THE NATURE AND RELEVANCE OF INFORMATION
Outcome 2b. Explain the impact of information policies on intellectual freedom, access, literacy, information behavior, and other aspects of library and information science.
This paper is about the St. Paul Public Library (SPPL) that developed a community inclusive strategic plan using information behavior to learn about the communities needs inside and outside the libraries walls. Through collaboration with the city, schools, social and cultural service organizations, SPPL assessed what resources the community needed by gathering stakeholder input digitally and through face to face gatherings. Further national data was gathered from reputable data sources, combined with the local information, and assessed to discover the greatest needs. The community at large was given four plans for the libraries 5 to10 year planning and allowed to vote on the plan of choice. The information behavior of the library; gathering, evaluating, and using the information to pull together key community leaders and organizations delivered a mission statement to “strengthen the cities learning network”.The basis for the strategic plan is to create successful programming and facilitate knowledge creation in the community. Information behavior is like a set of dominoes; literacy, access, diversity, life-long learning, intellectual freedom, democracy, public and social good. Librarians are educators of information behavior, and this community sought to learn where their greatest weaknesses were and gathered a complete picture of the community from a variety of collaborative stakeholders. The community started with literacy for its youngest members, to build a foundation for job skills, business development, digital literacy, and ESL support for growing immigrant populations. The staff at the libraries are carrying out information behavior one user at a time, to give them the opportunity to engage and grow through the development of their personal information behaviors. These user behaviors affect the entire community through their personal level of education and job readiness. The libraries goal is to leverage the collective impact of information behavior and build a seamless learning network across St. Paul. The libraries needed to obtain, evaluate, and create an inclusive environment for library services. St. Paul requires a 21st century, digitally literate workforce, for sustainability and economic development.
Outcome 2c. Assess the information needs and interests of diverse communities and organizations.
Assessment is a core skill set for information professionals. It is a set of practices used to evaluate programs, services, collections or organizational projects, and is critical in identifying value for stakeholders. Assessment is at the start and end of most information projects, and an essential part of identifying all the interests of a community. Without assessment, there can be no determination of return on investment (ROI), and no support from funders. Assessment is the key to being able to clearly justify fiscal and organizational support. The MCC Specification Paper is a plan that demonstrates assessments of needs, and design of user-friendly interfaces to serve communities that have been determined to be tool and technology deficient and matches these needs with an organizational mission that supports the project. Once an assessment has been completed by including diverse stakeholders, the design, testing, and feedback can begin. The librarians in this institution first assessed needs from daily interactions with users from other institutions, and then went farther in identifying the interests of other diverse communities. Their organizational mission, their collaboration with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), and outreach to potential users made it possible to prioritize the best solutions for most stakeholders. User experience is a large part of an assessment, as information services that are not personalized, and intuitive for the intended users will fail to gain support. Assessment is also a critical action when working with technology developers, who need to know what the final goal is, how users will use a system or service, and what platform and interface are most effective for that community. Determining the skills of potential users greatly increases the developer’s ability to create systems that can serve users with a variety of skill levels, thus building value into the final product.
Outcome 2d. Develop appropriate responses to information needs.
I asked a Dean of a large public university library, in February 2018, if first-year students were competent in using databases, and her answer was no. This infographic was designed to demystify the collection of databases at Dominican University, in a highly visual format, and facilitate resource awareness that can lead to contact with an instruction librarian. Traditional academic databases do not respond like Google, and this leads to a short attention span and over-reliance on the internet, where students often lack the skills to evaluate information. Information literacy is defined as the ability to determine when information is needed, how and where to locate information, how to evaluate information, and the ability to use information effectively. Information needs can be determined through observation of the use of formal tools, and interactions between friends and family. An appropriate response from an information professional is to give the user a response that is geared toward their personal experiences. Meeting students where they build trust in a librarian’s ability to help, and confidence for the student in their ability to learn and grow. Developing appropriate responses includes identifying the audience, determining information needs, deciding what to teach, both formal and informal assessment of what has been learned, designing a customized instructional or presentation experience, and reflection on the instruction and content. These steps can be used as a guide for students and peer presentations.