Collaborations between LIS Education & Rural Libraries in East

A Social Justice Framework in Community Engagement: The Rural
Librarian Information Technology Master’s Scholarship Program
Johnson City
Public Library, TN
Hancock County Public
Library, Sneedville, TN
Sevier County Public Library,
Sevierville, TN
Lake City Public Library, TN
Bharat Mehra (, Associate Professor
School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee
Theoretical Principles
Social Justice Considerations
Community Engagement
About the ITRL Program and the ITRL Purpose
Why the ITRL Program is Important?
Research Goals
Collaborations in the Planning and Development of the ITRL
Grant Proposal
Partnerships in the Five Phases of the ITRL Project Design
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Theoretical Principles
Fairness and equity in social relationships: Does the
project reflect upon making various experiences more equitable for
specific underserved individuals or populations?
Empowerment: How is the project changing:
Ways in which individuals can take action to make a difference in their
lives before and after the interaction?
People’s perception about their role in determining the course of their
lives before and after the interaction?
Economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental
impacts: How is the interaction changing the ways things are at
these levels before and after the interaction?
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Theoretical Principles
Community building and community development:
Building equitable partnerships and collaborations within and
across the academy with local, national and international
communities to promote social equity and social justice for
individual, social, and community empowerment of the
Diversity, multiplicity, and democracy: Varied and
participative involvement in decision-making.
Everyday information needs: Does the project change how
the everyday information needs of the disenfranchised get met?
Community informatics: Exploring the role and the application
of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower
and enable local and global communities to meet their goals and
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Social Justice Considerations
Recognize traditionally identified “marginalized” as equals
who are experts in knowing their own situations/realities.
Develop equitable partnerships in LIS to empower people
to make changes in their everyday circumstances.
Discard labels that minimize people’s experiences and
identify all project participants as community researchers.
Mehra, B., Rioux, K., & Albright, K. S. (2009). Social Justice in Library and
Information Science. In M. J. Bates & M. N. Maack (eds.), Encyclopedia of
Library and Information Sciences. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
Mehra, B., Albright, K. S., & Rioux, K. (2006). A Practical Framework for
Social Justice Research in the Information Professions. Proceedings of the
69th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science &
Technology 2006: Volume 43. [poster/short paper]
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Social Justice in LIS Research
Contextualize library and information science (LIS) work
in the everyday experiences of society's "marginalized"
in ways that make a difference in their socio-economic
and socio-political experiences of marginalization.
Recognize the diverse potential of LIS work for bringing
real change in people's lives.
Begin to re-examine LIS scholarship, practice, and
relevance to emerging social contexts of the 21st
Identify and explore a range of "how to" methods and
approaches in LIS that may build upon the existing
measures of social justice outcomes and impacts.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Social Justice Elements
An underserved population:
Identifies which group (or individuals) we are working with.
The information (communication) need: Presents an asset-based
approach that recognizes the strengths of various stakeholders
(including the identified “marginalized”); goes beyond a deficit approach
traditionally adopted in LIS research and helps to develop a service plan
that taps into existing strengths embedded in the project.
Methodologies: Examines research approaches used in the process of
engaging with the study population.
Outcomes: What are the tangible and intangible changes that have
occurred in the lives of the targeted individuals before and after getting
involved in the project?
Assessment and evaluation: Did the original need that motivated the
interaction get addressed? How effective were the strategies that were
adopted to address the original issue?
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Community Engagement
American LIS programs and their affiliated institutions
need more critical/constructive approaches to revise
traditionally defined outreach/service missions that are
“add-ons” to teaching and research agendas.
(Osborne, 2004; Fear & Sandman, 1995)
Current developments in LIS education call for
employing the phrase “community engagement” to:
Accurately represent integration efforts of teaching, research,
and service that better captures the community essence of
social equity and justice.
(Gibson, 2006; McCook, 2000)
Replace historically loaded, socio-politically biased words (e.g.,
outreach/service) symbolizing imbalanced power inequities.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Community Engagement
Recognizes the need for using the right language, vocabulary,
and unbiased words to represent conceptualization and
planning of socially-relevant research projects in the LIS
Adopts more holistic and integrated efforts that connect
teaching, research, and student participation in collaborations
of engagement with local, regional, national, and global
communities to achieve socially-relevant outcomes.
