Tag Archives: immigrants

Out of Information Poverty: Library Services for Urban Marginalized Immigrants

Reviewed By: Marina Rose, Ellie Epperson, Samantha Edwards, Avery Campbell, & Christopher Clark

Link to article: http://academicworks.cuny.edu/ulj/vol19/iss1/4/

Lan Shen’s 2013 article is a literature review which provides “an analytical overview of … information poverty and strategies of reducing [it] for urban marginalized groups from cultural and structural perspectives” (p. 2). Information poverty is defined as when groups and individuals have inadequate and unequal access to “quality and quantity information” (p. 2), be it technological information or physical information. For her paper, Shen focused on urban immigrant adults and “discussed the information needs with respect to literacy skills, technology support, cultural awareness, and information resources” (p. 2), while looking at the demands of the American immigrants for information service, and the supply of information services to the urban immigrant. This post will provide an overview of Shen’s article, specifically its methods, findings, unanswered questions, and our attempts to answer said questions.

Being a literature review, the methodology of this paper involves the selection and screening of other scholarly journals that coalesce writings and theories about a particular subject. In this paper, literature pertaining to analyzing information poverty and strategies to reduce information poverty amongst urban immigrants was chosen and analyzed into a comprehensive article that discusses four issues in scholarly research on the subject. The core of articles involves other peer-reviewed scholarly journals and federal reports to determine the status of immigrants in America. The article introduced the literature by generally defining information poverty and sampled many scholarly definitions about information poverty, comparing and contrasting the findings. This is a particularly important part of the literature review process because Shen addresses inconsistent research on information poverty. Shen then collected articles that illuminate which groups are most affected by information poverty. By collecting data on user groups affected and the causes that may be contributing to their information poverty, Shen analyzed the findings to establish a clearer understanding of the literature at hand.

The author concludes, based on the existing literature about information poverty, that it remains a serious issue in need of amelioration. Urban immigrants are highlighted as a predominating group affected by information poverty, although mention of other affected groups is made. Among the factors leading to information poverty, “Lack of English proficiency, education, technology skills, and equal access to information (p. 9)” are profound contributors. Given this, the author implores public libraries to enact policies and services to deal with these factors and reduce the disparities in information literacy. According to Shen, this will create more meaningful opportunities for those patrons. While correct in this assertion–increased information literacy and access will indeed provide greater opportunities for education, personal and professional growth, and a more robust exchange of ideas and intercultural dialogue–the practical hindrances to this are manifold and would probably need to be addressed. For instance, given the budget constraints facing many libraries (especially with the current push to defund IMLS), how do libraries prioritize collection development purchases, programming and classes, and information literacy instruction, etc., to best reach these groups? Although Shen mentions “urban immigrants” as an ambiguous catch-all, each library will need to determine the exact populace being served–are they Mexican immigrants, English-speaking, and in what proportion do they represent the overall community? Asking questions to determine exact demographics and the needs of those demographics, and weighing them against the needs of the community as a whole, are all factors that will need to be addressed in practical terms for each library, and are difficult to encapsulate in an article designed to address minority groups as a whole. Although the article does highlight a very real issue that has a profound impact on already disadvantaged groups, it is important to look at the practical realities that assert both hindrances and opportunities in addressing information poverty.

There are a few questions that the article didn’t answer. One: the article focuses on urban immigrant adults with little to no education and minimal English skills. Do immigrant children struggle with information poverty, or is the use of technology in American classrooms enough to bridge the information gap? And if these children are bridging the gap through the use of technologies in school, how helpful will they be in assisting their parents’ information shortcomings? Working in libraries, we often see children translating information for their parents, but how much learning goes on in these interactions?
In the literature review, there was some discussion of information poverty being a political issue, yet there was no elaboration on this. Information poverty, as explained in the article, seems to stem from economic and social problems, rather than political ones. So our question is: What about information poverty, especially in regards to immigrants, makes it a political issue? And how can the library work to minimize politics that negatively affect information poverty? We believe this may tie in with the social justice principles also mentioned in the article.

