Toward context-centered methods for evaluating public library networked community information initiatives

Joan C. Durrance, Karen E. Pettigrew

Abstract


The Internet provides new ways for citizens to access information about the community, which has often been difficult to obtain in the past. To gain a better understanding of how public libraries and their partner organizations are poised to provide such community information (CI) in the next decade we have conducted a major study of the provision of CI and its use. Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) "Help-Seeking in an Electronic World: The Impact of Electronic Access to Community Information on Citizens' Information Behavior and Public Libraries" (www.si.umich.edu/helpseek) is a multi-stage research project consisting of a two-stage national survey of the provision of CI in the digital age and case studies of public library community networking partnerships, which were designed to provide in-depth knowledge of community networking approaches. We identified a wide range of impacts of digital CI services and systems on citizens, organizations, and communities. The examples we discuss are indicative of the ways that CI librarians and those who are building community networks contribute to the social fabric of their communities. In this article we present 1) an introduction to public library involvement in CI provision; 2) examples of digital best practices and community networking activities; 3) a discussion of benefits of networked CI and community networks from the perspective of users; and, 4) implications for evaluation since current tools cannot determine the impact of digital CI initiatives.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v6i4.848



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