Recognize and describe cultural and economic diversity in the clientele of libraries or information organizations

Component 1: Statement of Competency

Libraries are successful because they are dedicate to creating equal access to information to their patrons. This means they spent time focused on understanding and studying how people use information based on cultural and economic demographics. We, information professionals, evaluate how patrons of different ages use our resources. For example are 16 year olds checking out physical books more often than an 85 year old or do they use digital resources and technology more and why? Looking at this data shapes the way libraries market their material and more so how funds are allocated for resources.

Due to the nature and mission of libraries they are accessible by and attract a diverse population. The population ranges in education level, age, cultural background, learning ability and physical abilities. All of these factors play a part in how a patron uses information. It is our responsibility to determine how to attract this population and how to meet and serve their information needs.

I want to point out that social status and economic status are directly related. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data on the correlation between education level and income and typically those with a higher educational level have a higher income than those with a lower educational level. This suggests, that those with a higher education have a higher socio-economic status and in relation are able to use library resources at a more independent and intricate level than those with a lower socio-economic status. This however, does not mean that libraries that serve lower socio-economic communities should deprive these communities of access to these resources and information.

As the world continues to progress in the digital world, we see that what is commonly referred to as the digital divide, is largely affected by socio-economic status. Rubin explains, “as income rises so does Internet use… Only 25 percent of those with incomes of less than $15,000 use the Internet, compared to 67 percent of those with incomes exceeding $75,000” (Rubin, 2010, p178). One of the primary reasons for not using the internet is complexity of technology. The shows that use of the internet, or lack thereof, is not just restricted access due to income but also due to the skill set and knowledge. Libraries have focused on providing greater public access to the internet through installing public computers and even offering digital literacy programs to teach how to use the available technology.

It is important to acknowledge that cultural backgrounds also largely affect how patrons access information. On a study conducted by Liu and Redfern (1997) on students at San Jose State University, “Statistical analyses indicated that the student’s level of success in using the library was related to English-language proficiency, frequency of library use, and the frequency of reference desk inquiries” (Evans & Ward, 2007, p72). The inability to understand the dominant language of the collection of resources is a huge barrier on how the user with access and use the information that is available.

It is important that libraries understand the demographic makeup of the community they serve and adjust to serve their information needs. One significant adjustment that has been made is the incorporation of multilingual OPACS. This allows users the option of searching for resources in the language which they are most comfortable with. This will allow users to increase their skill set in searching because they now have the ability to use the resource.

Component 2: Justification of Evidence and Evidence:

My first piece of evidence I have included for this competency is a blog post I wrote for Libr240 on [Usability versus Accessibility]. This post discusses the importance of creating a website that is accessible to a diverse population and factors that impact how the user may be accessing the information. With digital content one of the most important factors in accessibility is making the webpage accessible to those who are visually impaired. This is done by adding alternative text for images and links within your code. This piece of evidence shows my understanding and ability to acknowledge and adjust to cultural and economic barriers my users may encounter.

My second piece of evidence I have included for this competency is a blog post I wrote for Lib240 [Designed for Mobility]. This post discusses designing your digital content for mobile use. Today, data shows that users are accessing more and more content on mobile devices like tablets and smart phones. This can drastically change how users use the available information, especially due to screen size differences and connection speed. The post discusses how to address some of the barriers that mobile users will deal with when accessing content through a mobile device.

My final piece of evidence is a [Final Proposal] I wrote for Libr285 for implementing a SMS reference service in an academic environment. This proposal discusses the purpose of implementing the reference service; “Studies have shown that 89% of college students have a cellphone and two-thirds of them use it for text messaging (Farkas, 2007)” (Watkins, 2013). The proposal shows my ability to recognize and adapt to how users are accessing and using information, specifically in an academic setting.

Conclusion:

As an information professional it is important that I am aware, able and understand the need to adapt and create resources that will serve a diverse population that deal with cultural barriers and socio-economic barriers. Our goal in the profession is to provide equal access to information, this can only be achieved if we acknowledge and understand the needs of our communities. We are doing great work to minimize the effect of the digital divide through multilingual OPACs, web design accessibility standards and access to technology that is often limited to communities with a lower socio-economic status.

References:

Evans, G. E. and Ward, P. L. (2007). Management Basics for Information Professionals. Second edition. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Rubin, R. E. (2010). The Values and Ethics of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Watkins, W. (2013). Research Proposal written for graduate studies course Libr285. San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science.

Evidence:

Usability versus Accessibility blog post for Libr240: https://nimblelibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/usability-vs-accessibility/

Designed for Mobility blog post for Libr240: https://nimblelibrarian.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/designed-for-mobility/

Final Proposal for Libr285: [Final Proposal]

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