Critical Connections: Personal Learning Environments and Information Literacy

The core research question of the article, “Critical Connections: Personal Learning Environments and Information Literacy” that the authors are attempting to answer is: How can the implementation of personal learning environments and critical information literacies in the traditional research assignment facilitate and improve student learning and literacy? Personal learning environments (PLE) and critical information literacies (CIL) were developed by dissatisfied librarians in response to the inadequate filling of the needs of student learners (Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p. 3).

According to Atwell, personal learning environments are made up of “a collection of loosely coupled tools, including Web 2.0 technologies, used for working, learning, reflection and collaboration with others” (as cited in, Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p.3). PLEs are structured spaces that engage learners with the wider world of information, a space where they are free to communicate, create, and explore information alone or with a community of like-minded individuals. Luke and Kapitzke define critical information literacies as “a complex set of behaviors, attitudes and interactions that a learner adopts to engage critically in information landscapes” (as cited in, Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p.4). When used properly, CILs encourage learners to question and analyze information, specifically the sources of this information and the importance it could have on the global community of information seekers and learners.

The traditional research assignment fails to incorporate tools that actively engage learners with the information they are presented with or inquiring about. “Research assignments founded on PLEs and CILs encourage learners to examine entire systems of information from production through to distribution and dissemination” (Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p.10). Through this encouragement, learners become more active participants with the materials they are studying. Additionally, incorporating these concepts into the inquiry process allows students to reflect on the material after completing the assignment and evaluate what they have learned.

The new information landscapes, PLEs and CILs, must now be taken out of theoretical context and become practically applied in formal education. The effects of incorporating PLEs and CILs in student learning and research can range from altering student engagement with research methods to shifting the model of education toward new technologies and modalities not yet incorporated in formal education. Benefits to learners in this new environment are an increase of access to open resources, critical participation in actual content creation, practice in analyzing and interacting with material instead of merely consuming it, and a deeper understanding of the different meanings of knowledge.

Open resources go beyond traditional text, therefore learners in this environment will interact in an innovative and more engaging way with information. Openness allows for new pathways of learning connections (social media, information exchange, inquiry, dialogue) to be made that are not an innate aspect of text-only based learning. When tasked with creating content through the research process, students learn to analyze and interpret—and ideally question—information rather than accept authority as categorically valid.

Taking the theory of PLE and CIL and applying it to the classroom will pose challenges to both educators and learners. Educators must recognize new forms of knowledge, be willing to use them, modify their instruction model to incorporate them, teach learners how to access them, and embrace the idea that “Traditional research assignments fail to capture these broad and lived experiences of inquiry within modern information landscapes” (Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p. 5). Both educators and learners can find more satisfaction in the learning process by broadening the information landscape. In turn, scholarship will be transformed from a one-way information highway into a sea of flowing information of active participants. This transformation may include social discussion boards, blogs, wikis, and micropublishing; the challenge for both educators and learners is to perceive these new tools as valid for gaining knowledge. As some resources may be questionable, learners’ practiced skills of evaluation and the analytic process gained from this innovative model of learning will give them the ability to think critically and make appropriate choices.

Aside from any budget or physical limitations, the biggest barrier to inhibit successful exploration will happen at the staff level. In libraries many of the PLE and CIL learning take place in Makerspaces or Learning Labs that can be produced at a small or large scale through grant funding. Staff are at the heart of the function and success of these spaces. They are key to facilitating a fun and adequate learning environment in accordance with students’ changing needs. The rate at which technology advances and the changes that teaching roles will experience require staff who “must be learners themselves, who are flexible and able to adapt to the changing environment and technologies. They must facilitate learning for diverse users and be knowledgeable about theories of teaching and learning as well as user needs and behaviors” (Koh & Abbas, 2015, p. 114). Without proper staffing these spaces will be unsustainable and unsuccessful.

As learning systems continue to change and develop, it is important to step back and consider what components of the traditional approach should be protected and maintained. Traditional approaches now fall short of satisfying student needs because of its “inability to engage students authentically in conversation with other thinkers and writers…students fail to understand their own voice in inquiry as a conversation they can enter” (Hicks & Sinkinson, 2015, p.3). The components of information literacy to identify, locate and evaluate information are still important to maintain as the nature of information continues to change and mold itself into new forms. PLE and CIL learning is not abandoning traditional learning systems altogether, but rather creatively addressing shortcomings of traditional approaches. The biggest criticisms were based on how inquiry was taught. PLE and CIL move inquiry to the forefront and at a much earlier age when children are engaged authentically in a way relevant to their lives and realities.


Attwell, G. (2010). Personal learning environments and Vygotsky. Retrieved from:

Hicks, A. & Sinkinson, C. (2015). Critical connections: Personal learning environments and information literacy. Research in Learning Technology, 23, p. 1-12. Retrieved from:

Koh, K. & Abbas, J. (2015). Competencies for information professionals in learning labs and makerspaces. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 56(2), p. 114-129. Retrieved from:

Luke, A. & Kapitzke, C. (1999). Literacies and libraries: Archives and cybraries. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 7(3), p. 467-491. Retrieved from:

From school to work and from work to school: Information environments and transferring information literacy practices

“From school to work and from work to school: Information environments and transferring information literacy practices” James E. Herring

Synopsis and core statement-Adrienne
In his article, “From School to Work and From Work to School: Information Environments and Transferring Information Literacy Practices,” James E. Herring utilizes a constructivist approach to evaluate the transfer of information literacy practices from school to the workplace among 14 year-old students in Scotland. Rather than identifying a set of research questions, the author employs grounded theory techniques in the study to explore the transfer of information literacy practices from school to the workplace.

The author reviews the literature related to information literacy practices and the transfer of this knowledge from one learning environment to the other. The literature review ultimately reveals the unique nature of the study in that it focuses on literacy practices of students completing work experience versus those that do not emphasize transfer to the workplace. The study examines the views of students and guidance teachers concerning the respective information environments. Herring explains his findings in the interviews of the participants prior to and during their workplace experience, the technology and formats of information utilized, and the contexts and environments in which they were used. Finally, the author reveals the results of the post-placement interviews and whether or not information literacy skills were transferred from the workplace to the school according to the methodological approach utilized and ultimate conclusions drawn.

