Small town public library life and library school topics of interest

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Wrapping Things Up in LIBR 200

I have been working in libraries for over 30 years (a few part-time years in an academic library and full-time in a public library), and completed Cuesta College’s Library Technician program in the late 1980’s (yes, I am dating myself). These experiences have allowed me to become familiar with all the day to day operations of library work. In this graduate program, I am learning the theory behind the practice; sort of a “flipped” career path, getting the education after the on-the-job experience. In exploring information communities for this course, I have discovered several key activities that I can apply to my job as the manager of the Paso Robles City Library, and I have had some reaffirming personal development as well.

In my public library career, I have always been frustrated by the low numbers of teen patrons using the library. One would logically think that for teens, especially college bound teens, the library would be a place to congregate: to do research, complete homework assignments, or just hang out with friends. Our “new” library (almost 20 years old now!) facility is a pleasant place to be with comfortable furnishings, free internet access, and our ever-popular fish tank. We have a decent collection of materials for teens to use, considering the population served (about 30,000). So why weren’t teens using our services? In examining this population for LIBR 200, I learned the answer to this question: Teens are not familiar with what we have to offer. Sure, the teens in my community know that we have books and computers, but they were unfamiliar with our downloadable collections, research databases, and teen programs.

So how do we open up lines of communication with this group? the teens themselves had good suggestions for this including: put ads in the school newspaper, post flyers on campus, include information in school announcements. While I don’t have the budget to allow for advertisements, I plan to approach the Journalism teacher to see if I can contribute a column about what is going on in the library or if a student reporter can be assigned to the library to write these articles for the paper. Flyers that we post here in the library can be posted on campus; I may be able to recruit our city’s Youth Commissioners to do the posting. Brief information can be submitted for the school announcements. I have a good relationship with the high school principal that can be developed further; if he is willing to make school staff aware of library services, I can hope that they will in turn pass the information on to their students. Finding new venues for communicating with this group is an essential next step in increasing public library use by local teens.

What else can we do to increase teen attendance at our programs? In addition to better marketing, we need to look at our program content. Surveyed teens are interested in college prep and career workshops, much more serious topics for programming than we have offered in the past. We will need to look at offering programming of this nature in order to encourage teens to participate.

In studying the teen community, I have enjoyed reading about other research being done on their information gathering behaviors. Scholars such as Denise Agosto (2005) who studied urban teens quest for ELIS information, Lisa Wemett (2008) who offered ideas about creative teen spaces for libraries, Charles Becker (2009) who provided information about online information seeking among teens, and Lois Barranoik (2001) who studied the methods used by students writing research papers all contributed to my personal information gathering regarding teen library behaviors and needs. I particularly enjoyed surveying and interviewing students for my own research. I feel that I have excellent current data on my local community that I can use to guide my decision making in the next few years.

On a personal note, after being out of school for about 30 years, it has been gratifying to find that I am still able to be successful as a student. I have grown from someone who was wondering if she would be able to take on this new challenge — Can I function in an online environment? Can I hold my own with the next generation? Can I still write? Do I really have time in my busy life to do a good job at this graduate school “thing?” — to someone who answers “Yes!” to those questions.  


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

Barranoik, L. (2001). Research success with senior high school students. School Libraries Worldwide, 7, 28-45.

Becker, C. H. (2009). Student values and research: Are Millennials really changing the future of reference and research?. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 341-364.

Wemett, L. (2008). Teen space and the community’s living room: Incorporating teen areas into rural libraries. PNLA, 72(4), 13-18.




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College Bound Teens Research Paper

Saving it here…

Rural College Bound Teen Information Seeking Behaviors

LIBR 200: Information Communities

Karen Christiansen

Ms. Ellen Greenblatt

San José State University

Fall, 2014


This paper presents findings of a survey conducted in November, 2014, regarding the information seeking behaviors of rural college bound teens in Paso Robles and Atascadero, California. 160 teens aged 13 through 18 participated in the survey, which was conducted in English and psychology classes at Paso Robles High School and Atascadero High School respectively. Topics covered in the survey included the teens’ current use of the public library, familiarity with the collections and services, the types of common technologies these teens could access, and, most importantly, information gathering strategies used by the teen for both academic (research) and personal (everyday life information seeking) use. The results of the survey indicated that teens primarily use online and face-to-face sources when looking for information, and are often unaware of library services. The conclusion presents possible options for communicating more effectively with teens about library offerings and ideas for the types of library programs that would appeal to this community.


