Persuading students through technology

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are becoming more accepted as educational tools in classrooms. This is only going to become more prevalent, with schools increasingly distributing iPads instead of textbooks and using mobile phones to engage students. In exploring current persuasive techniques in use, it is possible to determine how to incorporate even more efficient ways of using persuasive technology in the classroom. Murphy and Alexander (2004) indicate that persuasion is an inherent part of education, and forms the basis of student engagement. Without persuasion, students would not be able to utilize current knowledge for building fuller frames of comprehension. Currently, technology has become a focus of education and is being evaluated as a measure of student success. Collins and Halverson (2010) found technological mastery as being considered an indicator to predict economic advancement. They found parents feel obligated to purchase electronic devices to assist in their children’s education, providing an opportunity for educators to utilize these devices within educational settings (Collins & Halverson, 2010).

This paper aims to address the following research questions:

  • What types of persuasive technology are currently being used to support instruction?
  • What factors of persuasive technology are currently being used to support instruction?
  • How can persuasive technology be used more effectively to improve student learning?

Literature Review

 Various approaches have been used for making students participate and interact with information, but now teachers have technology as an option in the classroom. Through technology, planned persuasive design simply provides an additional tool for educators to engage students. Several researchers have explored how persuasive technology has been utilized in educational settings.

Functional Value

 Barab, Pettyjohn, Gresalfi, Volk & Solomou (2012) found in their study that educational games provide meaning to content, providing “functional value” (p. 532) in how students can apply information to practical applications and achieve personal satisfaction from the results. Applying knowledge in real or imagined worlds provides the content for when the information would be used. This exemplifies why a student needs to learn the information, and what the consequences could be if they do not. Many times, textbooks provide information without context, leaving students to determine how it would be applied in real life.

In early learning, many students do not understand the purpose of the material they are learning. They lack sophistication in educational procedures, and learning attempts can quickly lead to frustration. By making learning fun and engaging, this frustration is elevated and students are motivated to participate.


Mobility is an important issue for many people. They need to be able to access their technology on the go, and they utilize tablets, laptops, and even mobile phones. Having persuasive educational technology available on a variety of platforms allows greater flexibility for users, and consequently greater usage of applications. Several studies have utilized mobile phones to deliver messages to participants.

Goh, Seet, and Chen (2012) explored how short messaging services (SMS) were utilized in supplementing educational messages to students. According to Goh et al (2012), the researchers used the seven principles of persuasive technology in the SMS messages, and found those to be effective. The most improvement was evident in self-regulated students, and researchers suggested SMS interventions would be effective for high risk students (Goh et al, 2012). These messages were delivered through mobile phones, making the service mobile and easy to deliver no matter where the participants are located. This ability to have the application with them at all times enabled the persuasive technology to be effective.

Wang, Shen, Novak, and Pan (2009) employed a popularly used digital device in their study, using mobile phones to engage students who otherwise would have limited interaction with instructors and classmates. Texting applications between students and instructors used the most popular technology, and allowed students to start participating in their own education. Current educational processes have embraced the use of laptops and other portable devices, however mobile phones are just beginning to be considered as learning tools.

In China, the most popular mobile device is the mobile phone, and educators are looking to expand educational services through mobile learning (mLearning) to create an interactive educational environment (Wang et al, 2009). Classes in China are typically in a classroom, or live online, but allow little interaction with instructors or classmates. Researchers found students participating in mLearning reported stronger engagement and connection to the course material (Wang et al, 2009). Instructors reported increased student interaction and improved performance (Wang, 2009). Utilizing popular technology enabled students to participate in their education, instead of passively experiencing their education (Wang et al, 2009). Through texting, students were able to interact to a higher degree than they were able to previously. Questions and comments could be exchanged between students and teachers, making the learning experience more interactive.

Mintz & Aagaard (2012) performed a study using the HANDS web application, with interventions creating positive results in forming educational, emotional, and physical outcomes. This study shows positive results in using persuasive technology in educational settings, whether the targeted goal is distributing knowledge or informing behaviors. Through this application, participants could utilize the application wherever and whenever they encountered a difficult social situation.


Gamification provides an opportunity to learn through play. Using game concepts and mechanics to engage students, these applications offer fun and inventive ways to involve students in learning. Gamification is typically conveyed through technological means, using consoles, mobile phones, tablets, or computers. This allows the student to engage anywhere and anytime, even extending the experience outside the classroom.

Video games are popular forms of entertainment where participants explore imaginary worlds and complete complex tasks. Gee (2003) suggested through the experience of playing video games, that people are “learning a new literacy” (p. 199). Due to the content of the game itself, participants are learning to identify with the complex symbolism inherent to our society. Instead of reading letters and numbers through a textbook, the participant is being exposed to pictures, charts, tables, and artifacts that are also important for students to learn and understand the meaning of (Gee, 2003). The selection of video games available to purchase is wide enough that most people are able to find some that are appealing to play.