Represents a more contemporary and relevant strategy in
recognizing diversity and the assets and skills of the
underserved populations on society’s margins.
Presents a model that is reflective and forward-oriented in its
efforts to build equitable partnerships, involving LIS students
and community members, to achieve collaboratively-defined
community goals.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Grant Project
Rural Library Professionals as Change Agents
in the 21st Century: Integrating Information
Technology Competencies in the Southern and
Central Appalachian Region (ITRL) ($567,660).
Institute of Museum and Library Services, Laura
Bush 21st Century Librarian Program , October
2009 – September 2012 (PI: B. Mehra, K.
Black, V. Singh).
ITRL Planning Meeting
13 November, 2009
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
About the ITRL Program
“Information Technology Rural Librarian Master’s
Scholarship Program” (ITRL) in the School of Information
Sciences at the University of Tennessee meets an urgent
need for rural librarians in the Southern and Central
Appalachian (SCA) region to develop information
technology competencies and training in a master’s
program (accredited by the American Library
Association) that combines work experience and practice
with graduate instruction and curriculum support.
Hamlin-Lincoln County
Public Library, Hamlin, WV
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
The ITRL Purpose
The purpose of the ITRL Scholarship Program was to recruit
sixteen paraprofessionals working in rural libraries in the SCA
regions to complete their master’s degree with a focus on IT and
rural librarianship in the UT’s SIS program via distance.
ITRL students are receiving:
 Part-time degree in a program accredited by the ALA
 A structured, individually-tailored IT and rural management curriculum
 Rural library practices and needs incorporated into the curriculum
 IT competencies in developing rural library work applications
 Formal/informal professional mentoring by educators and practitioners
 Full-tuition scholarship for two years
 Allowance for materials
 Provision of a laptop computer
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Why the ITRL Program is Important
The Southern and Central Appalachian Region is experiencing:
 Information poverty and unemployment
 Economic challenges
 Low levels of information literacy and educational attainment
 A lack of access and use of IT
 Other unique environmental challenges
Library professionals who are embedded in their communities are in a
strong position to help address and develop solutions to these needs.
Laurel Jones Public Library,
Laurel, MS
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Research Goals
To identify collaborations that were significant in the
planning and development of the ITRL grant proposal.
To explore partnerships that will be instrumental in implementing future
activities in the five phases of the ITRL project design:
1. Recruitment of ITRL students from the SCA’s rural libraries.
2. Needs assessment of library services/information challenges in the SCA .
3. Implementation of educational and training activities.
4. Professional mentoring by professional educators and practitioners.
5. Evaluation/assessment of program outcomes, and dissemination of
program results/experiences.
To discuss social justice principles and community engagement in
the ITRL project.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and
Development of the Grant Proposal
Ongoing feedback from regional librarians in the UT’s SIS advisory
board and alumni networks and paraprofessional experiences shared
by SIS DE students developed a fuller picture about the context of study.
Participation in local, regional, and state-level professional library
networks established professional ties with rural librarians in the SCA
region and gained their support and involvement in the grant proposal.
Contributions by East Tennessee’s regional public librarians in a pilot
study furthered formal assessment of need and provided evidence to
inform the grant development process.
Strategic planning in East Tennessee’s two regional libraries provided the
impetus to take action to address the experienced challenges (e.g., lack
of resources) in the region’s public libraries.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and
Development of the Grant Proposal
A pilot quantitative web-based survey with select open-ended
questions was conducted to explore the perspectives of East
Tennessee’s regional librarians about the extent of their need for a
professional library education to integrate IT competencies and
information management skills in their work environments.
Research questions
What are the key information needs of rural communities in the region?
What are the library services provided by rural information professionals in the region?
What is the extent of perceived need for formal library professional education among
information professionals in the region?
What specific training/educational programs are needed by information professionals
in the region?
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in the ITRL Planning and
Development of the Grant Proposal
Involvement of project partners throughout the
grant activities is providing validity, leadership, knowledge,
networks, experience, and drive to promote IT-based
development and change in the region’s communities.