At the outset, college bound teens seem to be a community who would naturally gravitate toward the public library as a place to help them achieve their goals. The library can provide them with study guides for the important exams that will gain them admittance to college, library staff can assist them with current homework assignments, and the space provided is conducive to solo or small group study. So why then do nearly two-thirds of college bound teens rarely visit the public library even though nearly 80% of them have library cards?

In striving to provide excellent customer service to rural college bound teens in a public library setting, it is necessary to learn how and where this group currently finds information, both of an academic nature and for everyday use. Little research has been done on this targeted age group and their information seeking behaviors, and virtually no research, particularly current research, has been conducted on rural teen populations. Although studies of urban teens and rural groups (that may or may not include teens) have been completed, the research conducted for this paper is unique in its focus on rural college bound teens and their overall library use.

If libraries are to remain vital community hubs, it is essential that librarians encourage teens to take advantage of library services. Librarians must ascertain what these teens already know about library collections and services, and how and where they are currently gathering information when they need it. They must learn why this group rarely uses the library, in order to make the changes necessary to persuade college bound teens of the intrinsic value of the public library. Once armed with this information, it is easier to communicate about library services to them, thereby encouraging them to utilize the library more often. By learning what types of information college bound teens currently use, we can enhance those areas of our library collections and train staff specifically in serving the needs of this underserved population. Programs can be developed that meet the needs of the college bound teen, and a teen space can be developed to promote the library as a gathering place for this community.

Literature Review

Researching teens’ information behavior is challenging because there is not a wealth of scholarly work on this topic. Even those conducting research on young adults regularly state that there needs to be more attention paid to this age group (Agosto, 2011, Abstract, para. 1). Not only is there a scarcity of scholarly research focusing on teens, but researchers also find that often the quality of the writing that does exist is mediocre (Lee, 2014). Much of the existing literature has a rather narrow focus, concentrating on a particular type of information seeking such as that conducted by Lois Barranoik (2001) in her examination of teens conducting research for school assignments, or the use of a particular type of tool such as the study of young adults’ use of the online library catalog conducted by Eric Novatny (2004).

Scholars performing research on the teen population include professors in the field of Library and Information Science, such as Marcia Bates, Eric Meyers, and Denise Agosto; educators such as Lois Barranoik, Charles Becker, and Eliza Dresang; and practicing librarians such as John East, Eric Novatny, and Lisa Wemett.  The PEW Research Center had current applicable data that was relevant as well.

Research on teen library use was based on surveys and interviews with surprisingly small populations of students. Novotny’s (2004) protocol analysis study of online catalog usage was based on the information provided by only eighteen students (p. 527), Becker’s (2009) study surveyed 47 students (p. 341), Harlan (2012) had a mere seven students in her study (p. 572), and even Agosto (2005) only interviewed 27 students in her seminal study of urban youth (p. 141).  In contrast the data collected for this study was from a relatively large group of rural college bound teens (160).

No matter what the researcher’s field or the size of the teen population studied, commonalities are presented in the literature. First, teens use a wide variety of sources when seeking information including people they know, online sources, and the media. “Ease of use” is another common theme found in the literature about teen information behavior. Teens are generally unaware of what the library has to offer, and therefore do not use the library when seeking information, consulting with librarians only as a last resort.