Games allow participants to play, and not have real life consequences beyond the expense of time. This aspect of playfulness is appealing to many people. Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown contend the essential learning properties of “curiosity, imagination, and a sense of play” (as cited in Cohen, 2011, p. 16) are not evident in conventional textbooks and text based education. However, these properties are all evident in video games. Many video games send participants on quests to find people or items in an imaginary world that creates obstacles. These obstacles have to be navigated, utilizing critical thinking skills. Participants open doors and containers while attempting to locate an item, satisfying their curiosity while fulfilling the quest requirements. The participant has to imagine the need for finding the item is real, even if only to proceed to the next quest.

While playing a game, learning constantly occurs because participants are self-motivated to discover, evaluate, and disseminate information continuously (Cohen, 2011). Participants can work together sharing information and ideas without the pressure of getting the exactly worded correct answer. Participants can take risks without real-life penalties (Gee, 2003). In contrast, exams and tests do not allow for trial and error, with students that make mistakes having no opportunity to correct a poor grade. By being able to take risks they would not in a test situation, students can explore boundaries and alternate options and not chance a lower grade.

Games can be used to build skills that can later be tested for proficiency. Barab et al (2012) suggest appropriately constructed educational games influence children socially and personally through their need to obtain specific information in order to be successful. The experiences in a well-designed educational game could still provide the needed knowledge to test well (Barab et al, 2012). Through educational games, academic content is transformed into an interactive activity, allowing the students the opportunity to participate in their own education.  After the game, the participants can retain the knowledge gained through the activity, and apply that information to test questions successfully.

Persuasive Technology Currently in Use. There are programs and schools currently using persuasive technology, and gamification in particular, successfully. Successful programs include the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Kids’s Interactive Whiteboard Games which offer programming for pre-kindergarten through grade eight in areas such as language arts, art, math and social sciences. This web application has proven to be highly popular, and offers a great enough variety that children at different learning levels are still engaged. The majority of the application is geared towards very young children, with basic skills being the main focus. However, many of the activities are available to older children and are equally popular. The Learning Company’s WII and Nintendo 3DS educational game, The Oregon Trail, explores history using persuasive technology in the form of gamification (Cohen, 2011). Participants journey through the Oregon Trail, learning history, geography, and geology as they travel. Trophies are earned through gameplay, persuading participants to continue on to the next trophy achievement while learning.

While the concept of gamification is relatively new, games in school are not. However, not many schools build their curriculum around the concept of making everything into a game. That is what an experimental public charter school in New York City, Quest to Learn (Q2L) has done. They have almost entirely eliminated textbooks from the curriculum, and instead use gamification in the classroom. The school uses games to encourage students to “actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others” (Quest to Learn, n.d.). The students actively participate in constructing games, as well as playing them. The curriculum is designed to involve the students as much as possible, and does not expect rote memorization over developing a deeper understanding of concepts and ideas.


 Summary of Findings

The capacity for persuasive technology to assist educators is just starting to be explored. Persuasion is not a new technique in education, but merging tried-and-true persuasive teaching techniques with emerging technology creates an opportunity to infuse students with the initiative to participate in their own education.

Limitations of these studies

            While the use of persuasive technology in educational programs and applications seems an obvious opportunity to engage students, not everyone is convinced of its effectiveness. Dominguez et al (2013) suggested the cognitive impact is insignificant between persuasive technology and traditional teaching methods. They further suggest that while gamification could influence motivation toward learning, the overall scoring between the educational methods did not otherwise indicate any improvements (Dominguez et al, 2013). Proposing existing educational methods be changed without first obtaining proof of effectiveness could prove to be a costly mistake with the high cost of technological equipment.

Technical limitations

The effort required to design and implement persuasive technology in education is significant. Designers and technical personal would be required to create and install programs and applications. After installation, personnel would be needed for training and trouble shooting. Changing current curriculum to a computer systems based methodology would require training of administrators, educators, students, and possibly parents. Families would have to invest in information and technological communication (ICT) equipment to allow students to work on schoolwork at home. That would require educating families of computing equipment requirements, software, and means to access the internet.

The expense of technological equipment could present a barrier for students and families of lesser socioeconomic status.  Whereas traditional education provides free textbooks to students, technology requirements could be significantly higher in cost. A traditional textbook could be used for more than one year, but software licensing for a student would be individual and not transferrable. If the application was custom designed for a school program, the cost could be even higher in development costs. The burden of paying for these applications could be paid in part by the school, but families will likely incur some added expense due to the scope and variety of technologies being used.

             Pedagogical limitations

             Persuasion is an inherent aspect of teaching, requiring educators to use a variety of persuasive measures to engage their students (Murphy, 2004). Persuasion is any message designed to change existing beliefs while representing new ones by capitalizing on current knowledge and beliefs (Murphy, 2004). Through building on these current ideas, an educator is able to slowly inform change in students. However, while technology has offered many opportunities for growth, “the education system remains rooted in a gray industrial past” (Cohen, 2011, p. 16).

