Doctoral research is a treasure trove of useful information for LIS practitioners. Ten notable dissertations of 2015 are featured in this month’s American Libraries magazine, each with useful findings and recommendations for practitioners in a variety of library settings.
Among the featured authors is GSLIS alumnus Jeff Ginger (PhD '15). In his dissertation, "Capturing the Context of Digital Literacy: A Case Study of Illinois Public Libraries in Underserved Communities," Ginger presents findings from his study of how public libraries provide digital literacy resources and services to rural communities and those serving predominantly African-American and Latino populations. He found that libraries in these communities face multiple challenges, such as serving as the only available internet access provider and a lack of sufficient infrastructure, stable funding, or staff resources.
In her article, Kathy Rosa, director of the American Library Association’s Office of Research and Statistics, distilled from Ginger's work several strategies that could be implemented in libraries.
[Ginger] had several recommendations for libraries to succeed in providing leadership toward community proficiencies in digital literacies. First, library staffers and patrons need to work together to decide what digital literacy means in their community. Second, staff members need professional development to help with digital literacies training and become proficient in developing related programming. This training should go beyond teaching librarians how to work devices and use software; instead, they need to know how to instruct and engage with patrons. To assess programming, library officials must show how a patron is changed by the programming, not merely count how many people attended or used computers. Providing resources and professional development about assessment can help empower staff members to accurately measure and improve the success of digital literacy efforts.
Currently, Ginger is a program coordinator and adjunct instructor with the Illinois Informatics Institute and GSLIS. He is also director of the CU Community Fab Lab, where he lends a critical but optimistic perspective to the study and implementation of education-oriented makerspaces, particularly in regard to key challenges such as cultivating and supporting diversity and sustainably establishing capacity-building technology education services in collaboration with underserved communities. His teaching is primarily situated in social and community informatics, deciphering the discourse and effects of the digital divide and Web 2.0, critical pedagogy in technology education, and contextualized study of human-computer interaction.