One area where the research demonstrated differing conclusions is in the perception of libraries as viewed by teens. In her 2005 study, Agosto found that libraries were seen as unpleasant places to visit (p. 151) and librarians had provided teens with poor customer service (p. 154). Islam and Ahmed (2012), when studying world-wide rural libraries, found public library services to be inadequate and ineffective because their services and collections did not meet the needs of their populations (p. 144). Lee (2014) described barriers to service such as unwelcoming teen spaces, uninspiring teen websites, and poor communications with teens regarding library functions (Disconnect between teens and libraries, para. 2-3). In spite of academic research to the contrary, however, the Pew Research Center data shows that teens aged 16-17 actually have a favorable impression of libraries, with 95% finding them “important because they promote literacy and a love of reading” (p. 26), 94% valuing the public library providing “free access to materials and resources” (p. 27), and 90% feeling that a public library “improves the quality of life in a community” (p. 28).


Knowing that ultimately the local rural college bound teen community itself would be the best source of information; I wanted to familiarize myself with the scholarly literature already available about this community. I encountered and eagerly read Kuhlthau’s (1991) examination of high school seniors’ approaches to conducting academic research and Savolainen’s (2009) study of everyday life information seeking (ELIS) behaviors. Agosto’s (2005) seminal work with urban teens’ ELIS behaviors seemed to be the model for the type of research I wanted to do. I began to search the LIS databases, looking for any articles on “college bound teens,” “rural teens,” “teen information seeking,” “rural reference,” and many variations on these keyword phrases. I did not have much success. Using Google Scholar, I was able to broaden my search to include not only LIS information, but also information seeking behaviors studied by other schools of thought such as sociology and education, acquiring several more sources on the topic. Finally, I gathered data from non-scholarly sources such as YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association) and the Pew Research Center. These tertiary sources all provided the necessary background to the study of the teen community and provided me with a framework on which to base my own research.

Once this background research was completed, I began to reach out to the local teen community. I interviewed three local college bound teens regarding their use and awareness of the library, how they go about finding information for both academic and ELIS purposes, and what types of technology they use regularly. These primary sources were invaluable in both providing detailed information about college bound teen library use and helping me to refine what information I wanted to include in my larger survey.

In addition to reaching out to local teens, I also reached out to two local teachers. Aaron Cantrell is an AP (Advanced Placement) and honors English teacher at Paso Robles High School. Suzanne Hogan is a psychology teacher at Atascadero High School. Both of them agreed to administer the survey to their students, 225 in all.

I developed the survey (see Appendix) based on the questions I asked the students I interviewed, using formatting from a variety of library surveys I found via a Google search and prior surveys we had conducted at the Paso Robles City Library. Students were asked some basic demographic information, including what their plans are following graduation from high school; those surveys which did not list college (or a profession such as doctor or engineer that customarily require a college education) or were left blank in this area were discarded. The first section of the survey asked the students about their current library use. These questions were used to determine the students’ overall familiarity with the various programs, collections, and services we offer. The next section asked questions regarding library programs and community events, specifically what types of programs would be of interest to them and how they find out about events. The third section focused on the students’ familiarity with the library’s materials collections and how often they use each one. Following this was a series of questions about information gathering including which online sources they use the most, which “people” sources they use, and which local sources they use. They were then asked to list which sources they use specifically for academic searching and which they use for ELIS activities and why they liked those sources best. Finally, students were asked which social media they use and what types of technological devices they access regularly. The results of the survey were tallied by school and also cumulatively.



Based on the survey results, rural college bound teens are, generally speaking, able to access the library. 79% of those surveyed have library cards and are able to check out materials, and all but two students have transportation readily available (their own vehicle or one owned by their friends or family members). 73% do not have part-time jobs that might prevent them from visiting the public library when they are not in school. Most of these students do, however, have extra-curricular commitments such as sports, arts programs, and club activities such as FFA (Future Farmers of America), Boy and Girl Scouts, and church youth groups that would compete for this afterschool time. So what are the barriers to teens using the library? How do teens perceive the library? There is a wide range of opinion regarding teens’ views of the library which is reflected in both the scholarly literature and in the survey, most of which does not paint a rosy picture of teens’ perception of the library. Vivian Howard (2011) found that overall, about two-thirds of the students she surveyed were satisfied by the public library (p.328), while Virginia Walter and Cindy Mediavilla (2005) found that there was a disconnect between traditional library services such as reference and reading promotion and what the students actually wanted from the library, services such as homework assistance (p.211). The Pew Research Center (2014) found that although older teens use the library frequently, it would not have a major impact on them if the public library closed (p.4). Results of the College Bound Teen Survey match these findings. While 87% of those surveyed use the public library at least once per year, very few of them listed the library as a place they go to find information. One student stated that for her, the library is a place of nostalgia, reminding her of when she went there regularly for story times, and a second student said he only visits the library when he is volunteering there. These students are also not accessing the library from home as much as they could be. Of the few who answered this section of the survey, 44% download eBooks, 25% place holds on materials to be picked up at the library, 17% pay their fines online, and 14% use the library’s databases.