Methods -Carla
As mentioned above, this study employed a constructivist approach to explore and develop interview questions. Based on his observations and scientific studies, Herring used knowledge, data collection, and analysis being learned by the individual to interpret the reality of the individual’s experience. The participants in this study were in their 10th year of secondary school. Ten students were selected out of eighty students who were going on work experience. Four guidance counselors were included in this study in order to have a balance of information environments; in this case both the school perspective and workplace perspective. Part of the method was to also have an element of stratified sampling, which the teachers selected students with experience in the work experience placement, small couturier business, large engineering firm, law courts, center for the elderly, and a veterinary practice. Part of their data collection was to conduct interviews with the students and counselors before and after the work experience. The researcher used initial and focused coding to analyze and interpret the data, and clearly discovered definite differences between the workplace and school environment for this sample of students.

Herring found that students perceived distinct differences in the information environments in the workplace versus those in their school. Some particular instances included person-to-person information gathering (more prevalent in the workplace), email usage (more prevalent in the workplace and the Internet (more prevalent in schools by students.) There were also questions that lingered in regards to the transfer of the skills learned. The guidance teachers diverged in their ability to discern if the skills learned were sustainable or short lived. It also seemed that initially the teachers did not completely understand the idea of an “information environment.” The study itself opened up their views on information environments and they agreed that focusing on information environments, specifically, in future studies would bolster the observations the students would be attuned to make during their work experience. Developing search skills were part of a larger discussion in which teachers thought would be an opportunity of focus in future work exchange opportunities.

Herring’s study found that the teens took the idea of information literacy for granted. It seems that people tend to view this idea as an ubiquitous and unfocused object. People, in general, seem to view information as necessary, but do not generally consider how they access, assess, transfer, understand or engage in information gathering practices. This article definitely opens up a larger discussion regarding how information should be perceived as well as explained to student populations that may be gathering information for various reasons.

Questions and future research-Mia
How do students from various demographic arenas compare/contrast with this small study of 10 Scottish students, and what impact does information literacy have upon their long term success?
How would the employees assess their own, as well as the students’ information literacy skills before and after the internship?
Do students universally think less of information literacy outside of school and in the work environment?
Is this a result of their lack of exposure and experiences, or simply due to their immaturity?
Is this an information literacy “problem” that begs correction? If so, how best to correct?
Who is responsible for teaching these skills when teachers are overburdened?
Is it up to the teacher librarian to recruit both teachers and students for lessons on information literacy? If so, how might this best be accomplished?
How is a beginner – average – and advanced user of information defined?
Do students with more advanced information literacy skills have an advantage over others?

“Future research in this area could replicate this study in a number of schools… Implications for the library and information sector are that teacher librarians might focus more on developing students’ ability to create effective search strategies” (Herring 17). It would be interesting to note what this ultimately means for the student and his/her academic and professional future based on the questions above.

Answers- Heather
In order to gain a more comprehensive view of students’ information literacy skills within the workplace, students from all demographics should be studied. A study used to research a larger number of students would yield more accurate results. I believe that students’ lack of knowledge regarding the importance of information skills is a universal issue. Students who have been taught information literacy skills regularly will see more of an importance for these skills. Without these vital skills, students will not be able to find the information they are looking for.

Further research must be done to prove how information literacy skills directly affects students in the workforce, however, teacher librarians, working collaboratively with K-12 instructors, offer critical skills that help students evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources into a coherent piece of work. This research will make a case for consistent information literacy instruction throughout a student’s academic and professional career. With consistent instruction and practice, students, regardless of their demographic, will be prepared for college and career.

User Experience is a Social Justice Issue

User Experience is a Social Justice Issue

by Sumana Harihareswara

Empathy and the User Experience

Monica Diego

Kristi Hansen

Dana Kim

Stephanie Miko

Grace Song

Sumana Harihareswara defines customer service as a basic human right; the author’s aim is to change practices to focus on the needs of the user. Sometimes, as the author points out, technology gets in the way of good customer service. One such example is the “19 Steps of Hell” described at the New York public library. A user must complete 19 steps to use an e-book. Consider a user who is not fluent in English or a disabled user, these extra steps create a barrier and barriers stop the flow of information. It can also be seen in the Keurig coffee system: the Keurig’s benefits and detriments are weighed by the users, and it works for some people, but not all. It is important to be able to step back and look at services from the viewpoint of the user, and take into account the diverse needs of the library. The author discusses empathy and the need for librarians to think in terms of human relationships instead of hard and fast rules.

Being hospitable is accepting feedback (the negative as well as the positive), and turning that feedback into usable data. It is important to “see from many different user’s points of view, even when it’s uncomfortable or shows us that we’ve failed” (Harihareswara, 2015, p. 4). Working together and learning to communicate effectively is a practical solution to better customer support. Libraries and technology go hand in hand, and according to Harihareswara empathy is listening and responding.

In a public library setting it is crucial to focus on the providing of services, and as Harihareswara states, the building of capillaries instead of arteries, or building personal relationships and leaving the technology building to those who can better control it. Leaving the arteries to others, and creating a better user experience using disciplined empathy, the public library can provide welcoming hospitality coupled with the cutting-edge technology users crave.

After the author, Sumana Harihareswara, stated many examples of proven issues in lack of usability in banking, e-books, and others, she concluded that there was a simple lack of empathy on the developer’s side of programming (Harihareswara, 2015). It is obvious that poor usability leads to lack of use, which causes a barrier in information access, which is a complete disregard for open access. Allowing obstacles like bad usability to plague the information world, ultimately narrows awareness.