Many educators are not familiar with persuasive technology and are uncertain how to utilize it effectively. Teachers that have already been effectively engaging their students and have proven successful could be particularly resistant to changing their methods. Often, it seems that educators attempt to circumvent technology, disallowing use of technologies such as wiki’s and calculators. They do not allow commonly assessed information routes in an attempt to maintain an academic standard, sacrificing tried and true methods to obtain answers that could be utilized into adulthood. Until educators are willing to embrace technology in all its aspects, shortcuts and all, education will not extend beyond memorization of textbook facts.

Conclusions and Future Study

Deliberate and “planned persuasive effects of computer technologies (Fogg 1999, p. 27) provides educators an alternate method to use in engaging students. There is no one-method-fits-all way to teaching, and having a variety of options addresses the diversity and variety found within any student body. Just as Dewey recommended in 1938 that education have students participate instead of spectate, teachers have an opportunity to utilize technology to get students to be participants (as cited in Barab et al, 2012). Some students excel at reading textbooks and synthesizing concepts into practical applications, however students vary in what they are capable of understanding. Educators should have a toolkit of ways to present information to students, with a variety of ways to engage them and compel them to learn. As the world becomes more technical, students are going to have to know how to proficiently navigate a computer, or some computing device.

Persuasive technology may not be more effective than traditional educational methods. If not, that does not mean it should be discarded. Students deserve to be exposed to technology as much as possible, because it is only going to become a greater part of their lives. If the advances within the last twenty years are any indication of the growth in technology that can be expected, students should be given every opportunity to become more proficient with different developing technologies. However, studies show promise in the effectiveness of persuasive technology in education, particularly in motivating students to stay engaged.

Further research is being conducted to examine the efficacy of persuasive technology in education. Simoe, Redondo, and Vilas (2012) began applying aspects of social games to the social educational environment to verify the validity of gamification in education. As an ongoing study, the researchers are tracking progress to determine if gamification provides better results than traditional pedagogy. Through an established social learning web application, Simoe et al (2012) have formed a framework for using gamification in social education. Only through ongoing study will the results of persuasive technology in education be evident.


Barab, S., Pettyjohn, P., Gresalfi, M., Volk, C., & Solomou, M. (2012). Game-based curriculum and transformational play: Designing to meaningfully positioning person, content, and context. Computers & Education, 58(1), 518-533. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.08.001

Cohen, A. (2011). The gamification of education. The Futurist. Vol 45(5), 16-17. Retrieved from

Collins, A. & Halverson, R. (2010). The second educational revolution: rethinking education in the age of technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 18-27. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2009.00339.x

Dominguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., de-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392. DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.12.020

Fogg, B.J. (1999). Persuasive technologies. Communications of the ACM, 42(5), 27-29. Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach US about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: 10.1145/950566.950595

Goh, T.T., Seet, B.C., & Chen, N.S. (2012). The impact of persuasive SMS on students’ self-regulated learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 624-     640. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01236.x

Mintz, J., & Aagaard, M. (2012). The application of persuasive technology to educational settings. Education Tech Research Dev, 60, 483-499. DOI: 10.1007/s11423-012-9232-y

Murphy, K., & Alexander, P. (2004). Persuasion as a dynamic, multidimensional process: An investigation of individual and intra-individual differences. American Educational Research Journal, 41(2), 337-363. DOI: 10.3102/00028312041002337

Public Broadcasting Service. (2013). Interactive Whiteboard Games. Retrieved from

Quest to Learn. (n.d.). Curriculum. Retrieved from

Simoe, J., Redondo, R., & Vilas, A. (2012). A social gamification framework for a K-6 learning platform. Computers In Human Behavior, 29(2013), 345-353. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.06.007

Wang, M., Shen, R., Novak, D., & Pan, X. (2009). The impact of mobile learning on students’ learning behaviors and performance: Report from a large blended classroom. British Journal of Educational Technology, 40(4), 673-695. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00846.x

Zombies in Refrigerators – A Resource Guide

Women in Refrigerators Trope

Women in Refrigerators (WiR) refers to any plot device that utilizes the injured, crippled, kidnapped, raped, driven insane, possessed, enslaved, devolved, dismembered, depowered, subjugated, zombie-ized, and/or death experiences of female characters in order to develop a male protagonist’s character. This plot device was initially remarked upon by writer Gail Simone in 1999, after reading Green Lantern #54 (Marz et al, 1994), where the Green Lantern returns home to find his girlfriend killed, and her dismembered body in the refrigerator. Not all bad things in comics happen to women, however the men that have horrible experiences seem to somehow return to their prior selves, and/or are better for the experiences they endured. Conversely, female characters that typically experience heinous actions never seem to recuperate, which suggests they are too weak to recover or evolve into better people as a consequence of the evil things that happened to them.