Nancy Renfro, Director, Watauga Regional Library
Donald B. Reynolds, Director, Nolichucky Regional Library System
Susan Simmons, Director, Clinch-Powell Regional Library
KC Williams, System Director, Sevier County Public Library
Representatives from other regional and county library
systems in the nine states within the SCA region are
participating in the various grant activities.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in the ITRL Phase 1: Recruitment
Created the ITRL Recruitment Board with
members who helped recruit potential ITRL applicants,
developed a plan for competitive recruitment of
students to the program, including development of
recruitment materials and criteria for selection (e.g.
members of ARSL, ETLA).
State librarians, regional library directors, county library
directors, and others in the SCA region assisted in
marketing and promotion efforts, identifying potential
candidates from their staff and community populations,
and helping them complete admission procedures and
application materials.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Heather Ruble Duby, Acquisitions Assistant,
Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville TN
Brittany Renee Fletcher, Elementary School
Teacher/Media Team Member, Mountain City
Elementary School Media Center, Mountain City, TN
Julie Forkner, Reference Librarian,
E. G. Fisher Public Library, Athens, TN
Becky Boatman Grindstaff,
Software Support Specialist,
Knox County Schools,
Knoxville, TN
ITRL Students
Angela Cortellino Glowcheski, Information
Specialist, Lumpkin County Public Library,
Chestatee Regional Library, Dahlonega, GA
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Richard George Haynes, Director,
Harlan County Public Library System, Harlan, KY
Kevin Sean Jump, Circulation Assistant, WeeksTownsend Memorial Library, Barbourville, KY
Lauren Long, Library Technologist,
Madison County Public Library,
Marshall, NC
Susan Elaine Macrellis,
Library Director, East Ridge
City Library, East Ridge, TN
ITRL Students
Helen Frances Owen: No picture
Instructional Supervisor for Materials and
Supplies, Teacher Resource Center, Sevier
County School System, Sevierville, TN
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Marilyn J. Pontius, Hancock War Memorial Branch Library,
Washington County Free Library, Washington County, MA
Deborah J. Ratliff, Branch Manager/Program Specialist,
Goshen Public Library, Rockbridge Regional Library,
Goshen, VI
Christine Maness Smith, Branch Manager, C.
Bascom Slemp Memorial Library, Lonesome
Pine regional Library System, Big Stone Gap, VI
Susan J. Williams: No picture. Resource Center/Education Coordinator,
Highlander Research and Education Center, New Market, TN
Vicki Michelle Crawford Winstead,
Library Media Specialist, Jackson
Elementary School Library,
Kingsport, TN
ITRL Students
Amber Dawn Woodard,
Library Technical
Assistant, Cumberland
University, Lebanon, TN
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 2: Needs Assessment
An ITRL Needs Assessment Symposium [online and face-to-face
meetings] was conducted in March/April 2010 and fifty library and
information professionals from across the SCA region provided
feedback about library services and information challenges
experienced in their rural libraries.
Online break-out sessions and face-to-face focus groups were
orchestrated to address local information needs, use of information
resources and services, challenges and barriers, areas of
improvement, and use of computers and information technologies.
Doddridge County Public
Library, West Union, WV
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3:
Education/Training Implementation
IT deliverables applied towards rural libraries include:
Technology planning, assessment, and analysis
Database and web design, development, and usability
Building digital library, web portals, and Library 2.0 tools
Establishing hardware and software configurations for networking
Management outcomes in rural library courses include:
Service evaluation/assessment in rural libraries
Planning/management of a rural library program for youth and adults
Reader’s advisory and other information services
Grant writing and partnership development
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
ITRL Course Schedule
(42 Credit Hour Program)
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3:
The Possibilities in IT Courses
Partnerships to facilitate student developed course
outcomes related to:
Creation and use of technology and online tools (e.g., digital
libraries, OPAC, electronic databases) to access local materials,
bringing together state and local library networks.
Understanding of IT-related planning and application of research
methodologies to train other employees/ patrons to fully utilize
available databases and search engines.
Community based electronic communications (using Web 2.0 to
promote and expand library services).
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 3: The Possibilities
in Rural Management Courses
Collaborations with rural libraries where ITRL
students work to facilitate development of course outcomes
related to:
Library service evaluation based on understanding of user needs
as assessed by students and the library.
