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A Social Justice Framework in Community Engagement: The Rural Librarian Information Technology Master’s Scholarship Program Bharat Mehra

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Presentation on theme: "A Social Justice Framework in Community Engagement: The Rural Librarian Information Technology Master’s Scholarship Program Bharat Mehra"— Presentation transcript:

1 A Social Justice Framework in Community Engagement: The Rural Librarian Information Technology Master’s Scholarship Program Bharat Mehra Associate Professor School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee Lake City Public Library, TN Johnson City Public Library, TN Sevier County Public Library, Sevierville, TN Hancock County Public Library, Sneedville, TN

2 Agenda  Theoretical Principles  Social Justice Considerations  Community Engagement  About the ITRL Program and the ITRL Purpose  Why the ITRL Program is Important?  Research Goals  Discussion  Collaborations in the Planning and Development of the ITRL Grant Proposal  Partnerships in the Five Phases of the ITRL Project Design  Conclusions CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

3 Theoretical Principles  Fairness and equity in social relationships:  Fairness and equity in social relationships: Does the project reflect upon making various experiences more equitable for specific underserved individuals or populations?  Empowerment:  Empowerment: How is the project changing:  Ways in which individuals can take action to make a difference in their lives before and after the interaction?  People’s perception about their role in determining the course of their lives before and after the interaction?  Economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental impacts:  Economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental impacts: How is the interaction changing the ways things are at these levels before and after the interaction? CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

4  Community building and community development:  Community building and community development: Building equitable partnerships and collaborations within and across the academy with local, national and international communities to promote social equity and social justice for individual, social, and community empowerment of the disenfranchised.  Diversity, multiplicity, and democracy:  Diversity, multiplicity, and democracy: Varied and participative involvement in decision-making.  Everyday information needs:  Everyday information needs: Does the project change how the everyday information needs of the disenfranchised get met?  Community informatics:  Community informatics: Exploring the role and the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower and enable local and global communities to meet their goals and aspirations. Theoretical Principles CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

5 Social Justice Considerations  Recognize traditionally identified “marginalized” as equals who are experts in knowing their own situations/realities.  Develop equitable partnerships in LIS to empower people to make changes in their everyday circumstances.  Discard labels that minimize people’s experiences and identify all project participants as community researchers. Mehra, B., Rioux, K., & Albright, K. S. (2009). Social Justice in Library and Information Science. In M. J. Bates & M. N. Maack (eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. New York: Taylor & Francis Group. Mehra, B., Albright, K. S., & Rioux, K. (2006). A Practical Framework for Social Justice Research in the Information Professions. Proceedings of the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science & Technology 2006: Volume 43. [poster/short paper] CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

6 Social Justice in LIS Research  Contextualize library and information science (LIS) work in the everyday experiences of society's "marginalized" in ways that make a difference in their socio-economic and socio-political experiences of marginalization.  Recognize the diverse potential of LIS work for bringing real change in people's lives.  Begin to re-examine LIS scholarship, practice, and relevance to emerging social contexts of the 21st century.  Identify and explore a range of "how to" methods and approaches in LIS that may build upon the existing measures of social justice outcomes and impacts. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

7 Social Justice Elements  An underserved population: Identifies which group (or individuals) we are working with.  The information (communication) need:  The information (communication) need: Presents an asset-based approach that recognizes the strengths of various stakeholders (including the identified “marginalized”); goes beyond a deficit approach traditionally adopted in LIS research and helps to develop a service plan that taps into existing strengths embedded in the project.  Methodologies:  Methodologies: Examines research approaches used in the process of engaging with the study population.  Outcomes:  Outcomes: What are the tangible and intangible changes that have occurred in the lives of the targeted individuals before and after getting involved in the project?  Assessment and evaluation:  Assessment and evaluation: Did the original need that motivated the interaction get addressed? How effective were the strategies that were adopted to address the original issue? CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

