  • Findings
  • Conclusion

ITRL Planning Meeting

13 November, 2009

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

the itrl purpose
The ITRL Purpose

The purpose of the “Information Technology Rural Librarian Master’s Scholarship Program” (ITRL) in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee is to recruit sixteen paraprofessionals working in rural libraries in the Southern and Central Appalachian (SCA) regions to complete their master’s degree with a focus on IT and rural librarianship in the UT’s SIS program via distance.

  • ITRL students are receiving:
  • Part-time degree in a program accredited by the ALA
  • A structured, individually-tailored IT and rural management curriculum
  • Rural library practices and needs incorporated into the curriculum
  • IT competencies in developing rural library work applications
  • Formal/informal professional mentoring by educators and practitioners
  • Full-tuition scholarship for two years
  • Allowance for materials
  • Provision of a laptop computer

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

research context
Research Context
  • SCA rural librarians experience critical information needs and concerns owing to:
    • Information poverty and unemployment
    • Economic challenges
    • Low levels of information literacy and educational attainment
    • A lack of access and use of IT
    • Other unique environmental challenges.

Their critical information needs and concerns have traditionally been inadequately represented in the LIS professions, and are only recently beginning to get some attention in LIS education (Mehra, Black, & Lee, 2010; Mellon & Kester, 2004).

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

research questions
Research Questions

RQ 1: What are the most critical information needs of rural

clients in SCA libraries?

RQ 2: What are the most important information resources and services provided to rural clients in SCA libraries?

RQ 3: What is the value of LIS education in maintaining and improving SCA library services to rural communities?

RQ 4: What is the future role of LIS education in the context of changes experienced in the SCA’s rural libraries in the 21st century?

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

slide6

Research Methods

  • Eleven semi-structured focus groups and interviews were conducted during March/April 2010 with 50 SCA librarians in:
      • Five face-to-face focus groups, two online focus groups (synchronous using voice-over-IP), one email interview, two face-to-face interviews, and one telephone interview.
  • Participants were elicited via electronic mailing lists of the SCA state library networks and library associations as well as other agencies.
  • Feedback focused on:
      • Provision of existing services and challenges in SCA rural libraries;
      • Participant expectations of LIS education to further their efforts to address local information needs and use of information resources and IT services.
  • Content analysis of qualitative feedback was done using grounded theory (e.g., open, axial, selective coding) to generate categories, broadly prioritized themes, and specific examples.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

research significance
Research Significance

Integrating under-represented voices of SCA librarians into mainstream LIS politics and practices is important for:

Balanced decision-making that will insure the equitable sharing of resources;

LIS education to remain competitive and maintain its cutting-edge relevance as a professional entity;

Greater ethical and moral responsibility of LIS educators;

Helping LIS programs become more diverse in their extent and outreach;

Educating and training future LIS professionals to develop more relevant information services and systems for rural patrons.

There are, however, very few current and rigorous studies documenting the authentic experiences and realities of rural librarians in the SCA(Dent, 2006; Hildreth, 2007; Kernicky, 2006).

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

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Research Participants

  • Library profile:

Kentucky = 5 Academic = 10

Tennessee = 40 Public = 40

West Virginia = 5

  • There were 28 county or branch public library directors/managers, four regional library staff, two regional library directors, two medical and allied health librarian, two outreach or community librarian, two library assistants, one reference and instruction librarian, one information literacy librarian, one special library programs director, one technical resource professional, one information services supervisor, one technology coordinator, one genealogy assistant, one library web coordinator, one public library assistant director, and one other library administrator.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

findings research question 1
Findings: Research Question 1

RQ 1: What are the most critical information needs of rural

clients in SCA libraries?

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

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Critical Information Needs in the SCA Rural Libraries

  • ICT access
    • Broadband Internet access – “high speed internet connections”
    • Access to up-to-date computer hardware, software and other technologies
      • Fax, word processing, resume software, printers
    • Computer hardware/software/internet training
    • Assistance in completing a specific task using a computer/technology (e.g. filling out an online job application, applying for government benefits online)
  • Resources to improve health, education, and welfare
    • Health information resource access
    • Access to databases/computer applications for homework help and college prep
    • Adult learning resources (e.g. GED prep, continuing education, college courses online)
    • Information literary – assistance in judging quality of resources and understanding
    • Keeping up with friends and family through social media sites
    • Notary services, photocopier access
  • Recreational resources [books, audiobooks, DVDs]

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

critical information needs in the sca rural libraries
Critical Information Needs in the SCA Rural Libraries
  • ICT access

“Most people don't have Internet access other than dial-up, or if you can afford, if one of the cable companies come in your area, but they don't come out in the rural areas.”