While children with information poverty do struggle, a majority of kids have the advantage of learning about information literacy in schools while adults use alternative methods to gain information literacy. Children bridging the information gap are assisting parents and other family members, and it can be a learning opportunity for everyone involved. However, having children translate or interpret for family members might not be as impactful as parents taking classes designed for teaching information literacy. While there is learning involved with children helping parents, it might be more effective for adults to attend educational classes.
Information poverty can be seen as a political issue because there are people and agencies that believe people in information poverty should not receive the same access to information as other citizens in different situations. Providing funding would take away from other groups and projects funded by the government. As the author mentions, Kagan (2000) says that one of the groups suffering from information poverty is … “minorities who are discriminated against by race, creed, and religion…” (Shen, 2013, p. 3). These discriminations come from both individuals and lawmakers. Libraries can work to minimize these politics by offering equal services to every patron regardless of gender, age, sexual preference, disability, religious affiliation, socioeconomic class, background, or views. Libraries can also work to offer programs, workshops, and seminars on topics that fill a community need.

Shen, L. (2013). Out of information poverty: Library services for urban marginalized immigrants.Urban Library Journal, 19 (1). Retrieved from http://academicworks.cuny.edu/ulj/vol19/iss1/4

Information Behavior of Migrant Hispanic Farm Workers and Their Families in the Pacific Northwest

Reviewed By: Julieta Garcia, Cassandra Swartzwelder, Alexis Harmor, and Ysied Gillette