The author concludes that simple actions of empathy for the users and keeping an open mind to possible improvements, can destroy unneeded barriers to information access. Creating a connection between developers and users through communication, allows developers to modify any needed programing to allow for better usability. This can be done by organizing a diverse group of control members who can trouble shoot issues during development phases (Harihareswara, 2015). The author also asks to omit any notions of dominant point of views. As a programmer and creating a product, it’s easy to assume a product is perfect because it is your creation in a professional environment, but will your audience and users understand the product in its entirety. Being empathetic to these users and open to feedback can greatly increase the usability and use of your product, which is in the end the entire purpose to a creation.

This issue can be labeled as “bad customer service.” A simple definition of customer service states it is “the act of taking care of a customer’s needs by providing and delivering professional, helpful, and high quality service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.” Our author states that customers need to be treated “as a first class responsibility and a source of important data” (p. 3). Designing with a code of “disciplined empathy” will ensure all user needs are meet, the product is at its best, and all possible information is available for all to access and use.

The term “social justice” refers to making sure no one is left behind in issues of civil rights, opportunities, or just clearing out the judgments people make against each other that separate them in society. Social justice aims to erase barriers, so everyone in our society is able to enjoy the same high quality of life without prejudice. Harihareswara has stumbled on a hidden prejudice in our Internet society: one that is against the computer illiterate. People may joke that they’re “bad” at computers or that they need their kids show them how to use their smartphone. The more we step away from paper and face-to-face interaction, the bigger the divide between the tech savvy and the computer illiterate. This is something people may be embarrassed about and try to mask it with jokes, but it is no laughing matter.

When Harihareswara mentions the “19 Steps of Hell” to borrow an e-book from the library, that is something relatively inconsequential in an individual’s life. But as we saw last year with the roll out of Obamacare, bad user design and interface, combined with people who may be elderly, disabled, or lack proper Internet access, creates a cascading operational failure.

Customer service and the IT department will gripe about the problem being “between the keyboard and the chair”, meaning it is not the system’s error but the user’s. But many of these same designers refuse to view their creation as difficult for the layperson to use. Many times programmers are focusing on speed, precision, and economy of language. What one programmer may see as needless words – an inelegant dumbing down of the expedient user system being designed – may be necessary explanations for those who are less confident in their computing skills. Isn’t it possible that while we librarians work to help the public with their computer skills, we should also be teaching our programmers and designers to be creative, compassionate, and just?

In conclusion, this article addresses much more than the issue of improving customer service. Most public service domains, companies and businesses know that customer service should always be great and impressive for its customers. Harihareswara explores the questions of how and why. The purpose of this article is to lead to more meaningful conversations on how to incorporate diversity in the workplace and how doing so will lead to better products and services. Simply put, the more diverse identities a library has in its staff, the more comfortable patrons will feel using the services. For example, if the designers of library software, websites and/or services are made from the point of view of people who may not have as much education or may not be completely fluent in English, then perhaps more people (especially those who are marginalized) will be able to use it without getting frustrated or feeling inadequate. The author’s discussion of hospitality and disciplined empathy are core to her argument that with more effective communication and through more listening and observing, services will be more all-inclusive. The aspect of including more people, especially those who are of minority groups or do not have as much opportunity in work or in the general society, will be helpful in the long run with lasting positive changes. It does not start with the product or service itself, it starts with the willingness to understand different people.


Harihareswara, H. (2015). User Experience is a Social Justice Issue. Code{4}lib Journal, 1-5.

Library Services to Children, Teens, and Families Experiencing Homelessness

Terrile, V. C. (2009). Library services to children, teens, and families experiencing homelessness. Urban Library Journal, 15(2), 20-34
Synopsis and Core Research Questions
In the article Library Services to Children, Teens, and Families Experiencing Homelessness, Terrile describes the demographics and educational issues children and teens experiencing homelessness face every day. The author explores the role library programs can play in improving the challenges this population encounters. The author also examines some model library programs reaching out to children, teens, and families experiencing homelessness.
Persons who are homeless are one of the most marginalized populations that libraries may encounter. Policies and services that address homelessness may range from “antagonistic to welcoming and supportive” (pp 21). Most of the persons experiencing homelessness are children, with the average age being nine years old (pp 20) and families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population (pp 20). Though the rate of families experiencing homelessness is rising, often young people are not considered in these counts if they are “doubling up” with other families (pp 22). Children and teens experiencing homelessness are often given little support from social service and nonprofit agencies. Additionally, homelessness affects Black and Latino persons disproportionately.
Other facts:
• Approximately 1.2 million children living in families with no secure housing (in 2007)
• Approximately 1,682,900 homeless and runaway youth (2008)
• Up to 45% of teens seeking a shelter bed were released from foster care in the previous 12 months
Obstacles that children and teens experiencing homelessness face often surround school access and achievement and include registration and transportation issues, internet access issues, access to reference books and materials, and lack of access to school supplies. Children and teens experiencing homelessness are at higher risk of bullying, higher risk of behavioral problems, literacy deficits, and developmental delays (pp 23).
Research has found that children and teens experiencing homelessness are often very skilled at making references and comparisons. These skills can be built upon by libraries by offering opportunities to integrate art with literacy for these children and teens to make connections through a “creative multidisciplinary approach.” (pp 25)
The author used literature review and personal communication with library programs to gather information.
Factors such as lack of transportation, lack of legal guardianship, proof of residency, access to records, and lack of access to child care for younger children make library accessibility challenging for children and families experiencing homelessness. Bringing library programs and services to the population is vital to creating successful programs. This means providing programs to shelters and other community areas that are easier for this population to access. Out of school programs have proven to help narrow the achievement gap with this population (pp 27). Moreover, providing literacy services to parents enhances children’s literacy as well (pp 25).
The biggest obstacle to outreach efforts to children and families experiencing homelessness is the same event that helped to cause the doubling of homeless families: the recession of 2007/2008. Libraries are seeing budget cuts and many programs are surviving only because of dedicated volunteers.
The author highlights some model programs that reach out to children and teens experiencing homelessness. These include:
• Project Horizon (since 1989) with the DeKalb County Library provides paperback deposit collections and storytellers to shelters
• The Charleston (South Carolina) County Library partnered with the Carolina Youth Development Center. Services include librarian visits to residential centers and a book club
• Akron (Ohio) Summit County Public Library and partner Project Rise provides summer reading programs to area shelters
• Camp LAPL with the Los Angeles Public Library
• The New York Public Library has been providing services to this population since 1987. Programs include “Read to Me” and Summer Story times.
Unanswered Questions and Future Research
Access seems to be the largest barrier for this population and libraries are in a unique position to assist. Libraries create access. ALA’s equity of access and ALA’s policy of Library Services to the Poor can help drive libraries to create programs and services that support children, teens, and families experiencing homelessness. “Equity of access means that all people have the information they need – regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers.” (ALA 2015) The author mentions the ALA guidelines but does not delve too deeply into how these guidelines can assist in the development of programs and services to children, teens, and families experiencing homelessness. This is an area for future development.
Terrile addresses many of the realities of extending programs to children and families who are experiencing homelessness; however there are still many opportunities for research in this area. Future articles could address developing community partnerships to provide services to this and similar (such as the “invisible” homeless ) population, and securing funds (through fundraising or grants) for outreach programs.
Despite the recession having ended and the economy rebounding, the number of children and teens experiencing homelessness does not seem to be lessening. A report from Child Trends data bank indicates that there were approximately 1.3 million students experiencing homelessness in 2012-2013, but the increase in number could be due to better reporting standards (including those who were “doubling up” with other families, etc.) Whether the reporting is better or not, this is a significant portion of the population that requires library access and services.
Ideas for Programs and Services
• Staff Sensitivity Training can eliminate the antagonistic policy trend towards persons experiencing homelessness
• Partnering with health care organizations, churches, and other organizations
• Social Worker Services in the library
• Pairing arts and crafts and literacy programs to develop skills at which this population already excels
• Partnering with schools and school/government organizations that address homelessness in youth (these may vary from state to state or city to city, for example in Albuquerque New Mexico Child Find works with the schools to ensure children experiencing homelessness have access to education)
• Bringing services to food banks and other community organizations working with persons who are homeless.