Graphic novels that exhibit the women in refrigerators trope

The War on Flesh (Boring & Hildebrandt, 2005) bases its zombie origins in voodoo, with dark forces providing power and insidious persuasion to lead good people to doing evil. In this graphic novel, a young man is killed during a gang fight. Upon his death, his father succumbs to dark forces and resurrects him using voodoo. The father murders a priest, loses an eye, and sacrifices a testicle, but is still able to cope and continue on his destructive path. The mother, on discovering her son was resurrected through dark voodoo magic, kills herself and thus keeps the father on the path to using dark magic in an attempt to resurrect her as well. This story indicates the woman is too weak to handle the situation, and chooses to die than to cope. The male is powerful, and is willing to defy even death to correct the mistakes of others.

The Living and the Dead (Jason, 2006) is about true love overcoming all obstacles, even becoming a zombie. A low wage male worker is saving up to buy a night with the prostitute he met on his way home one evening, when a meteor lands in a graveyard and awakens the dead. As the zombies attack everyone in town, the worker rescues the prostitute and tries to protect her from being attacked by the zombies. When she turns into a zombie after being wounded, the worker finds he cannot kill her and becomes a zombie too, finally making them into a (undead) couple. Throughout the story, the worker attempts to save the female from zombie attacks by leading her around, while she makes no attempt to defend herself. Indeed, she is not even capable of nailing a board to the windows without injuring herself. This story suggests that a woman needs to be rescued, and only a man can do so.

Graphic novels that defy the women in refrigerators trope

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Austen & Grahame-Smith, 2010) is based on the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice, however with a zombie flair. Capable of fighting zombies that they call “Unmentionables,” the five Bennet sisters are trained in the deadly arts and are usually found chatting about men, weapons and fighting styles, typically right after slaying said zombies. They are capable of taking care of themselves, and are just as strong, if not stronger, than the strongest male characters in the story. Indeed, the zombies in this graphic novel allow the female characters to exhibit their strength by allowing them to fight and defend themselves, while at no point do they rely on a masculine figure to save them.

The Walking Dead (Kirkman, 2012) shows a world where the infected become zombies, and the living try to find refuge from the walking dead. In this volume, a group of people attempt to find refuge in a prison, only to be confronted with psychotic prison inmates and more of the undead. Characters in this graphic novel all have their strengths and weakness, regardless of gender. When Andrea is attacked by one of the prison inmates, she successfully fights him off and rescues herself. Maggie executes the prison inmate after it is discovered he had murdered and decapitated her two little sisters. Neither women sit around waiting for the males of the group to save them or to determine what punishment should be dealt. They make their own decisions, and are capable of taking care of themselves.


            The portrayal of WiR is a weak plot device that only subjugates women’s role in society. Alternate methods of developing a male protagonist’s character could be utilized by using some imagination. Many times the degradation of a female character is not necessary to propel the protagonist to action. The Green Lantern would have pursued the villain Major Force if he had only the slightest contact with the Green Lantern’s girlfriend. Killing and dismembering her was extreme. In War on Flesh (Boring & Hildebrandt, 2005), the mother could have rebelled against the father’s voodoo resurrection of the son, and shown her strength through the actions she took in combatting the evil forces at work. In The Living and the Dead (Jason, 2006), the female in the story could have been a partner in evading the zombies, and not a mindless follower. She could have defended herself equally, instead of relying on the male to save her from every zombie they encountered. Both of these graphic novels were disappointing in their development of female characters.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Austen & Grahame-Smith, 2010) and The Walking Dead (Kirkman, 2012) allow the female characters to have strengths of their own, which they are not shy in using to ensure their survival. While every character seems to have their moments of supreme stupidity, especially when confronted with the undead intent on eating their flesh, this idiocy is not limited to female characters alone. As it should be, male and female characters are equally resourceful, and gender is not used to support another characters moral development.


Austen, J., & Grahame-Smith, S. (2010). Pride and prejudice and zombies. New York: Ballantine Books.

Boring, J., & Hildebrandt, G. (2005). War on flesh (Vol. 1). Los Angeles, CA: Tokyopop. Jason. (2006). The living and the dead. Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books.

Kirkman, R. (2012). The walking dead: Safety behind bars (Vol. 3). Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, Inc.

Marz, R., Banks, D., Aucoin, D., & Tanghal, R. (1994). Green Lantern: Deadly Force (Vol 3., #54). DC Comics: New York.

Simone, G. (1999). Women in Refrigerators. Retrieved from

Possible barriers to a citizen’s obtaining access to information

List of all possible barriers to a citizen’s obtaining access to information:

Level/lack of computer skill

Fear of Privacy Loss


English-language skills

Availability of Digital Equipment

Helpfulness of library staff

Availability of library staff

Lack of affective support


Physical Disability

Means of Transportation

Eliminating barriers to information access using Michael Gorman’s Five Steps to Equity

In the scenario of an academic librarian at a university, the librarian could work towards eliminating barriers to information access by following Gorman’s Five Steps to Equity (2000). Gorman (2000) suggests first identifying barriers in information access by no longer expecting inequalities, allowing the librarian to identify a prominent barrier to information access such as the level of computer skills in users (p. 37). To then further understand this obstacle, the technology should be examined to determine contributing and detracting features (Gorman, 2000, p. 137).