One reason for teens’ scant use of the public library might be that they are unaware of all we have to offer. In surveying college bound teens about their library use, 45% use the library to look for and read books (still our bread and butter), and 18% use the library to study or work on homework. Less than 1% of those surveyed use the library for audio-visual materials, reference service, attending events, or using the public internet computers. When asked if they were surprised by anything the library offers, half of those who answered were surprised to find out that we have downloadable books and other eMaterials, and 21% were unaware of the databases we have that can assist them with homework and test preparation. Students are also not aware of the programs that we offer for teens, particularly our Teen Summer Reading Program; 49% of the students were unaware that we offer summer programming for teens. These findings are consistent with those of Vivian Howard (2011) and Cook, Parker, and Pettijohn (2005 as cited by Howard) (p.335); teens have a lack of awareness regarding library services, and better promotion and marketing are necessary to remedy this situation.

Rural college bound teens use a variety of sources when they are searching for information. They use traditional sources such as books, newspapers and magazines, media sources such as radio and television, and interpersonal sources such as friends, family members, and teachers. The most used source, not surprisingly, is the internet, specifically Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and social media websites. Information seeking behavior is defined by Wilson (2000) as the “purposive seeking for information as a consequence of a need to satisfy some goal” (p.49). Information seeking behavior by teens can be divided into two areas: academic searching and ELIS searching as described by Reijo Savolainen (2009): searching for “orienting information by monitoring daily events through the media” and “problem-specific information” where they are looking for answers to a particular issue (p.1786). For the rural teens surveyed, it made little difference what type of information they were trying to find; their top three information sources were the Internet, friends and family. These results parallel those found by Charles Becker (2009), whose students unanimously chose Google as their favorite source of information (p.341). John East (2010) studied undergraduate student use of Wikipedia; his students found the site to contain current, brief, and accurate information (p.164). In the not too distant past, Wikipedia was a somewhat controversial source since anyone can contribute to it; there were questions of accuracy raised. West and Williamson, as sited in East (2010), acknowledge this controversy, but reject it as irrelevant, stating, “It is a logical starting point for research for many individuals; it is particularly good as a definition tool that acts as a springboard for further research” (p.164). One of the college bound students I interviewed uses Wikipedia in this very manner, finding his topic article, then scrolling to the sources list and using those sources to conduct his own research.

When using the computer for research for academic reasons, concerns have been expressed in the library community about students’ abilities to discern quality sources from those that may be less accurate. Lois Barranoik (2001) expressed this very thing after examining the searching strategies of high school students working on research papers. She found that many of them were lacking in both computer and research skills, and encouraged teachers and librarians to provide a basic introduction to computer use and search strategies before and during the research process (p.43). Sara Franks (2010) takes this one step further, voicing concern that students will be trapped in the grand narratives of our culture if they are not taught to think critically (p.46) as they approach information in the information cycle (events leading to popular press leading to scholarly articles, books, and reference sources) (p.47). In interviewing college bound teens for this paper, it is apparent that we have come a long way in instructing our students. All of the students surveyed are proficient in using a variety of technological devices, particularly smart phones and laptop computers. Also impressive is the students’ ability to choose quality sources. Jordan D. knew how to look to the url of a site to see if it was “.gov” or “.edu” rather than “.com” where the main focus is to sell a product. Taylor E. is a fan of the informational video, such as can be found at the TEDtalks site or various MOOC educational sites. When asked where they had picked up these tips, the students invariably said they had learned them from a teacher, providing further evidence that navigating the internet has become part of the current school curriculum.