Akron Public Schools. (2015). Project Rise. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (2015). Equity of Access. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (2015). Policy on Library Services to the Poor. Retrieved from

Child Trends Data Bank (2015, March). Homeless Children and Youth Report. Retrieved from

DeKalb Library Foundation. (2015). Retrieved from

Jenkins, M. (2014 August 27). D.C. adds a social worker to library system to work with homeless patrons. The Washington Post. Retrieved from

State Library of North Carolina. (2015, June 16). Library service to people experiencing homelessness, Forsyth County. Retrieved from

Terrile, V. C. (2009). Library services to children, teens, and families experiencing homelessness. Urban Library Journal, 15(2), 20-34. Retrieved from

Facebook levels the playing field: Dyslexic students learning through digital literacies by Owen Barden

Article Synopsis & Core Research Questions

Barden (2014) looks at how dyslexia has been characterized over the years to form a better understanding of how technology can help students with dyslexia navigate issues they may encounter. The author clearly spells out the core research questions he started with: “The primary aim was to examine the educational affordance of Facebook [for students with dyslexia]. Subsidiary questions were: What does the project reveal about the students’ motivation to learn through literacy? What does it reveal about their sense of identity? What pedagogical principles does their use of the social network evoke?” (Introduction section, para. 1).

This study reveals that contrary to assumptions about students with dyslexia having minimal interaction with mainstream technology, they are actually embracing it as a means of managing symptoms of dyslexia. For example, texting a friend means not worrying about spelling, because text-speak is expected. S/he will also feel more comfortable using a word processor with spell check, considering it a normal part of education and perhaps not even realizing how it is helping her/him overcome problems associated with dyslexia. Using technology has been shown to help students, raising their own belief in their abilities and increasing their literacy at the same time. In fact, the author’s preliminary survey showed that these older students appreciated being able to use mainstream technology that helped them overcome differences, but didn’t use special assistive technology specifically for dyslexia, instead seeing the assistive technology as something to help younger or less experienced students.

Methods Used

The author’s test group consisted of five Sixth Form College students (of varying ages and from varying curriculums) that the author was currently tutoring. Because the ability to set up, use, and maintain a Facebook account requires many literacy skills that are considered difficult for students with dyslexia, he decided to monitor their use of this particular technology. Barden stated that “an innovative methodology was devised, combining aspects of case study and action research with an ethnographic sensibility (Green and Bloome 1996)” (Methodology and methods section, para. 1). The students were asked to create a group Facebook page that would account for the students’ research about dyslexia. The author gave basic assistance in the beginning: requesting that students create rules for how the page would be set up and how their online interactions would take place, providing information about sites that they could use, creating research questions that the students could choose from to continue their group research. Beyond that, the author was an observer/documenter, expert, and researcher, leaving the students to work without interference. Information was gathered through video, student self-reports, and screen recording over the course of five weeks during one 90-minute session each week. It should be noted that the students were all A-level students, which means that they have had a history of being high achievers and should not be taken as a whole-population sample of students with dyslexia.

