Sharon Comstock Presentation

Sharon Comstock will give the talk, "To 'Innovate' or "Iterate'? Critical Inquiry Literacies in Library & Informatics Practices."

Abstract: Library and information science work is, even in its naming, iterative. But what does that mean in the lived experience of everyday library work? On what accessible heuristic do we draw to critique the public library; one by which a library's partnerships, experiences, services, programs, collections, and spaces can be evaluated in locally meaningful and accountable ways? Community of inquiry (CoI) theory can be applied as just such a heuristic to intentionally challenge our—and our communities'—assumptions, making visible a library construct that may need problematized in order to substantively address local needs and amplify asset-based efforts. In the context of calls for improved rigor in outcomes-based design and evaluation, we will explore practitioners' everyday collective-impact behaviors as necessary invisible infrastructure. In this discussion, we survey a selection of experimental design cases conducted over five years where I applied CoI as a critical literacy in public library work, demonstrating its value for co-creating accountable deliverables as well as investing in social-capital networks. We will examine practitioner-tested methods of outcomes-based design and evaluation; and consider as necessary the role of practitioner-as-researcher.

Comstock is an inquiry & impact officer at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library and an adjunct instructor at Kent State University. She has ten years' experience conducting human subject social science and education research of protected class populations, including youth, young adults, and African-American women in at-risk neighborhoods in Chicago as K-12 teachers in under-performing schools. She holds a PhD in library and information science from Illinois and a MA from Northwestern University.