In searching for a community to study, I wanted to make sure the group I chose was relevant to my current job managing the Paso Robles City Library. We have recently been looking at new ways to encourage high school teens to use the library, and I believe that if I explore our local teens’ methods of acquiring information in the larger context of how the high school population in general acquires information , then I may be able to change the ways we reach out to this group and/or add new programs or services that will be specifically oriented toward those needs. In discussing this with Professor Greenblatt, I decided to further narrow “teens” as an information community to “college bound teens” so that my group would be manageable.
First I asked myself, does this group meet the definition of an information community as described by Fisher and Durrance? In their article “Information Communities,” Fisher and Durrance describe five characteristics of an information community. Let us examine each point to see if my chosen group meets this criteria:
1. “Information communities exploit the information sharing qualities of technology yield multiplier effects for stakeholders”
I think it is safe to say that college bound teens use technology frequently (some parents would argue that it is 24/7) and as they have grown up in a technologically drenched world, are comfortable with all types of social media from email groups to Facebook to Tumblr. It will be interesting to see how my local college bound teens use these technologies and others in their information gathering.
2. “Information communities emphasize collaboration among diverse groups that provide information and may share joint responsibility and resources”
College bound teens definitely represent a diverse population with a wide variety of interests. Judging from my experience working with teen library volunteers, overseeing teen programming and young adult acquisitions in the library, and also my experience volunteering with the Boy Scouts and the Band Backers in our community, college bound teens seek information in a variety of ways, sharing what they learn with their peers.
3. “Information communities anticipate and often form around people’s needs to access and use information in ways that people perceive as helpful.”
High school students have always formed into groups based on their like interests. Whether they are in a study group to prepare for an AP (Advanced Placement) exam, a musical group such as band or choir, or a themed school club such as Paso Robles High School’s environmental club, the community of teens as a whole is adept at forming communities within themselves to access and use information. It will be interesting to find new ways that local college bound teens form into groups in order to provide better service to them in my community.
4. “Information communities remove barriers to information about acquiring needed services and participating in civic life.”
It has been my observation that college bound teens use technology to break down barriers to information gathering as a natural part of their information gathering process. A point in case: when my college-aged son was in high school, he enjoyed skateboarding and could often be found investigating various companies who manufacture or sell skateboard decks. He also visited skate shops and discussed features of various products with store personnel. Discussing the merits of one brand over another is a regular topic among my son and his skateboarding peers as well. Once he made a choice, he would often post this information on various social media, sharing his knowledge with others and providing a place for further discussion of the topic with his peers. I would like to see if this is typical of most local teens and use this information to improve our library service to this group.
5. “Information communities foster social connectedness within the larger community.”
In using social media, teens frequently post and share information that they have learned with the larger social network. When a college bound teens post something of interest to them on Facebook, for example, they are sharing it with their “friends,” no matter if the friend is a teen or not. This information may in turn be shared by the teens’ “friends” and so forth throughout the larger Facebook community. These postings can also promote discussion as friends post comments to the initial posting. I hope to find a way to make the library’s Facebook page appealing to this population as a place to go for information.
Thus I do believe that teens as a group meet the criteria to be an information community.
The next question I raised to myself is, “Do local high school college bound teens represent a large enough group to be representative of teens as a whole?” Teens who use our public library are mainly from Paso Robles High School and our continuation school, Liberty. Because a neighboring community, Templeton, does not have a public library of its own, many teens from Templeton High School also are patrons of our library. I hope to primarily use college bound Paso Robles High School students for this study, adding students from these other schools as I can.
I believe that our city has a diverse enough population to make this a valid study. Although the city’s population (according to 2010 Census figures) is predominantly white (59%), we do have a relatively large Hispanic/Latino population as well (34.5%). Although our African-American population is small (2.1%), it is one of the largest in San Luis Obispo County. We also have a small Asian population (2%). Ideally I will be able to include information for all these groups as I gather data for my project.
As a final consideration for choosing this group and the direction I want to take in my research I asked myself if there had been adequate research already done on this group. Professor Greenblatt and I exchanged some emails on this topic, and she recommended the article “People, Places, and Questions: An Investigation of the Everyday Life Information-Seeking Behaviors of Urban Young Adults” by Denise Agosto. Agosto sought answers to three questions about her target population: “1. What types of information do urban young adults seek in their everyday lives? 2. What information media do urban youth favor? (and) 3. What people sources do urban young adults favor when seeking everyday life information?” This article explored urban youth information-seeking behaviors in the same manner as I would like to explore my rural small-town community’s college bound teen information seeking behaviors. In addition to this article, Carol Kuhlthau, in her article, “Inside the Search Process: Information Seeking from the User’s Perspective,” tells of several studies about the search processes used by high school students when researching for their term papers. I am confident that I will be able to find enough related prior research on this information community for me to complete my own research.
So, to recap, my goal is to find out what the college bound high school information community wants that we are not providing so I can get some ideas and/or implement some features/programs/other that will get them using the library as much as their younger siblings and grandparents already do. Recognizing that high school teens are an underserved population in our local library community as a whole, and I would like to find better/different ways to serve them. Maybe that isn’t the ultimate goal of this class per se, but I would like to gain a better understanding of their information needs in order to address our lack of teen presence in the library.
Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2005). People, places, and questions: An investigation of the everyday life information-seeking behaviors of urban young adults. Library & Information Science Research, 27(2), 141–163. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2005.01.002
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412952583.n248
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the Search Process: Information Seeking from the User’s Perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5), 361-371.
U.S. Census (n.d.). State & County Quickfacts. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/index.html#