Findings & Conclusions

Unsurprisingly, these students often felt that they were not on an even keel with students who did not have dyslexia. However, students noted feeling that technology helped “level the playing field” (to use their own words). Students felt that the technology they and their peer groups used daily helped them overcome feelings of inadequacy that they often felt while dealing with dyslexia. There were five main ways they saw Facebook as helpful: (1) They felt that if they could be “enrolled” in a Facebook page for each class they were taking, it would help them better keep up with what they needed to do and when things were due. This could be as simple as just asking on that Facebook page what was due that week or as in-depth as using the chat function to get (or give) help with an assignment. (2) Students were able to take control and obtain agency in their own learning. For example, one student watched a class video multiple times in multiple places to help increase her own understanding of the material and to help her family and friends understand. Another used a video to kickstart her understanding of material, watching the video more than once before further researching the topic on other websites. (3) Students were able to think more in-depth about their own thought processes and learning preferences. One student had just learned he had dyslexia, but was able to determine what techniques and technology worked best for him, allowing him to better review class materials. (4) Students were able to learn what helped them when reading/studying and were then able create a better environment for their learning. For example, students were able to take advantage of multimodal design to help facilitate learning, meaning-making, and retention by allowing them to find the mode of information distribution that best helped them. (5) This technology allowed students agency to switch roles, becoming the teacher or mentor for others who have dyslexia. Students expressed dissatisfaction with their own teachers and the methods those teachers had used (to little avail) in the past. By switching roles, this allowed them to make the best use of technology to help others who have dyslexia understand and overcome difficulties, directly from students dealing with the same issues.

The author determined that although Facebook relies heavily on writing posts and reading people’s pages, expectations that students with dyslexia would feel left out or left behind with this technology were overturned. Instead, Facebook allowed students to take charge of their own learning and help others in the process. In addition, students learned about their own learning styles and needs. Because Facebook is “the most popular and frequently used social media platform among teens” (Pew Research, 2015), students with dyslexia see it as a way to help them overcome obstacles that other forms of interaction with their peers might have. Facebook allowed students to use multiple forms of communication and learning, whatever best suited their needs, furthering their own academic attainment and putting them on a more “level playing field” with peers in an academic setting.

Further Research Opportunities & Unanswered Questions

The author is clear that these findings may not be indicative of a larger-group mentality. For one, all five students that he was tutoring are high achievers, indicating that they may have already determined ways to overcome dyslexia with or without technology. Further research in the area of a larger sample group that covered a wider range of student abilities would be helpful and would give a better idea of whether the five main findings carry over for students in general. Could it be that these students already have some of these abilities, even without Facebook or other technologies, due to their higher cognitive abilities? One would assume this to be true, although it is not necessarily so. It would be immensely interesting to see what findings from different ability levels and perhaps even different age groups would find. Another area of further research would be whether students in other countries also have the same facility of understanding and use with Facebook for academic purposes.

We are left with these questions that might be answered through continued research:

Is Facebook truly beneficial or could it actual hinder student learning? One has to wonder if using Facebook prevents the student from learning the tools for improving the symptoms of their dyslexia, particularly when students specifically said that they didn’t want to use the other forms of assistance. There are other tools available (via technology and otherwise) that might prove more useful. Is it helpful to count on Facebook when there are other technologies that can help the student? Although the teacher will have educational tools available, it seem that one of the participants preferred Facebook because he liked the layout and because most people in his age ranged used Facebook. Perhaps it wasn’t that Facebook was particularly helpful to the students, just more familiar and easier to work with than other tools available.

Would younger or older students with dyslexia find Facebook to be just as effective? There are still many students who don’t care for technology and social media. Students like these may be resistant to using something less familiar (and, of course, most companies have age restrictions for using online technology).

Is Facebook helping to develop metacognitive awareness or is it more about the student using a tool they prefer? Learning isn’t easy, so when things are done in a way that is fun and interesting, students might be less resistant to instruction and willing to learn more.

As other social media platforms become popular for this age group (e.g., Instagram), would the results be as encouraging?

Additional References
Pew Research Center. (2015) . Teens, social media & technology overview 2015. Retrieved from

Transforming Knowledge Creation: An Action Framework for Library Technology Diversity

Article summary for Transforming Knowledge Creation: An Action Framework for Library Technology Diversity by Barbara I. Dewey.

by Kayleigh Septer, Valerie Valicento, Dixie Jorns, Emily Wells, Jennifer Braden for INFO 275(10)


The article focuses on forming an action framework, or plan, to increase diversity in library technology. The action framework developed consists of five dimensions, people, content and pedagogy, embeddedness and global perspective, leadership, and weaving it all together. The action framework is to be developed through knowledge creation. According to Dewey (2015), “the process of knowledge creation needs be inclusive and expansive if its purpose is to advance understanding, solve global problems, and advance the human condition” (p. 1).

Core Research Questions

Each dimension of the action framework has a diversity issue it was designed to improve. Dimension one, people, is designed to improve the lack of diversity and gender equity in computer and information students. Dimension two, content and pedagogy, is intended to improve the gaps in the content of academic libraries’ collection. Dimension three, embeddedness and global perspective, is designed to improve integration and understanding of other groups. Dimension four, leadership, is designed to have librarians play a leadership role by embracing people and their ideas. The fifth dimension, bringing everything together, is an approach to advance knowledge creation through thought, practice, and diverse cultural perspectives.

Methods Used to Answer the Research Question(s)

In dimension one, people; Dewey discusses the Penn State Library Diversity Residency Program. This program is a two-year program that allows graduates from “historically underrepresented groups” to be placed into a two-year academic library position (Dewey, 2015, p. 3). These placements allow the participants to “…develop collegial relationships with Penn State faculty members and provide support in a variety of ways for students” (Dewey, 2015, p. 4). If positions are available, residents of the program are encouraged to seek continued employment with the university after their initial two years.

Dimension two, content and pedagogy, discusses the University of Texas Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative, which is used to collect “radically different but critically important content and the importance of their use” (Dewey, 2015, p. 4). Dewey also looks at Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, an exhibit permanently housed at the Brooklyn Museum. This exhibit provides insight into women’s culture from a feminist perspective.

In dimension three, embeddedness and the global perspective, Dewey (2015), emphasizes “’knowing’ from within groups, cultures, regions and perspectives” (p. 6). This involves looking at the framework from a “global perspective” and acknowledging “the broad context of scholarship, as well as the imperative for diverse perspectives and connections” (Dewey, 2015, p. 6). Looking at the framework from this point of view allows it to be seen with a more critical lens and allows for different perspectives.