Evaluating the technical equipment should include tangible and intangible components. The operating system of the computers located in the library might be different than what is typically available for home use, but it might allow greater flexibility and compatibility. Alternately, users might have little experience with computers altogether, and do not know how to use the equipment. Software used for cataloging could be new to the university, but offers increased usability features over the previous cataloging system. Databases could be complicated to use, but offer greater search results compared to other databases.

This examination of technological contributors should then be followed by a process of authority evaluation. In this evaluation, the librarian should identify key authority figures controlling the obstacles to user information access (Gorman, 2000, p. 137). In the case of increasing user level of computer skills, an academic librarian can “play a role in remedying” (Gorman, 2000, p.37) barriers to information access. They can increase personal interaction time and resources with users to improve these skills on an individual basis. Beyond offering an open willingness to help, the librarian is constrained in directly eliminating this barrier to information access. Within the library organization, the librarian could discuss this barrier with administrators and other librarians to raise awareness of the issue and seek solutions. This would involve higher authority than the librarian might hold, including those who would have power over barriers outside the librarian’s control. Convincing administrators to offer their support might require “providing background necessary to make rational decisions” (Pawley, 1998, p. 131) to statistically substantiate the severity of the issue. Research would be used to prove the disparity between “perception and practice” (Meyers, Nathan, Saxton, 2007) of collegiate user computer skill. Through the administration, actions could be initiated such as the development of instructional signs to display throughout the library and informational programs being made available to students and faculty.

Ultimately, only the user can determine if they will participate and be receptive to eliminating the barrier to their information access. Making these users receptive could require overcoming the fear of a loss of privacy, where people shun technology to prevent “unwanted intrusion” (Chatman, 1996, p. 195). It could also require respecting the value of different types of information users need, and broadening the medium through which information is provided (Wiegand, 1998, p. 58). Libraries frequently offer DVD’s, CD’s and software to address the different information needs of different people, requiring even an academic library to evaluate the types of media being offered (Wiegand, 1998, p. 58). Borgman (2003) suggested technology is developed in response to social demand, making it only logical that a library’s resources reflect this technology (p. 2).

Executing these actions allow for the methodical lessening of inequities. As the inequality is eliminated or reduced, the librarian should then again identify another barrier in information access, repeating the steps until “equity of access is a cardinal principle of all innovations and programs” (Gorman, 2000, p. 137). This process provides parameters for the methodical examination of barriers to information access, and resulting in an action plan on eliminating them all.


Borgman, C. (2003) From Gutenberg to the global information infrastructure: Access to information in the networked world. The MIT Press.

Chatman, E. (1996). Impoverished life-world of outsiders. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 47(3), 193-206.

Gorman, M. (2000). Our enduring values: Librarianship in the 21st century. Chicago: American Library Association.

Meyers, E., Nathan, L., & Saxton, M. (2007) Barriers to information seeking in school libraries: Conflicts in perceptions and practice. Information Research, 11(2) 8.

Pawley, C. (1998). Hegemony’s handmaiden: The library and information studies curriculum from a class perspective. The Library Quarterly, 68(2), 123-144.

Wiegand, W. (1998). Mom and me: A difference in information values. American Libraries, 29(7), 56-58.

Information service policies and Web use increasing defense of virtual collections

Information service policies

Service policies in a library directly affect when and how patrons can use library resources. Circulation policies direct patrons on which materials are available and how long they can borrow materials. Reference policies determine how librarians answer patrons’ questions, either through instructional or fulfillment oriented roles (Rubin, 2010, p. 374). Instructional librarians teach patrons how to use library resources and equipment, whereas fulfillment oriented librarians provide solutions to questions (Rubin, 2010, p. 374). Staffing policies determine the number of librarians on staff in library, and if they have specialized training or skills.

There are several circulation policies that can influence access to library resources. Some include borrowing eligibility, checkout duration, resource renewal difficulty, and late material fines. Many libraries require patrons to meet minimum criteria to be able to borrow materials, typically based on residency or academic affiliation. This ensures that materials are primarily available to the community the library is intended for, but can create a barrier to patrons that do not qualify to borrow resources. Some libraries offer alternate means, which typically involves inter-library loans or paying a non-resident fee to become eligible to borrow materials. Many libraries offer inter-library borrowing, but patrons have to wait for resources to arrive at the requesting library. Once a patron borrows a resource, they have a defined amount of time until the resource needs to be returned to the library. This ensures the item is available to other patrons in a timely fashion, but can be difficult for individuals that are not able to completely utilize the material within the defined time frame. Libraries typically allow renewal of items to give extra time, but often that is only available if no one else has requested the material. Renewals also require interaction with the library in some capacity to process the renewal, which can be inhibited by a lack of technological skill in using the internet or electronic library circulation applications. If a resource is not returned within the defined amount of time, fines accrue. If the fines are excessive, library services may be suspended until the balance is paid in full, which they may not be able to do economically. If the balance is higher than the patron perceives the value of the library to them, they typically discontinue use of the library altogether. Librarians can help alleviate these difficulties by educating patrons on renewal procedures when they are initially borrowing resources, and providing physical reminders for due dates on materials for the patron to take with them.