Link to article: http://www.informationr.net/ir/10-1/paper199.html

Article Synopsis & Core Research Question(s)
Fisher, Marcoux, Miller, Sanchez, and Cunningham’s (2004) article explores the everyday information behavior of migrant Hispanic farm workers and their families in Central Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Despite Yakima Valley’s rich and successful agricultural production, along with its many assets such as high education, hospitals, & museums; it’s also an economically distraught city with high levels of unemployment and poverty. Yakima is a multiracial and multicultural city with three predominant groups, the Native American Yakama Tribe, Hispanics, and Caucasians. These three distinct and very polarized ethnic groups, constantly compete for resources, and most of all at the low end of the socioeconomic scale. The Hispanic population ranges from 4th generation farm migrant workers that speak English and hold some education to new arrival farm workers that possess the little education and are non-English speakers. The authors wanted to understand how this community of mostly Spanish speaking people get their information and how do they do it. The study took place in and around the two Community Technology Centers (CTCs), where members of the community can come and take classes, get information, and find assistance. Both CTCs (12,000 base clients) consist of a room with 25 computers open six days a week for classes and personal use. The study was guided by three core research questions:
1) What role does interpersonal information-seeking play in the lives of migrant Hispanic farm workers and their families?
2) What are the information grounds of these workers and their families?
3) For what types of situations do these farm workers share information using what media?
The authors of this Yakima Valley exploratory study utilized, in their methodology, used both qualitative and quantitative methods during their field observations at both CTC’S and in the surrounding community. Data collection approaches employed during the study included thirty to sixty minute in-depth interviews with CTC users. These interviews were not recorded because of the University of Washington Human Subject presented concerns regarding this at-risk population, which by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Belmont Report Code of Ethics, emphasizes on a systematic assessment of risks and benefits ration when human subject studies take place. Additional at length interviews were administered to staff and administrators. All interviews and questionnaires were provided in the primary language (or language of proficiency) of the subject. Bilingual questionnaires contained verbatim questions as those presented in the user interviews, and a sign-up sheet for participants to indicate their reasons for using the CTC. Data collection and analysis by the authors included the interviews or surveys of fifty-one CTC users and eight CTC staff. Collected demographics for the studied population indicated that most users were between seventeen and thirty years of age, 57% were male, 58% had jobs in agriculture, and household size is between two to eleven people. Throughout the study, to ensure validity and consistency in data analysis, the authors kept field notes (a record of their observations and contexts as well interacted with participants), method notes (description of their techniques for collecting data), and theory notes (documentation of ideas and connections with the study’s theoretical frameworks, and other phenomena) (Fisher, Marcoux, Miller, Sanchez, & Cunningham, 2004).
Findings & Conclusions
The study’s data analysis was consistent with the authors’ expected results. These anticipated results included the participants’ vacillation to participate due to their immigration status. Other findings also demonstrated that participants were hesitant to ask for information at the usual places like libraries or other information centers because of language barriers and lack of trust. Furthermore, the study showed that “immigrant and migrant farm workers may engage in the form of ‘interpersonal source berrypicking’” (Fisher, Marcoux, Miller, Sanchez, & Cunningham, 2004). Unlike most people who only spend a short time on searching for information, immigrants wait for the source to come to them, which can last a lifetime. This study proves that immigrant and migrant workers seek information from trusted interpersonal sources such as family, friends, & other trusted sources in barbershops and hair salons, food banks, co-workers, and church officials. Many of the participants that used the CTCs to find information centered on job finding, income support, ESL, GED, translation help, recreational information, computer help, etc.
The transitory migratory patterns and immigration status of the migrant farm worker population makes it notoriously difficult to study this community. Their collective reluctance to participate in studies, censuses, or any activity that collects their personal data or demographics is usually unwelcome as it could jeopardize their work/status. The authors further found that language is a huge problem for immigrant families, especially when documents and information portals are only written in English. Many families will consult or utilize their children, who have become familiarized with English, to translate and will eventually become their family’s main source of information. The utilization of children as translators and major sources of information drastically change the parent/child dynamic by placing the child in an adult role, often taking care of adult responsibilities such as cashing checks. Immigrants also turn to media for information. Spanish-speaking radio and television stations that serve the migrant community play a significant role in providing immigrants with information. The only Spanish radio station (KDNA 91.9FM) is housed with one of the CTC in the area with 60,000 listeners.
Unanswered Questions & Further Research
The authors recognize the need for future research concerning the differences between information grounds and habits of illegal immigrants versus legal immigrants. Several mitigating factors that influence the difference in information patterns and service disconnects, such as the city library or free health care, reside in the low or general lack of language and literacy skills. Also, as earlier stipulated in the study, the ever-present fear of negative employment opportunities or immigration status outweighs their informational needs and therefore avoidance of places where they might have to provide some documentation. Despite the authors’ steps to ensure reliability and validity to this study, their small drawn sampling group of approximately 50 individuals was very low considering its much larger potential of 12,000 people in relation to their population ratio. This significantly lower representation creates concerns about statistical significance and accurate population representation.
Further research in the Yakima Valley could answer what additional barriers exist between the three main groups, their shared resources, and what can be done to facilitate intercultural relationships. It could be argued that because the CTC is a newer provider in comparison to the NCEC that its users did not trust or felt comfortable to participate in the study. Another factor could be that despite Yakima Valley’s twenty plus physical libraries, their actual conditions and service offering are unknown. The Yakima Valley library’s service further comes into doubt when accounting for the area’s persistent low socioeconomic level and the likelihood of not possessing the resources to staff bilingual individuals, staff or volunteers, or house a CTC. The library’s only official information is the one provided by the library’s website, which is English based and a small Spanish collection. Regardless of the multiple reasons, the current extensive collection of post-secondary educational resources, churches, and cultural institutions could be utilized as a bridge to build trusted interconnected relationships between ethnic boundaries and pool resources for all residents.

Fisher, K. E., Marcoux, E. B., Miller, L. S., Sanchez, A., & Cunningham, E. R. (2004).
Information Behavior of Migrant Hispanic Farm Workers and Their Families in the
Pacific Northwest. iRinformationresearch, 10(1). Retrieved from