Dimension four, leadership, discusses how a leader must be if they wish to be a part of the global framework of diversity. Dewey (2015) states “the leadership traits in dimension four are empathy, strategic vision, and commitment to collaboration” (p. 6). Without these characters, leaders will not be effective within the global framework.

Dimension five is about bringing all of the dimensions together and making the Framework for Library Technology Diversity. All of these dimensions, when brought together, create an effective framework for diversity in the library world.

Findings and Conclusions

Fostering diversity must be recognized as being a core component of the academic institution’s ongoing mission. Contending that knowledge creation is essential to keeping the institution’s libraries relevant, it is critical that this knowledge needs to be inclusive and expansive. In order to accomplish this, it is suggested that academic libraries and institutions must embrace and develop a strategy that addresses training and preparing library technology workers in order to meet the challenges of building and maintaining “a diverse, inclusive, and equitable institution” (Dewey, 2015, p. 1).
As a means of working to accomplish this, libraries must identify training needs and procedures for recruitment in order to develop and retain a knowledgeable staff regarding diversity and inclusion. The five dimensions, as part of the Framework for Library Technology Diversity, work to provide a basic foundation for achieving this goal. With challenges framed within the five dimensions, an approach is provided that will allow organizations to develop a plan of action for technology diversity in the library workplace.

Unanswered Questions You Have and What Future Research Might Address

While the dimensions of the framework are thorough, the article still leaves the question of how well this framework would perform once implemented. Implementation and its effects will not happen overnight, but even at a slow pace there is still a solution. As these dimensions are put into action, research can be done to assess how close each one is to achieving the desired results. Information also appears to be missing regarding how these implementations will be marketed to the community.

Many references are made to improving services for women, but lacks mention of other minority groups or poverty. Also, there is the question of how much input from diverse community members was gathered for the creation of the framework. Did the author do research to find out exactly what positions and programs are desired? Aside from the aforementioned feminist perspective, where else would the proposed indigenous knowledge come from? Most importantly, where will the new leadership come from, and how will the positive traits of that leadership be maintained? It may be important to address potential failures within the framework and how those failures would be handled, especially in regards to bad leadership.

The programs designed to increase diversity in the LIS field were well presented but seem heavily dependent on technology. What is being done to reach those without such capabilities, either by choice or circumstance? If technology is not central to a culture what will be done so it is not forgotten in the greater world of knowledge? Will the diverse hires be encouraged to bridge that gap more often than their non-diverse peers?

Future research must be focused on how the desired programs will be run. It is not wise to assume that applied diversity will result in instant and miraculous changes. What will be done to address existing bias, prejudice and discrimination? If the environment is not willing to welcome diversity, then the newly hired person will not feel comfortable and may leave. An overall adjustment of an organization’s structure is necessary if any of the article’s visions will be fulfilled. The article mentions the necessity of solid and positive leadership without suggesting what is to be done about present leadership. The obvious solution of creating leaders from diverse hires is not mentioned. What is being done to have more diverse library leaders and not just diverse LIS students or staff?

Furthermore, it would be wise to consider extending the time span of the program itself or to have multiple programs through which a person may advance. A long-term mentorship program that starts after graduation and through employment is one possible solution. This program would create a supportive and safe space for those of similar diverse backgrounds to make connections until more diversity is in place.

Recognizing Cultural Diversity in Library Interface Development

Article Synopsis
This article explains how library digital infrastructures lack diversity to its various users and further investigates how to remedy that problem by using the Division of Libraries at New York University. With the current increase of independent users, there are pupils and staff who are using the online features of the library on and off campus who may not be getting the best user experience due to their cultural background. For this study, culture is defined as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices”. This study focuses on the current plans that hope to enhance how those in an academic discipline, university role, and cultural background get their information. In the past two decades, there has been research about the influences of cultural background has on user experiences. The most well known researcher in the field is Aaron Marcus. Marcus’s approach to a cross-cultural design is based upon five dimensions of culture proposed by cultural anthropologist Geert Hofstede. These five dimensions are power-distance, collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long vs. short-term orientation. Using a team-based approach as the first strategy for addressing cultural diversity, they found that an overall reimagining of the libraries’ web presence was needed. Another strategy that was found was localization, which users could use to customize the library website to their personal location so they can see relevant information in their area. With the joint effort of library staff and focus groups, different approaches to website design and feature implementations are being focused solely on the user which in turn would adhere to their diversity. The current state is still in its trial periods but there has been some great progress that can be seen so far.

Core Research Questions:
The questions raised in this study were (1) how the relatively new implementation of dedicated user experience staff can accommodate challenges and provide equitable access to resources for each of its users since user diversity can be difficult to identify or perceive and (2) should web presence defer to the understanding of the user, or seek to support them in a transition to an environment with a different value system?

Methods Used to Answer the Research Questions:
NYU has implemented several different methods to answer the two research questions. Since NYU identified user-centered practices as foundational, they created a Department of User Experience. Using a committee as diverse and representative of their users to develop the library site is the first strategy to address the problem; NYU also implemented measures to localize the site; and reinvigorated their commitment to a user-centered process with a user-centered design.

Web Presence Group:
Represents multiple library departments
Led by the Head of User Experience
Makes sure members can “share their perspectives and can advocate for their staff and users” (pg. 3)
Has subsections with specific responsibilities
Regular participation from global members via face to face synchronous virtual meetings
Supplemented by Google Drive, Gmail, a wiki and workspace
Emails with group progress are distributed to all library staff
Library departments are visited to:
Discuss needs
Obtain Goals
Get Feedback
Uses an iterative process
Means that elements, instead of entire platform can be:
Swiftly developed
Incremental changes can be tested and adopted quickly

Customizes the library site so that relevant local information is easier to access
Reduces complexity from trying to address multiple institutes and practices
Is more holistic
Accommodates cultural diversity
Host priorities
Ties into conceptual framework of how different users approach the interface
Has cohesive and workable sections
User testing is tied to specific site functions and findings are implemented under Agile Scrum
Accommodations made
Which specific functions are fixed in relation to the user
Seamlessly implemented