8 Community Engagement  American LIS programs and their affiliated institutions need more critical/constructive approaches to revise traditionally defined outreach/service missions that are “add-ons” to teaching and research agendas. (Osborne, 2004; Fear & Sandman, 1995)  Current developments in LIS education call for employing the phrase “community engagement” to:  Accurately represent integration efforts of teaching, research, and service that better captures the community essence of social equity and justice. (Gibson, 2006; McCook, 2000)  Replace historically loaded, socio-politically biased words (e.g., outreach/service) symbolizing imbalanced power inequities. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

9  Recognizes the need for using the right language, vocabulary, and unbiased words to represent conceptualization and planning of socially-relevant research projects in the LIS curriculum.  Adopts more holistic and integrated efforts that connect teaching, research, and student participation in collaborations of engagement with local, regional, national, and global communities to achieve socially-relevant outcomes.  Represents a more contemporary and relevant strategy in recognizing diversity and the assets and skills of the underserved populations on society’s margins.  Presents a model that is reflective and forward-oriented in its efforts to build equitable partnerships, involving LIS students and community members, to achieve collaboratively-defined community goals. Community Engagement CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

10 Grant Project Rural Library Professionals as Change Agents in the 21 st Century: Integrating Information Technology Competencies in the Southern and Central Appalachian Region (ITRL) ($567,660). Institute of Museum and Library Services, Laura Bush 21 st Century Librarian Program, October 2009 – September 2012 (PI: B. Mehra, K. Black, V. Singh). ITRL Planning Meeting 13 November, 2009 CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

11 About the ITRL Program “Information Technology Rural Librarian Master’s Scholarship Program” (ITRL) in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee meets an urgent need for rural librarians in the Southern and Central Appalachian (SCA) region to develop information technology competencies and training in a master’s program (accredited by the American Library Association) that combines work experience and practice with graduate instruction and curriculum support. Hamlin-Lincoln County Public Library, Hamlin, WV CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

12 The ITRL Purpose The purpose of the ITRL Scholarship Program was to recruit sixteen paraprofessionals working in rural libraries in the 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 CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

13 Why the ITRL Program is Important The Southern and Central Appalachian Region is experiencing:  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 Library professionals who are embedded in their communities are in a strong position to help address and develop solutions to these needs. Laurel Jones Public Library, Laurel, MS CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

14 Research Goals  To identify collaborations that were significant in the planning and development of the ITRL grant proposal.  To explore partnerships that will be instrumental in implementing future activities in the five phases of the ITRL project design: 1. Recruitment of ITRL students from the SCA’s rural libraries. 2. Needs assessment of library services/information challenges in the SCA. 3. Implementation of educational and training activities. 4. Professional mentoring by professional educators and practitioners. 5. Evaluation/assessment of program outcomes, and dissemination of program results/experiences.  To discuss social justice principles and community engagement in the ITRL project. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

15 Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and Development of the Grant Proposal  Ongoing feedback from regional librarians in the UT’s SIS advisory board and alumni networks and paraprofessional experiences shared by SIS DE students developed a fuller picture about the context of study.  Participation in local, regional, and state-level professional library networks established professional ties with rural librarians in the SCA region and gained their support and involvement in the grant proposal.  Contributions by East Tennessee’s regional public librarians in a pilot study furthered formal assessment of need and provided evidence to inform the grant development process.  Strategic planning in East Tennessee’s two regional libraries provided the impetus to take action to address the experienced challenges (e.g., lack of resources) in the region’s public libraries. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

16 Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and Development of the Grant Proposal  A pilot quantitative web-based survey with select open-ended questions was conducted to explore the perspectives of East Tennessee’s regional librarians about the extent of their need for a professional library education to integrate IT competencies and information management skills in their work environments.  Research questions  What are the key information needs of rural communities in the region?  What are the library services provided by rural information professionals in the region?  What is the extent of perceived need for formal library professional education among information professionals in the region?  What specific training/educational programs are needed by information professionals in the region? CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