Working within individual libraries with employees and patrons to
offer appropriate services and materials responding to changes
in expectations of various populations (current interests, activities,
Improving reader ‘s advisory methods and techniques, creating
partnerships between their library and other libraries, writing grant
proposals for the library.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 4:
Professional Mentoring
Sixteen librarians with MLS degrees have formed the ITRL Mentoring
Board that is working with ITRL educators to tailor individual student’s
academic program in integrating IT competencies to meet the needs of
their rural library and community [since May 2010].
ITRL students, educators from UT’s SIS, and practitioner-mentors from the
ITRL Mentoring Board identified learning objectives, course
recommendations, and research projects to enhance IT skills
with rural library applications.
Faculty and practitioner-mentor participants developed profiles of
work/position descriptions and IT expectations for each ITRL student.
Each work/position profile is incorporating specific IT content and rural
management applications.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
ITRL Connections:
Practitioner-Mentoring Board
Nancy Renfro, Director, Watauga Regional Library, Johnson City, TN.
Practitioner-Mentor of Heather Duby.
 Amy Bond, Director, Lonesome Pine Regional Library, Big Stone Gap, VA.
Practitioner-mentor of Brittany R. Fletcher.
 Cindy Church, Continuing Education Consultant, Library of Virginia,
Richmond, VA. Practitioner-mentor of Julie Forkner.
 Susan Simmons, Director, Clinch-Powell Regional Library, Clinton, TN.
Practitioner-mentor of Angela C. Glowcheski.
 Jennifer Cowan-Henderson, Director, Upper Cumberland Regional Library,
Cookeville, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Becky Boatman Grindstaff.
 Lori Acton, District Director, Laurel County Public Library, London, KY.
Practitioner-Mentor for Richard G. Haynes.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
ITRL Connections:
Practitioner-Mentoring Board
Chris Durman, Music Librarian, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.
Practitioner-mentor of Kevin Sean Jump.
 Melodi Goff, Director, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC.
Practitioner-mentor of Lauren Long.
 Connie Pierce, Media Specialist for Ganns Middle Valley Elementary
School, Chattanooga, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Susan E. Macrellis.
 K. C. Williams, System Director, Sevier County Public Library System,
Sevierville, TN. Practitioner-Mentor of Helen F. Owen.
 Patrick Davison, Reference Librarian, Hazard Community & Technical
College, Combs, KY. Practitioner-Mentor of Marilyn J. Pontius.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
ITRL Connections:
Practitioner-Mentoring Board
Karen Kuhn, Library Director, Clifton Forge Public Library, VA.
Practitioner-Mentor of Deborah J. Ratliff.
 Michael Gilley, Director, Mountain Empire Community College, VA.
Practitioner-Mentor of Christine M. Smith.
 Dr. Fred Hay, Librarian, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Practitioner-mentor of Susan J. Williams.
 Helen Whitaker, Director, Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport, TN.
Practitioner-mentor of Vicki M. C. Winstead.
 Don Reynolds, Director, Nolichucky Regional Library, Morristown, TN.
Practitioner-mentor of Amber D. Woodard.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Collaborations in ITRL Phase 5: Evaluation
Feedback from ITRL mentors, students, rural library
professionals, and rural library patrons are being regularly
Throughout the ITRL duration we will continuously analyze
the effectiveness of students’ experiences in developing IT
course applications for their rural work environments.
Quantitative survey-based online student evaluation at the
beginning and end of each class.
Qualitative interviews in alternate semesters.
This will include data on community outcomes, career
choice, academic success, and the graduates’ evaluation of
the program.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
ITRL is a collaborative effort from conception to
completion. Educators, partners, students, and libraries
are working together to improve community services and
materials across the SCA rural belt. It is helping to apply
social justice and community engagement efforts to
promote progressive development in the region. We hope
this collaboration will continue long after the ITRL
students graduate.
Upshur County Public Library,
Buckhannon, WV
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
We appreciate the funding from IMLS that is helping
to support activities reported in this presentation.
We gratefully acknowledge the participation and
contributions of the SCA regional public librarians
and others who participated in various data
gathering methods.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra
Questions and Comments?
Thank you for your attention and participation.
CCI 620, March 2011: Mehra