User-Centered Design:
Personas which are generalized personifications of data from research
Identify needs and motivations of users
Has developed 4 personas
2 global, and 4 local
Developed with attention to differing policies and services
User stories
Are based on personas
Address a particular need
Direct work with users
User testing (interface interactions)
Focus groups
With both students and staff, separately
Guerrilla testing
Student participants are recruited from central library locations

Findings and Conclusions:
Since the idea of a renewed web presence is still in the early stages, the results from Marcus’s theory are still pending. However, Marcus’s ideas “show promise for the kind of all-embracing development advocated by leading researchers in the cross-cultural user experience realm” (p. 4). According to Dragovic, “progress has already paid dividends by improving the experience for a diverse pool of constituents” (p. 4). The user-centered design process will allow libraries to gain the perspective from the diverse community of users; therefore, it will represent modes of access (physical and digital) to information; and the approaches taken by other academic disciplines and cognitive frameworks. Once Web Presence Group work is done, the New York University libraries will provide their users with customized information that meets their needs.

Unanswered Questions and Future Research:
A natural question that may come to mind may be– “What would the resulting interface(s) look like?” We may be familiar with interface elements created for visually-impaired users or users who speak a language other than English (e.g., options for self-checkout in either English or Spanish). But other aspects of culture, such as those related to the dimensions mentioned in the article, may be more challenging to visualize. When discussing the use of Scrum methodology, Dragovic states that “several functions have already been deployed…and assessment has shown that even minor tweaks have paid dividends in the usability of the site” (p. 5). Including a pre and post example of this could have helped with visualization. The same curiosity may arise with personas. The reader may want to check out the article the author referenced by Tempelman-Kluit & Pearce (2014), which helps to answer part of the above questions. It describes the creation of the first four personas and provides detailed descriptions of them, including user demographics and user frustration (e.g., not able to easily find a resource).

Not every persona (e.g., long-distance/e-learners) has been created at NYU, which can be addressed in future research. Because most of the research discussed has been with corporations and universities, future research can address designing culturally diverse interfaces for other information organizations. Surveys of user satisfaction or experience with the interface could be created, exploring factors such as demand characteristics, which may vary from culture to culture. Cultural limitations encountered in creating a user-centered interface and the similarities and differences between user needs of diverse constituents could also be examined.

The Group’s members represent various library departments across NYU campuses. One other avenue for research is this kind of collaboration, such as a case study on how committees consisting of global members from academic libraries use Scrum methodology, a team-based approach, to effectively work toward specific goals. With multiple global sites, NYU’s goal is large-scale—a “complex endeavor” (p. 3) and “labor-intensive” (p. 6). Dragovic acknowledges that “directly addressing cultural dimensions and framing of…user interface” (p. 5) can be costly even for corporations that have the resources, which NYU addressed by using Scrum methodology. A question that may come to mind would be how an organization, such as a public library with limited funding and staffing, can implement cultural dimensions in their website interfaces. Perhaps the organization can fall back on what they know about particular needs of specific populations served and use current research and their own assessments to create a more culturally-responsive interface. Though not the scope of NYU’s, questionnaires, observations and focus groups can be utilized toward this goal.

For those interested in user experience, check out User Experience Professionals Association’s (UXPA) ( magazine “User Experience (UX)” ( and peer-reviewed, international open-source Journal of Usability Studies, (

Using the critical incident technique to evaluate the service quality perceptions of public library users: an exploratory study


Anna Ching-Yu Wong from Syracuse University conducted a research study evaluating the service quality of public libraries through the reports of participants who regularly use the library. The “critical incident technique” was used in gathering information from the participants. The critical incident technique is different from the traditional approach in surveying participants in that it relies upon actual events which offer insights of the subjects, rather as a blanket set of questions with a very limited number of open-ended questions. The critical incident technique has been verified by previous studies to be an effective research approach for user-centered studies in library science. This exploratory study further adds to the body of research surrounding the use of the critical incident technique in LIS by attempting to answer this question: is using the critical incident technique a good way to determine how serviceable a library is to its patrons? The study also focuses on public library services and evaluates participant’s positive or negative experiences at the library, attempting to answer the question: are patrons happy with the service quality at their public library?

Method of Research:

To answer both of these questions, emails and unstructured interviews were used to measure the experiences of eight frequent library visitors (aged 20-80) and data was conducted using SERVQUAL, a model that has been used by many libraries for evaluating their public services. The SERVQUAL model, developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1988, uses the patrons’ responses and categorizes them into the following domains in order to be evaluated later:

Tangible, effect of service: library staff attitudes, library collection and access

Reliability, the promised service; dependably and accurately

Responsiveness: The willingness to assist and provide prompt service to library users

Competence: Possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service

Courtesy: Respect and consideration of contact personnel

Credibility: Trustworthiness and honesty of the library staff

Security, library as a place: No risk

The process of the data went through two stages. First, the researcher sent out a message to participants, asking them to record the incidents — either negative or positive — while being given examples of standard critical incidents from other library users. After all of the surveyors’ responses were recorded, two coders classified them into categories and examined their validity (the degree of the agreement between two coders was over 95%), and the collected critical incidents were grouped into the seven categories listed above.


The participants of the study found online resources to be helpful because it was easy to locate materials and user friendly. The study shows that 48% found the resources available to be tangible considering how user-friendly the catalog is and also how patrons able to easily locate books. Based on the study and results of participants found that the public library is not reliable. In this particular category no participant provided a positive response about the reliability of library. Another category in which the library failed in is that of courtesy. Only one participant suggested the things that transpired within library showed a lack of respect for patrons. An example of such is people speaking loudly and library staff not having authority to change their behavior. Participants felt insecure about the library due to the number of homeless people surrounding the area panhandling. Activities such as this and patrons using profanity made participants feel unsafe.