17 Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and Development of the Grant Proposal  Involvement of project partners throughout the grant activities is providing validity, leadership, knowledge, networks, experience, and drive to promote IT-based development and change in the region’s communities.  Nancy Renfro, Director, Watauga Regional Library  Donald B. Reynolds, Director, Nolichucky Regional Library System  Susan Simmons, Director, Clinch-Powell Regional Library  KC Williams, System Director, Sevier County Public Library  Representatives from other regional and county library systems in the nine states within the SCA region are participating in the various grant activities. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

18 Collaborations in the ITRL Phase 1: Recruitment  Created the ITRL Recruitment Board with members who helped recruit potential ITRL applicants, developed a plan for competitive recruitment of students to the program, including development of recruitment materials and criteria for selection (e.g. members of ARSL, ETLA).  State librarians, regional library directors, county library directors, and others in the SCA region assisted in marketing and promotion efforts, identifying potential candidates from their staff and community populations, and helping them complete admission procedures and application materials. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

19 ITRL Students Heather Ruble Duby, Acquisitions Assistant, Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville TN Brittany Renee Fletcher, Elementary School Teacher/Media Team Member, Mountain City Elementary School Media Center, Mountain City, TN Julie Forkner, Reference Librarian, E. G. Fisher Public Library, Athens, TN Becky Boatman Grindstaff, Software Support Specialist, Knox County Schools, Knoxville, TN Angela Cortellino Glowcheski, Information Specialist, Lumpkin County Public Library, Chestatee Regional Library, Dahlonega, GA CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

20 Sally Elizabeth Gilliam, Library Assistant, Lonesome Pine Regional Library, Big Stone Gap, Virginia.\ Angela Cortellino Glowcheski, Information Specialist, Lumpkin County Public Library, Chestatee Regional Library, Dahlonega, Georgia. Richard George HaynesHaynes, Director, Harlan County Public Library System, Harlan, Kentucky. Kevin Sean Jump, Circulation Assistant, Weeks-Townsend Memorial Library, Barbourville, Kentucky. Lauren Long, Library Technologist, Madison County Public Library, Marshall, North Carolina. Susan Elaine Macrellis, Library Director, East Ridge City Library, East Ridge, Tennessee. Helen Frances Owen, Instructional Supervisor for Materials and Supplies, Teacher Resource Center, Sevier County School System, Sevierville, Tennessee. Marilyn J. Pontius, Hancock War Memorial Branch Library, Washington County Free Library, Washington County, Maryland. Deborah J. Ratliff, Branch Manager/Program Specialist, Goshen Public Library, Rockbridge Regional Library, Goshen, Virginia. Christine Maness Smith, Branch Manager, C. Bascom Slemp Memorial Library, Lonesome Pine regional Library System, Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Susan J. Williams, Resource Center/Education Coordinator, Highlander Research and Education Center, New Market, Tennessee. Vicki Michelle Crawford Winstead, Library Media Specialist, Jackson Elementary School Library, Kingsport, Tennessee. Amber Dawn Woodard, Library Technical Assistant, Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee. Vandana Singh, Assistant Professor Carol Tenopir, Professor Peiling Wang, Professor Cindy Welch, Assistant Professor ITRL Students Richard George Haynes, Director, Harlan County Public Library System, Harlan, KY Kevin Sean Jump, Circulation Assistant, Weeks- Townsend Memorial Library, Barbourville, KY Lauren Long, Library Technologist, Madison County Public Library, Marshall, NC Susan Elaine Macrellis, Library Director, East Ridge City Library, East Ridge, TN Helen Frances Owen: No picture Instructional Supervisor for Materials and Supplies, Teacher Resource Center, Sevier County School System, Sevierville, TN CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

