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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Capturing the context of digital literacy: A case study of Illinois public libraries in underserved communities
by Ginger, Jeff, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015, 255; 3740454
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation study examines the role of the public library in fostering digital literacies in underserved Illinois communities. Over the course of two years I collected data on the library as an institution, and as a context, by investigating people, policies, activities and infrastructure related to how individuals learn, comprehend and apply digital technologies in collaboration with and in relation to the library. The data was collected during visits to libraries in sixteen locations around the state with significant levels of poverty, including a selection of rural localities and predominantly African American and Latino communities. Research methods included several kinds of site observation as well as interviews with librarians. As a collective whole, these case studies yield a series of interesting and surprising stories that reflect some of the connections between social roles and service roles, as well as the particular innovations and challenges present in underserved communities.

These findings support a number of related theories and initiatives, including the need to reconstruct digital literacy as digital literacies , in the plural, and the impetus to see them primarily as a function of community engagement, especially in underserved community settings. The data suggests that library roles related to digital literacy are changing in several substantial ways. First, libraries are moving beyond merely providing internet to proactively promoting assisted public computing. Second, they are shifting their view of themselves as a community space to include leadership in community networking. Finally, they are working to cultivate information experiences that progress beyond consumption to involve a dimension of generative learning.

When considered in conversation with existing scholarship, these findings have important implications: they show new avenues for research into diversity and social inclusion, critical discourse analysis and dynamic models for learning. They also suggest new directions for the field of Library and Information Science (LIS) and offer a compelling reason for libraries to both participate in and help guide movements and initiatives to promote digital literacies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Smith, Linda C.
Commitee: Peterson Bishop, Ann, Twidale, Michael, Williams, Kate
School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department: Library & Information Science
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Library science, Educational technology, Information science
Keywords: Community informatics, Digital literacy, Illinois, Innovation, Media literacy, Public libraries, Service roles, Technology services, Underserved communities
Publication Number: 3740454
ISBN: 978-1-339-32570-5
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