Social media are frequently used by college bound teens to communicate with each other and the world at large. Only two of the 160 students surveyed said they choose to use no social media. Of the twelve social media included in the College Bound Teen Survey, four were the most commonly used: Instagram (38%), Snapchat (31%), Facebook (27%), and Pinterest (24%). Social media are where this community express themselves, as opposed to blogs or sites such as YouTube. Instagram and Pinterest allow this expression to the world at large; by collecting followers which can be people they know or total strangers, teens can convey their sense of style, demonstrate their interests, and provide examples of their lives. By perusing these sites and following others, college bound teens are able to comment on the activities of their friends or people who live across the world from them. With Facebook, rural teens can stay connected to their friends, follow pages of interest to them such as the high school’s Facebook page or the page of a favorite celebrity; they can find out about an event they want to attend, or create an event and invite others.  Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos to a controlled group of

people which can be viewed for a brief period of time (usually just a few seconds) before they disappear from Snapchat’s servers; this acts as a conversation which contributors can respond to with “Snaps” of their own. In examining content creation of this type, Harlan, Bruce and Lupton (2012) observed teens moving through several phases before doing any actual creating. Serendipitous Encountering occurs when a student discovers something of interest without intentionally looking for it (p.574). This gathering practice is a common phenomenon with students using Pinterest; as they scroll through a broad category of posts such as “art,” they may encounter many artworks and techniques of interest to them. Students next move on to a thinking phase where they choose social media they will use, perhaps studying techniques before actually creating. (pp.577-582). Finally, the creation begins, and the student participates by “liking” and “sharing” content, ultimately posting their own new content. (pp.582-585). This process has been the experience of Jordan D., a rural high school art student as expressed in her interview.   The use of social media may actually lead this population to better paying positions once they complete their studies; Puckett and Hargittai (2012) found that the more popular social media sites are being used by people seeking jobs, and report that research done by DiMaggio and Bonikowski tie internet use with higher wages (pp. 99-100).

Interpersonal sources, specifically friends and family, are also highly used for information seeking by the rural college bound teen population. This is particularly true when they are conducting ELIS searches. In the survey, family and friends were consulted an equal amount (totaling about 40%) when students were looking for information of a personal nature. These results are similar to those found by Agosto (2005) in her survey of urban teens in that human sources rank high as sources to consult (p.158). Eric Meyers (2009) also reports that teens choose friends and family as their preferred ELIS sources (p.305). Where the data are different is that the rural teens chose the Internet over even these highly rated interpersonal sources. Reasons for this may be that technology has advanced quite a bit since Agosto’s 2005 study, so a higher percentage of teens have access to the internet and are therefore using it more, or it could be that being more rurally located, the teens in the College Bound Teen Survey use the internet, particularly social media, to keep in touch with trends and activities they might otherwise consult about directly with their friends.

Why did the students select these sources? Although a number of reasons were given, teens surveyed said they liked these sources best because they were easy, reliable and inclusive. There is quite a bit of scholarly research about the importance of ease of use when looking for information. Eliza Dresang (2005) discusses Poole’s Principle of Least Effort (p.181) suggesting that choosing the easiest route to information minimizes the amount of work necessary to acquire the information, so “easiness” should not be associated with “laziness.” Marcia Bates (2009) also talks about how it is in the nature of people to expend little energy or effort in looking for information (p.2385). In the public library, it is important that library websites are also easy to use, the most common being the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). Eric Novotny (2004) observed college students using OPACs at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries, finding that students were not very sophisticated in their searching, relying on simple keyword phrases, and selecting the first reasonable option that appeared in the result (pp.528-530). Novatny postulated that one approach to assisting teen patrons in their information seeking is to offer an OPAC that functions as much like Google as possible (p.535). Rural teens surveyed invariably said that they liked using the internet because it is easy to access large amounts of information on a topic, virtually instantly. They appreciated the inclusiveness of the Google search; several students remarked that all points of view are available at the same time and are presented more or less equally (taking into account that some sites pay for page placement), allowing them to read several sides to a story and form their own opinions. When consulting human sources, college bound teens looked for reliability; if the source was not trustworthy, they would not continue to utilize him.