21 Sally Elizabeth Gilliam, Library Assistant, Lonesome Pine Regional Library, Big Stone Gap, Virginia.\ Angela Cortellino Glowcheski, Information Specialist, Lumpkin County Public Library, Chestatee Regional Library, Dahlonega, Georgia. Richard George HaynesHaynes, Director, Harlan County Public Library System, Harlan, Kentucky. Kevin Sean Jump, Circulation Assistant, Weeks-Townsend Memorial Library, Barbourville, Kentucky. Lauren Long, Library Technologist, Madison County Public Library, Marshall, North Carolina. Susan Elaine Macrellis, Library Director, East Ridge City Library, East Ridge, Tennessee. Helen Frances Owen, Instructional Supervisor for Materials and Supplies, Teacher Resource Center, Sevier County School System, Sevierville, Tennessee. Marilyn J. Pontius, Hancock War Memorial Branch Library, Washington County Free Library, Washington County, Maryland. Deborah J. Ratliff, Branch Manager/Program Specialist, Goshen Public Library, Rockbridge Regional Library, Goshen, Virginia. Christine Maness Smith, Branch Manager, C. Bascom Slemp Memorial Library, Lonesome Pine regional Library System, Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Susan J. Williams, Resource Center/Education Coordinator, Highlander Research and Education Center, New Market, Tennessee. Vicki Michelle Crawford Winstead, Library Media Specialist, Jackson Elementary School Library, Kingsport, Tennessee. Amber Dawn Woodard, Library Technical Assistant, Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee. Vandana Singh, Assistant Professor Carol Tenopir, Professor Peiling Wang, Professor Cindy Welch, Assistant Professor ITRL Students Marilyn J. Pontius, Hancock War Memorial Branch Library, Washington County Free Library, Washington County, MA Deborah J. Ratliff, Branch Manager/Program Specialist, Goshen Public Library, Rockbridge Regional Library, Goshen, VI Christine Maness Smith, Branch Manager, C. Bascom Slemp Memorial Library, Lonesome Pine regional Library System, Big Stone Gap, VI Susan J. Williams: No picture. Resource Center/Education Coordinator, Highlander Research and Education Center, New Market, TN Vicki Michelle Crawford Winstead, L ibrary Media Specialist, Jackson Elementary School Library, Kingsport, TN Amber Dawn Woodard, Library Technical Assistant, Cumberland University, Lebanon, TN CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

22 Collaborations in ITRL Phase 2: Needs Assessment  An ITRL Needs Assessment Symposium [online and face-to-face meetings] was conducted in March/April 2010 and fifty library and information professionals from across the SCA region provided feedback about library services and information challenges experienced in their rural libraries.  Online break-out sessions and face-to-face focus groups were orchestrated to address local information needs, use of information resources and services, challenges and barriers, areas of improvement, and use of computers and information technologies. Doddridge County Public Library, West Union, WV CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

23  IT deliverables applied towards rural libraries include:  Technology planning, assessment, and analysis  Database and web design, development, and usability  Building digital library, web portals, and Library 2.0 tools  Establishing hardware and software configurations for networking systems  Management outcomes in rural library courses include:  Service evaluation/assessment in rural libraries  Planning/management of a rural library program for youth and adults  Reader’s advisory and other information services  Grant writing and partnership development Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3: Education/Training Implementation CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

24 ITRL Course Schedule (42 Credit Hour Program) CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

25 Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3: The Possibilities in IT Courses  Partnerships to facilitate student developed course outcomes related to:  Creation and use of technology and online tools (e.g., digital libraries, OPAC, electronic databases) to access local materials, bringing together state and local library networks.  Understanding of IT-related planning and application of research methodologies to train other employees/ patrons to fully utilize available databases and search engines.  Community based electronic communications (using Web 2.0 to promote and expand library services). CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

26 Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3: The Possibilities in Rural Management Courses  Collaborations with rural libraries where ITRL students work to facilitate development of course outcomes related to:  Library service evaluation based on understanding of user needs as assessed by students and the library.  Working within individual libraries with employees and patrons to offer appropriate services and materials responding to changes in expectations of various populations (current interests, activities, etc.).  Improving reader ‘s advisory methods and techniques, creating partnerships between their library and other libraries, writing grant proposals for the library. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