Reference policies affect access through patron perception. Instructional librarians can be perceived as not providing the answers a patron anticipates, and fulfillment oriented librarians could be perceived as not helping patrons to find their own answers by teaching them how to use resources. Disappointed patrons may be discouraged from engaging librarians for future assistance if they do not receive the type of assistance they are seeking, losing valuable insight on library services. LeMaistre, Embry, Van Zandt, and Bailey (2012) found the “reference interview” (p. 270) has decreased in prominence, with reference librarians asking fewer questions to determine patron information seeking needs. Librarians can avoid these misunderstandings by asking questions to understand how best to individually help patrons in their information seeking.

Staffing policies directly form the core of the library, and the type of training and knowledge librarians offer to collection development and patrons. A library that does not have any specialized librarians might suffer in collection development, due to a lack of familiarity in different genres and types of collections. When specialized librarians are available, these individuals are able to focus their attention to specific genre collection development, providing patrons with resources that would otherwise be missed. Libraries that do not have enough staff to support the community discourage patrons from requesting help or checking out resources when faced with long lines. Many libraries are developing self-service check out stations to reduce nonessential staff, freeing up staff to help patrons in other capacities.

Web use increasing defense of virtual collections

The internet has provided almost limitless access to information, necessitating librarians to justify virtual collections more rigorously than previously required. Costs of digital licenses are more complex than print, and require significant consideration to determine the best fit for the library type (Hansen & Sparks, 2000, p. 4). Many digital licenses specify lending and access limitations, including formatting and availability to patrons. Librarians are expected to be able to justify the higher costs of digital resources compared to print materials. Frequently, external pressures arise from individuals who voice opinions about the validity of particular journals, demanding their viewpoint supersede all others (Hansen & Sparks, 2000, p. 10).

Dresang (2006) found the issue of intellectual freedom in virtual collections is typically contested in public and school libraries, where youth access issues were the most hotly contended (p 173). Access to mature subjects and websites are considered to be “corrupting the morals of youth” (p. 182) when offered by libraries or schools to patrons under the age of 18. Dresang (2006) discussed publicized campaigns against libraries who offered a greater degree of information freedom to youth, and the pressure to conform to the individual critic’s moral standards (p. 182). Only when access to information is available to everyone, regardless of any socially constrained barriers, will intellectual freedom cease to be difficult.


Dresang, E. (2006). Intellectual freedom and libraries: Complexity and change in the twenty-first century digital environment. Library Quarterly, 76(2), 169-192.

Hansen, C., & Sparks, J. (2000). Framework for accessing the impact of an electronic journal collection on library costs and staffing patterns. Retrieved from

LeMaistre, T., Embry, R., Van Zandt, L., & Bailey, D. (2012). Role reinvention, structural defense, or resigned surrender: Institutional approaches to technology change  and reference librarianship. Library Quarterly, 82(3), 241-275.

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (Third Edition). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Bibliometrics and citation analysis

Collection Development

With the advent of computing technology, libraries have developed to “help people meet their needs, whether practical, theoretical, religious, or aesthetic” (Rubin, 2010). This goal has inspired librarians to find ways to develop collections that best meet user needs. User needs are constantly changing and expanding to include different types of information resources. Bibliometrics is one tool that allows librarians to determine which journals and materials are needed in their collection development to best meet user needs. In academic libraries, citation analysis can be used to discover the popularity of particular authors, articles, and publications. This information could determine collection development needs for specific college departments and provide valuable clues for future research.

As technology has changed and become affordable to most, libraries have included databases and journals into their collections and expanded the resources available to the community to meet their information needs. Assessing the community and anticipating their information needs keeps the library a hub of information flow that would otherwise be stagnant.

Tracking indicators of scholarly activity

With more databases connected to the internet, the ability to collect and track academic trends becomes easier on a global scale. An online resource such as Google Scholar provides citation features which allow the scientific relationships at the institutional and national level to be mapped globally (Ortega, 2013). Google Scholar provides information on millions of citations, locating relationships and common themes between scholarly research. Web of Science databases allow generational mapping of citations and how they interact and influence other researchers. The ability to track scholarly activity helps researchers locate current topics, and explore studies related to their own. Librarians utilize this information when looking for trends in academic exploration and for helping users meet their information needs for scholarly research. Indicators of scholarly activity could be used to form a library’s collection development policy, determining what databases and journals are available for users.

Automation of citation analysis has provided librarians the opportunity to reflect on results. The ability to quickly and easily index resources with others provides librarians a valuable tool in locating related resources. Updates to databases provide librarians instantly with recent additions, removing the delay from publication to public availability.