“And when people go to those facilities, those facilities are sending people to the public libraries and saying ‘we can't help you, go to your public library…A lot of the federal agency forms can only be completed online, so people come here. They don't have a clue how to do that. Even the state, the state no longer prints out your monthly pay stubs. If you are an employee you have to find a computer somewhere and print out your pay stubs and they are sending people to the public library to do that. And the courthouse sends people to the library to file their own divorce.”

“Most companies now won't allow you to physically hand them your resume, you have to do it all online. Walmart, all the hospitals say you have to do it online, you have to have an email address for them to respond to. The whole thing has changed, you can't do writing anymore, you have to do it online, and people who have had a job for twenty years all of a sudden lose it and you can't do it the same way you did it twenty years ago”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

critical information needs in the sca rural libraries1
Critical Information Needs in the SCA Rural Libraries

Resources to improve health, education and welfare

“I'm heard mention that a lot of the regional high schools don't have a school media specialist or professional librarian working in them, which then would probably affect how much literacy instruction they would get as they come into a university setting. Also I know that a lot of the students said that access to some of these technologies that other people, in other parts, maybe in more urban areas might be familiar with, they just don't have the access to work with them up here in the rural communities.”

“We have some students in their late 30s and 40s and even older and the first thing we have to do here is educate them in how to use the computers because at this point the post-secondary degree is so dependent on what you can do with that computer. ”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

findings research question 2
Findings: Research Question 2

RQ2: What are the most important information resources and services provided to rural clients in SCA libraries?

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

most important information resources and services used in the sca rural libraries
Most Important Information Resources and Services Used in the SCA Rural Libraries
  • Basic ICT access
        • Internet/broadband
        • Computer hardware and software (word processing, printing)
        • Other technologies (fax, photocopiers)
  • Free computer/Internet training
        • One-on-one training and coaching
        • Training in class setting
        • Online tutorials
  • Information resources
        • Books, genealogy resources, book clubs, DVDs, health information, children’s resources, hobbies and crafts, home/car repair

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

most important information resources and services used in the sca rural libraries1
Most Important Information Resources and Services Used in the SCA Rural Libraries

“The community I live in is a very poor rural community and most can't afford the computers and the Internet so they depend on us…Or their printer is out…Their printer is out so they come to me and [our] printing is cheaper than their ink.”

“There is no copy center in our area unless you drive into Clinton, so we provide color copies, we have a color printer if they happen to find something they want to run off. So we teach people about scanning and what exactly it is, a lot of people don't know what it is. They can take pictures of their grandkids and we'll burn it and they can take it home and play it in their DVD player. We have a notary service. We have a fax as well.”

“We connect people with resources. We had a lady come in who had an immigration issue; 'where can I go to help get this resolved?' So we try to be aware of the community resources that we can connect people to.”

“We have the only public fax machine in our community”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

findings research question 3
Findings: Research Question 3

RQ3: What is the value of LIS education in maintaining and improving SCA library services to rural communities?

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

value of lis education professional education needs in order to work more effectively
Value of LIS Education: Professional Education Needs in order to Work More Effectively
  • Managerial/Administrative/Public Administration
    • Budgeting/accounting
    • Human resources management/personnel
    • Organizational leadership/governance
    • Guidance in managing legal issues
    • Change management/ organizational change
    • Development/grant writing
  • Public Services
    • Technology Skills
    • Cultural sensitivity/non-English language skills
    • Customer service/ reference service; Outreach/Marketing
  • Technical Services
    • Cataloging
    • Managing materials budgets

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

value of lis education need for training to work more effectively
Value of LIS Education: Need for Training to Work More Effectively

“I'm still on that this in the management area: conflict/resolution. How to handle your board members or whoever your governing body is.”

“I think I need to have 25 hours in public administration. I need to know law, I need to know policies and procedures, I need to know more about how to work with government officials, organizational change. Of course, I've had a lot of experience now, but it would have helped if I had had some classes in that.”

“Dealing with the public on a daily basis, working with staff, how to actually work in a rural library and manage a rural library that would have been nice to have. I think it would have been nice too to know about some of the pitfalls of working in a smaller institution.”

