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

Literacy

English-language skills

Availability of Digital Equipment

Helpfulness of library staff

Availability of library staff

Lack of affective support

Education

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.

References

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.

References

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

http://dspace.library.drexel.edu/retrieve/4414/Montgomery

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.

References

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.

doi:10.1016/j.joi.2012.12.007

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).

Discussion

            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.

 References

American Library Association. (1996). Library bill of rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

American Association of School Librarians. (2013). Position statement on labeling books with reading levels. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/position-statements/labeling

American Library Association. (2006). Questions and answers on labeling and rating systems. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/qa-Labeling

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.

References

American Library Association.  (2008). Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.  Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/proethics/codeofethics/Code%20of%20Ethics%20of%20the%20American%20Library%20Association.pdf

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.

 

Leadership Discussion 4

Leadership Discussion 4

What is one action you can take to be more effective as a leader to improve your credibility and influence?

The one action a leader can do to be more effective is to “say what you are going to do and you do what you say” (Miller, 2008). Being up front enables followers to understand what is being done, and then they see that you are capable of following through with the action.  I have had several managers through the years who said they were going to do something, and it never was done. Those managers lost credibility and influence with me, because I came to understand that I could not count on them doing what they said they would do. As Cohen and Bradford (2005) said, “Influence requires considerable relationship building and maintenance.”  It takes time to develop credibility and influence, and even a leader who has credibility and influence with their followers can have trouble if they start to disappoint them. As Lloyd (2011) suggested, if in doubt, a leader would be better off to not “agree to do a task unless you are absolutely certain you will follow through.”

Cohen, A. & Bradford, D. (2005). Influence without authority. Retrieved from http://www.influencewithoutauthority.com/descriptionofcomplexcases.html

Lloyd, J. (2011). Impressing executives: four ways to build credibility and influence. Merit Resource Group. Retrieved from http://merithr.haleymail.com/i/24266749l1

Miller, J. (2008). Ask Jo: establishing credibility and influence. Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. Retrieved from http://anitaborg.org/news/archive/ask-jo-establishing-credibility-and-influence/