Multimedia Access

Developing technology has created new media formats for information to be collected and exchanged. With the growth in the number of digital objects to store, bibliometrics will continue to evolve to include vital information that was previously not recorded. Digitizing images and creating metadata for digital media is currently challenging many libraries today. Determining if a resource is part of a greater open public publishing environment, such as journals, host services, depositories, discussion forums, websites or electronic archives will need to be mapped and measured with authority and integrity (Cronin, 2001). Electronic media is still considered unreliable as a resource, but as methods are devised to ascertain information validity, librarians will need to find ways to create access to these media types to library users.

Challenges facing electronic information retrieval systems

Relevant search results

When users search a database for a specific resource, the results communicated back to the user must not be overwhelming in number. Too many results can discourage the user from finding applicable resources amongst so many. According to the principle of least effort, too many results encourage users to settle for resources that suffice, instead of examining all the results for the best fit (Rubin, 2010). I have used Web of Science extensively as a graduate student, and the ability to track resource citations and related records to locate relevant material has proven invaluable. Refining search parameters by selecting categories, research areas, and publication years have reduced search results beyond Boolean input information.  Users that are not aware of how to refine search parameters are left to roam through information retrieval systems without aim, and typically without success.

Information retrieval systems evaluation

Measuring information retrieval systems to determine if they are meeting their purpose is typically done through collection, services and user satisfaction studies (Rubin, 2010). Studies have to been conducted to determine alternate methods of evaluation. One such study evaluated crowdsourcing to determine the effectiveness compared to laboratory based user studies, and found both to be equally effective in evaluating information retrieval systems (Zuccon, Leelanupab, Whiting, Yilmaz, Jose, & Azzopardi, 2012). Even more importantly, crowdsourcing allowed researchers to collect larger amounts of data to evaluate systems with the potential to test systems with a larger group of users (Zuccon et al, 2012).

Evaluating information retrieval systems can be subjective based on how the evaluation is conducted. Issues of usability, functionality, and accessibility can influence the evaluation whether the information retrieval system is effectively meeting its purpose. Selecting assessment methods can directly influence evaluation results, and so librarians and researchers must carefully devise methods that accurately assess information retrieval systems.


Cronin, B. (2001). Bibliometrics and beyond: Some thoughts on web-based citation analysis. Journal of Information Science, 27(1). doi:10.1177/016555150102700101

Ortega, J. (2013). Institutional and country collaboration in an online service of scientific profiles: Google Scholar Citations. Journal of informetrics, 7(2), 394-403.


Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science. New York: Neal-Schman Publishers.

Zuccon, G. (2013). Crowdsourcing interactions: using crowdsourcing for evaluating interactive information retrieval systems. Information retrieval (Boston), 16(2), 267-305. doi:10.1007/s10791-012-9206-z

Labeling of Children’s Books – Citizen’s Rights to Information

There has been discussion and implementation of labeling on children’s books, proposed by teachers, parents, and publishers. The labeling addresses issues of reading ability and appropriate context based on age and grade level. Based on the labeling system, it would be easy to tell at a glance if a child would be able to successfully read a book.

Situation of Labeling Usage

            A situation could develop when a child has selected books and their teacher chastises them for their book selection. The teacher could indicate that the books are either too low or too high for their reading level. If a child becomes interested in a book that is above their assessed reading level, they might be told the book is too advanced for them to comprehend the context. Books that are considered too low in level could be dismissed based on the lack of reading challenge to the child.

Librarian response

            A librarian’s response to the above situation would be to ensure the rights of the child in selecting their own reading materials. While being confronted with the teacher and student, the library professional should encourage the student’s current selection of books, and propose additional books that are more or less challenging within the same topic based on their reading abilities. Later, when the student is no longer around, the library professional should discuss students’ rights to privacy in their reading material selections with the teacher.

Implementation of Library Freedoms

            Section five of the Library Bill of Rights indicates that a person should not be forbidden use of library materials based on “origin, age, background, or views” (ALA, 1996). To discourage any age group from reading resources because of their perceived ability to process the information within the resource violates the Library Bill of Rights. This includes children as having the right to select whatever library materials they would like.

The American Library Association (ALA) has made their position against the labeling of children’s books clear. ALA stated in 2006 that materials should not be labeled based on reading level, grade level or age. Reading level labeling can create barriers for those who do not know their reading level, as well as people who are aware of their assigned level might limit themselves to only those resources (ALA, 2006).

Cregar (2011) proposes children are discouraged from exploring personal interests in the pursuit of finding resources that meet a teacher’s approval based on labels. This inhibits a child from having access to all the resources within a library (ALA, 2006). Moreillon (2013) suggested everyone, children included, should read above and below their reading abilities. By reading above their abilities, people are challenged to read about subjects that are interesting to them, and as a result build content for future reading on the same topic (Moreillon, 2013). By reading below their abilities, people can revisit old favorites and “the satisfaction that comes from the familiar” (Moreillon, 2013, p. 27).