27 Collaborations in ITRL Phase 4: Professional Mentoring  Sixteen librarians with MLS degrees have formed the ITRL Mentoring Board that is working with ITRL educators to tailor individual student’s academic program in integrating IT competencies to meet the needs of their rural library and community [since May 2010].  ITRL students, educators from UT’s SIS, and practitioner-mentors from the ITRL Mentoring Board identified learning objectives, course recommendations, and research projects to enhance IT skills with rural library applications.  Faculty and practitioner-mentor participants developed profiles of work/position descriptions and IT expectations for each ITRL student.  Each work/position profile is incorporating specific IT content and rural management applications. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

28 ITRL Connections: Practitioner-Mentoring Board  Nancy Renfro, Director, Watauga Regional Library, Johnson City, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Heather Duby.  Amy Bond, Director, Lonesome Pine Regional Library, Big Stone Gap, VA. Practitioner-mentor of Brittany R. Fletcher.  Cindy Church, Continuing Education Consultant, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA. Practitioner-mentor of Julie Forkner.  Susan Simmons, Director, Clinch-Powell Regional Library, Clinton, TN. Practitioner-mentor of Angela C. Glowcheski.  Jennifer Cowan-Henderson, Director, Upper Cumberland Regional Library, Cookeville, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Becky Boatman Grindstaff.  Lori Acton, District Director, Laurel County Public Library, London, KY. Practitioner-Mentor for Richard G. Haynes. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

29 ITRL Connections: Practitioner-Mentoring Board  Chris Durman, Music Librarian, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Practitioner-mentor of Kevin Sean Jump.  Melodi Goff, Director, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC. Practitioner-mentor of Lauren Long.  Connie Pierce, Media Specialist for Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School, Chattanooga, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Susan E. Macrellis.  K. C. Williams, System Director, Sevier County Public Library System, Sevierville, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Helen F. Owen.  Patrick Davison, Reference Librarian, Hazard Community & Technical College, Combs, KY. Practitioner-Mentor of Marilyn J. Pontius. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

30 ITRL Connections: Practitioner-Mentoring Board  Karen Kuhn, Library Director, Clifton Forge Public Library, VA. Practitioner-Mentor of Deborah J. Ratliff.  Michael Gilley, Director, Mountain Empire Community College, VA. Practitioner-Mentor of Christine M. Smith.  Dr. Fred Hay, Librarian, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC. Practitioner-mentor of Susan J. Williams.  Helen Whitaker, Director, Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport, TN. Practitioner-mentor of Vicki M. C. Winstead.  Don Reynolds, Director, Nolichucky Regional Library, Morristown, TN. Practitioner-mentor of Amber D. Woodard. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

31 Collaborations in ITRL Phase 5: Evaluation  Feedback from ITRL mentors, students, rural library professionals, and rural library patrons are being regularly collected.  Throughout the ITRL duration we will continuously analyze the effectiveness of students’ experiences in developing IT course applications for their rural work environments.  Quantitative survey-based online student evaluation at the beginning and end of each class.  Qualitative interviews in alternate semesters.  This will include data on community outcomes, career choice, academic success, and the graduates’ evaluation of the program. CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

32 Conclusions  ITRL is a collaborative effort from conception to completion. Educators, partners, students, and libraries are working together to improve community services and materials across the SCA rural belt. It is helping to apply social justice and community engagement efforts to promote progressive development in the region. We hope this collaboration will continue long after the ITRL students graduate. Upshur County Public Library, Buckhannon, WV CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

33 We appreciate the funding from IMLS that is helping to support activities reported in this presentation. We gratefully acknowledge the participation and contributions of the SCA regional public librarians and others who participated in various data gathering methods. Acknowledgements CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra

34 Thank you for your attention and participation. Questions and Comments? CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra


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