“I also need the human resources, working with human resources inside your library, the laws, but I also think there needs to be more training just for rural libraries, dealing with people, we get a huge variety of people. For most of us there is no way to interact with them because there are so many different cultures within our community. Just learning the different cultures and learning how to interact with a variety of people.”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

slide19
How Can LIS Education Be Improved to be More Beneficial to Maintain or Improve SCA Rural Library Services?
  • More practical customer service skills development and coursework
      • Developing a “high touch” approach to customer service
      • Connecting with diverse clients
      • Conflict resolution training
  • More practical management/leadership skills development and coursework
  • More information and computing technology coursework

Doddridge County Public Library, West Union, WV

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

how can lis education be more beneficial to maintain or improve sca rural library services
How Can LIS Education be More Beneficial to Maintain or Improve SCA Rural Library Services?

“One thing that I do fall back on the MLS degree gives me the theoretical understanding of why I do what I do. But, what I deal with every day in terms of administration, I've had 17 years of on the job training and it's been good, but it would have been nice – we say all the time “they didn't teach this in library school”. We need to have both the theoretical and the practical.”

“… we are social workers, we are very socially oriented, we deal with homeless, we deal with drunks, we deal with mental illness and we have to help normal people find information as well as not normal people. I don't remember any management courses, and I think if you are going to be a cataloger you could take classes…if you are going to be a reference librarian okay a couple of classes would help.”

“Because in the level 5 libraries what purpose is the MLS serving? Are you giving me the MLS, that, if I didn't already know management skills, are you giving me the management skills that I could handle HR situations? The answer to that is no. Are you giving me the skills I would need in budgeting? The answer to that is no. I mean, what you're giving me is the library science world, and I can do that, I mean I'm learning that, but are you giving me the other things to make me the total professional I need to be?”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

findings research question 4
Findings: Research Question 4

RQ 4: What is the future role of LIS education in the context of changes experienced in the SCA’s rural libraries in the 21st century?

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

future role of lis education how will your sca rural library change in the next 10 years
Future Role of LIS Education: How Will Your SCA Rural Library Change in the Next 10 Years?
  • Library as a community space/center
  • eBooks
  • Improved Internet access
  • Expand outreach/collaboration
  • Additional personal computers
  • More audiobooks
  • Self-service access for patrons/less staff
  • Increasing importance of Internet
  • Librarians as researchers (e.g., data-collecting and analysis; info literacy)
  • Advancing technology
  • More books
  • What services and resources would you like to be able to offer in you library that you do not currently have access to? Staff, Space, Computers, Technology training classes, Patron-centered programs, Internet, Outreach, Funding for specific services, Books.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

future role of lis education how will your sca rural library change in the next 10 years1
Future Role of LIS Education: How Will Your SCA Rural Library Change in the Next 10 Years?
  • “I think it's very important that libraries face up to the reality that we must get rid of the “shush”, that we allow people to eat and drink. Don't burn any books! And we have live rock music and coffee shops and all the other things that university libraries and public libraries are starting to do.”
  • “I just don't think the rural areas are going to change that much in ten years. Rural life is slow, it's not the hustle and bustle of Nashville or DC or NY or anything like that.”
  • “…libraries as a community space, that's the big push right…people are looking for that and it is partly economic, because they can't afford to go to movies, they can't afford to go out…They want a place that they can gather with other people and the library is free, they can do that there.”
  • “Maybe we'll have a robot. I would think we would have less staff because with more technology a lot of times they're going to cut back on the people…“I see ebooks down the road, I guess in my head I picture emptier shelves. The changes are happening so fast it's just unbelievable.”

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

conclusions
Conclusions
  • SCA rural librarians have critical information needs that include:
    • IT competencies and management skills;
    • Understanding the broader context in which local and regional events occur;
    • Practical training and computers;
    • More IT education (e.g., short instructional podcasts).
  • Research findings indicate that there is an urgent need for professional library education and library continuing education for those working in the SCA’s rural libraries in areas of: managerial/administrative/public administration, public services, and technical services.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

conclusions1

Participants expected the future growth of SCA rural libraries to:

Consolidate the library as a social and community center for people to gather and grow professionally and personally;

Develop innovative partnerships to find creative solutions that take rural libraries outside their comfort zone;

Integrate more IT services and IT resources especially those available free or at low cost to respond to limited resources;

Extend the role and capability of the librarian to help people in practical information literacy and IT skills.

Next research steps will involve developing comprehensive surveys to gather quantitative and qualitative datasets from a larger number of respondents across the SCA regions.

Conclusions

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

slide26

Acknowledgements

We appreciate the recently funded IMLS grant that is helping to support activities reported in this presentation. We gratefully acknowledge the participation and contributions of SCA’s rural librarians and others who participated in our data collecting efforts.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt

slide27

Questions and Comments?

Thank you for your attention and participation.

ALISE 2011: Mehra, Black, Singh, & Nolt