In 2013, ALA discussed additional reasons against labeling. Confidentiality is compromised when resources are assigned labeled reading levels on the exterior of a resource, allowing other children to see the private reading level of the child which should only be known to parents, teachers and school librarians (ALA, 2013). ALA (2013) also points out the difficulty of non-standard shelving practices. Finding resources becomes more difficult when the organization of resources is not based on topic or category, but instead on the specific labeling system being used within that library.

Children need to learn how to navigate a library. Wachsmann (2012) suggested browsing skills are honed by allowing students to choose their own resources. By allowing these students to look without restriction, these children lose the fear of exploring a resource because it does not immediately seem to be a good fit (Wachsmann, 2012).


            Children should be able to select whatever resources they want to in a library. Labeling is most beneficial to adults, allowing for less time in the library and depriving children from the freedom to select their own materials. Labels make it easier for adults to assign appropriately leveled reading material to children, whereas without labeling systems children are still able to find materials to read. Materials that are beyond the reading ability of a student could motivate them to explore other resources in the same topic. They could utilize the images and graphics within the resource to obtain a basic understanding, and want to find out more. This supports the most important aspect of a library, providing materials that interest and engages the users.

Materials that are below a child’s reading level might have been selected because it is pleasurable to read, and not as much of a challenge as the labeled reading materials. The topics in the books might be more interesting, and the graphics more appealing to the student. Regardless, the experience of reading, even if at a lower skill level, is still based on the child’s selection and preference. As such, it should be respected and not criticized.

Students are only allowed a finite amount of time to peruse school library resources. Allowing them to build browsing skills is a critical part of library competency that a student obtains while in school. Depriving them of these skills does not help them when they graduate to higher grades and resources are not separated by reading ability labels. Libraries that are organized by labeling systems do not teach children how to find materials based on the same system used in higher educational and public libraries. They need to learn at a young age that they are responsible for selecting reading material that interests them, and that the librarian is there to help them find materials of interest. If the librarian is instead an authoritarian figure that is there to ensure they do not deviate from materials within their approved reading level, that undermines the child’s belief that librarians are there to help them and not police their reading materials.


American Library Association. (1996). Library bill of rights. Retrieved from

American Association of School Librarians. (2013). Position statement on labeling books with reading levels. Retrieved from

American Library Association. (2006). Questions and answers on labeling and rating systems. Retrieved from

Cregar, E. (2011). Browsing by numbers and reading for points. Knowledge Quest, 39(4), 40-45.

Moreillon, J. (2013). Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection. School Library Monthly, 29(5), 28-29.

Wachsmann, M. (2012). Does labeling children’s books constitute censorship? Reference and User Services Quarterly, 52(2), p. 90-92.

Bodice Ripping in the Library

In the scenario that a public library patron expresses concern over funds being used to purchase romance novels, librarians could defend the library’s selection decisions in accordance with the American Library Association’s (ALA) Code of Ethics. The patron might argue that romance novels should not be purchased by the library, as they may feel that the quality of the writing and story development is inferior to other possible selections. They may believe romance novels do not provide any educational enrichment, and should be excluded from the library collection. In this situation, a librarian can utilize several ethical perspectives in explaining collection selection decisions to the patron.

Selection decisions determine the range of resource types the library collection offers which sets the tone for the library. It is up to the selectors to determine what materials will fit the needs of the library users, regardless if the resources are controversial (Rubin, 2010, p. 421). Rubin (2010) suggests many selectors avoid purchasing controversial materials in an attempt to avoid confrontations such as this, but to do so would infringe on the respect for the individual. People utilize library resources for different reasons, and from these varying needs library collection development policies encourage “building collections that represent a wide range of materials, reflecting diverse perspectives” (Rubin, 2010, p. 418). To eliminate or limit a collection due to the views of dissenters would infringe on the rights of the people who would utilize those resources. Ross, McKechnie and Rothbauer (2006) explored the issue of leisure reading, and asked the question, “When people differ in their tastes, who has the power to look down on whom?” (p. 187). Not all people see the same value in a book genre, and typically value their own preference above others. This personal preference cannot form collection development policy, because to do so would be the true violation of ethical behavior. Fiction of varying types could be argued for their validity in a public library. Collections including mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and westerns could all be removed as easily as removing romance.

Professional codes of conduct have been established to help librarians determine how to handle situations such as this. The ALA Code of Ethics (2008) resists any attempt to censor library resources, encouraging “principles of intellectual freedom.” Instead, it suggests setting aside personal beliefs in performing library duties to ensure access to a variety of information resources. If the library intentionally elected to reduce or eliminate romance novels, it would not be based on a lack of educational enrichment or due to inferior quality. This decision would be grounded on the information needs of the community, and would indicate resource demand influenced the purchase of other more popular resources.

The librarian would need to explain to the patron how libraries provide open access to resources, and that romance novels provide value to the people who check them out. While the patron may not agree, they might be able to appreciate the fact that libraries are obligated to purchase materials that are popular with other patrons.


American Library Association.  (2008). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.  Retrieved from

Ross, C., McKechnie, L., & Rothbauer, P. (2006). Reading matters. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (Third Edition). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.