Sharon L. Comstock 450PT Bruce Fall 2003 PT Project Proposal Digital Library Construction for the Inner-urban School: Contextual Development and Meaning The emergence of digitally delivered information has shaped how librarians understand, use, and even create information “packets” for his/her users. The 21st century librarian is in constant negotiation, standing in the role of information mediator within an emerging information economy. In this economy, I wonder, who has the creative authority to nurture information empowerment? What does this look like for librarian practitioners and their patron communities? For this research project, I would like to examine one aspect of a larger analysis of this question. In light of Hickman, Burke, and Dewey (as well as others), I propose the question: Who defines “digital libraries”? I want to undertake an examination of indigenous meanings ascribed to the phrase “digital library.” What latent values shape this definition? Who defines the evaluative semantics that describe a “good” digital library product versus “bad?” What does a digital library look like when created by users in the school community? What experiences shape its development? What uses shape its construction? What explicit and implicit factors inform the design, and then use, of the digital library? What does the product itself mean in these schools? Scenario: Inner-urban public school The linoleum floor is still mysteriously sticky from last year’s end. Kari (pseudonym) lifts up a gritty binder from one of the low tables designed for the students, trying to “clean up this place” for her visitor. Two decade-old IBM clone computers are on tables by the wall, their screens dark. An indoor-outdoor carpet is rolled to one end of the classroom, its edges unraveling. The buff and green walls herald an era of 50 years past. Shelves’ contact-paper peelings mimic the dangling window shades. There are few books. “Welcome to my library,” Kari says. What, in the context of the above inner urban library, does “digital library” mean? Should it matter? Who is responsible for concepts of information and technology literacy in these environments? Often, the city school librarian is watching as funding and support are being given to the technology lab down the hall while her library stands neglected. The librarians in my research group are turning toward what they have named “technology empowerment” in order for them to build their own digital library collections to use with their faculties and students. Resource-starved, these librarians are creating their own online presences for their students to use at school. An interesting model emerges where the student goes down the hall to the tech lab to use the website and digital collection that the librarian has created. The “library” as space is less used in some of these environments, feeding further justification for budget cut-backs. The digital library, then, in some of these sites, is becoming the library of choice. Which leads us back to the question: what does a digital library mean in these urban school environments? I will be examining 12 digital libraries created by urban school librarians who participated in a professional development course “Digital Libraries” that I co-mentored this summer. While this is part of a larger research analysis of how these types of classes serve in bridging the digital divide, I want to closely consider the questions above in the context of pragmatic technology theory. Resources Burke, F. Thomas, Hester, D. Micah, & Talisse, Robert B. (Eds.) (2002). Dewey's logical theory: New studies and interpretations. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Chowdhury, G.G. and Sudatta Chowdury (2003). Introduction to Digital Libraries. London: Facet. Hickman, Larry (1990). John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology. Bloomington: Indian Univ. Mardis, Marcia, ed. (2003) “If We Build It Will They Come?” in Developing Digital Libraries for K-12 Education. ERIC Clearinghouse (http://www.ericit.org/newsletter/Volume24-1/mardis_intro.pdf , accessed 10/03/03) Schon, Donald, Bish Sanyal, and William Mitchell (1999). High Technology and Low-income Communities. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Witten, Ian H. and David Bainbridge (2002). How to Build a Digital Library. London: Elseiver.