The participants of the data is reliable considering they are regular users of the library. In order to conduct the study data was collected via email and in person interviews. The study shows that the library should create a safer, reliable, and courteous environment for patrons. In order to create a larger study and compare other libraries a large population should be considered. Also, further research and a diverse populations should be considered as well.
Results showed that positive incidents were slightly higher than negative ones. Also, women library users had more positive experiences than men.
The study also showed that even though participants resided in different states, their positive and negative incidents revealed similar situations.
Of 47 recorded incidents, library access issues accounted for more than one-third of all incidents, approximately 36.17% which represented 48% of the positive related critical incidents and 22.73% of the negative ones.

Unanswered questions/ Ideas for future research:

Clarification was needed as to how the participants were selected for this study? Was this the best sample of patrons that represent library users? How diverse was this sample? This study would benefit from a larger base of participants and consider including non-library users.
A clarifying point could be made to address the discrepancy to the statement of initially having 12 participants, but later stating that there were a total of 8. Did the drop in participants impact the results of 19 positive and 16 negative incidents, yet on the table provided it states 25 positive and 22 negative. While this study provided valuable information for public libraries, there needs to be transparency as to how the results were obtained.

Possible answers to these questions:

Perhaps selecting a non-user would give the researchers valuable input.
More patrons would have given the researchers more data to work with.
Replicating this test 2-4 times a year may provide more insight as to how patrons use the library and the services provided.

Health Information Ties: Preliminary Findings on the Health Information Seeking Behaviour of an African-American Community

Article Summary for Health Information Ties: Preliminary Findings on the Health Information Seeking Behaviour of an African-American Community

by Allison Murphy, Marcia Seaton-Martin, Randi Brown for SJSU INFO 275(10)


This article focuses on a study of the health and information seeking behavior of African Americans. The study, which was published in 2007 in the journal Information Research, used Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties” theory as the basis for research. To conduct the survey, 200 random citizens of the Near East Side of Buffalo, New York, were asked specific questions via phone interviews.

The results of the survey showed that most African Americans relied on health professionals for information, rather than using an Internet search or website. The majority of those surveyed looked for information for themselves, but 22.2% looked for information for other family members or friends. The article concluded that health professionals are very important to underserved populations.

Core Research Questions

One of the core research questions is whether Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory can be applied to this survey and information. Sociologist Mark Granovetter defines strength of weak ties as “a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding) and the reciprocal services that characterize the tie. The stronger the tie between individuals is an indication that they are part of the same social network” (Morey, 2007). Granovetter believes that if individuals have a close relationship, they will be part of the same social group.

Granovetter also attests that if individuals do not have a strong relationship between themselves, they will be “more useful sources for obtaining information and other resources” (Morey, 2007). This article mentions that library and information sources have not previously studied the health information seeking behaviors of minority groups. The study is one of the first to raise the question of how a specific African American population looks for information regarding health and wellness.

Methods Used

Information gathering for this study was completed via a telephone survey. The researcher purchased a directory of random listed household telephone numbers that corresponded to the target census area of Buffalo’s Near East Side. Using the MS Excel Rand() function, arbitrary telephone number pools were selected three times until at least 200 interviews were completed.

The telephone questionnaire used original questions along with others from “The online health care revolution” and “The strength of Internet ties’” (as quoted in Morey, 2007) that investigated the health seeking behavior of African Americans and the relationship closeness of persons from which they seek medical information or help. The survey was designed using the following type questions:

1. Which members of their social networks do participants interact with the most when seeking consumer health information? How do the participants define the ‘closeness’ of this relationship?
2. Where do participants seek and obtain consumer health information?
3. Which age group is more likely to seek and obtain consumer health information?
4. Which sex is more likely to seek and obtain consumer health information?
5. Did the participant look for consumer health information for himself or herself or someone else? (Morey, 2007)

The survey was tested and revised before implementation. To eliminate bias and ensure a diverse gender and age response demographic, the survey introduction was modified when half of the surveys were completed. Nine hundred forty telephone numbers were called to complete 216 surveys.

Findings and Conclusions

Two hundred sixteen African American men and women between the ages of 18-74 were surveyed who searched for medical information in the past six months. Most often, respondents looked for information from health care workers (45.3%), the Internet (14.5%), or other sources (9.8%). Older participants were more likely to look for additional information, but younger partakers were more likely to use the Internet.

A major source of health information seeking was from health care professionals, despite a predominantly weak relational tie. Family and friends with whom those surveyed had strong ties were also important sources of health information for themselves and as sources for proxy information gathering, even though the value of the information may be questionable. Respondents did not replace traditional sources of information gathering, health care workers or family ties, with the Internet.

Further Questions

After reading this article on health information seeking behavior, there are several questions that come to mind.

1. Is seeking information from the youngest male or female over 18 truly going to give an accurate representation on health information seeking behavior?

Many students just out of high school are in great shape and health, therefore they are less likely to have health issues.

2. Why turn to family members for health information?

There has been a history of African Americans being treated differently in hospitals, not being given medicine for pain, or being given minimal drug doses. Economics could also play a role. Sometimes the elderly are more comfortable with their family members.

3. Can results of a survey from a small number of people give an accurate representation of health information seeking behavior?

The answer is no. According to the 2010 quick facts census, there was a population of 261,325 people in Buffalo, and 38.6% of that group were African Americans living alone, which is approximately 100,000 persons (United States Census Bureau, 2015). If it was assumed that the 2007 census had similar demographics, then the surveyed African American population represented less than one percent of the targeted demographic.

4. What could contribute to such a percentage gap with those who used the Internet versus those who sought out a health care professional?

The article points out that this is an underserved area of Buffalo, so one could assume that respondents had no access to the Internet at home, did not know how to use the Internet, or did not have transportation to a library.

For future research, as shown by the numbers above, there should be more people included in the survey. It may cost more, but the results or findings would be more accurately represented.


Morey, O. (2007). Health information ties: preliminary findings on the health information seeking behaviour of an African-American community. Information Research, 12(2). Retrieved from

United States Census Bureau. (2015 September 3). Buffalo (city), New York. Retrieved from