Today’s rural high school students are essentially drenched in technology. They have access to a wide variety of devices, and have grown up in a world where it is more common to learn keyboarding than cursive in school. In surveying various health science students, Jin Wu (2014) found that laptops, smartphones, tablets, and eReaders were all popular choices, with laptops being used by about 90% of those surveyed, and smart phones being used by about 75% (p.126). Among rural college bound teens, the most common types of devices used are also the smart phone (39%) and laptop (24%), but 22% of those surveyed also use desktop computers as well.


This paper has provided an overview of the rural college bound teen community’s use of the library as a place for information seeking of both an academic and ELIS nature. We have examined how rural teens are currently using the library and possible barriers they face. Library collections and their use (or more likely disuse) have been investigated as has remote home library use. Library programs and services have been reviewed as well. A detailed investigation into the research habits of these teens, including what internet and human sources are regularly consulted, and why college bound teens gravitate toward those sources as opposed to others has been studied. Teen use of social media and access to various devices has also been considered. Based on this information, how should librarians improve their service to rural college bound teens?

By researching the manner in which local college bound teens seek information for academic as well as everyday needs, librarians can find new ways to connect the library to them. Because the main barrier to college bound teen library use is a lack of awareness of what the library has to offer, better communication is necessary. The internet and social media play such a large role in the information seeking behavior of this community, public libraries should consider establishing teen pages on various social media; Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest in particular. All the students interviewed for this research stated that the school newspaper is an excellent place to publicize library services and events as it is widely read. Also suggested by these teens was the use of the daily school announcements to make students aware of upcoming programs they might enjoy. Because students often get information from radio and television, a stronger presence in these two media types is also recommended. A mobile app for the library’s catalog is becoming more and more necessary, so students can more easily access databases, eMaterials, and conduct library business such as requesting materials from other libraries from the various devices they regularly use.

Library program content for teens needs to be evaluated. Teens completing the College Bound Teen Survey are most interested in college prep and career workshops and movie nights and less interested in the types of programs many libraries offer such as arts and crafts programs and teen book groups. By focusing on the kinds of programs that teens are interested in, programs will have good attendance, possibly encouraging students to use the library more often for information seeking activities.

Finally, libraries need to create welcoming spaces for teens. Lisa Wemett (2008) suggests creating a space with comfortable furnishings as well as places for working on school projects and homework (p.7). This can often be achieved by moving existing furniture into new configurations with signage designating the area for teens. Designated computers for teens will provide a place for accessing information, hopefully with the assistance of trained library staff.

Ultimately, the goal of greater teen use of the library is to create the next generation of library users. Teens who find the library a welcoming place with useful information and a free-flowing exchange of ideas will be more likely to continue their involvement in the library into adulthood.


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

Agosto, D. E. (2011). Young Adults’ Information Behavior: What We Know So Far and Where We Need to Go From Here. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 2(1).

Barranoik, L. (2001). Research success with senior high school students. School Libraries Worldwide, 7, 28-45.

Bates, M. (2009). Information behavior. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Edition. New York: Taylor and Francis, pp. 2381-2391. http://www.tandfonline.com. libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/pdf/10.1081/E-ELIS3-120043263 

Becker, C. H. (2009). Student values and research: Are Millennials really changing the future of reference and research?. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 341-364.

Dresang, E. T. (2005). The information-seeking behavior of youth in the digital environment. Library Trends, 54(2), 178-196.

East, J. W.  (2010). The Rolls Royce of the library reference collection: The subject encyclopedia in the age of Wikipedia. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(2), 162-169.  http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=llf&AN=503007331&site=ehost-live 

Franks, S. (2010). Grand narratives and the information cycle in the library instruction classroom. (p. 43-54).  In Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http: //site.ebrary.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/lib/sjsu/docDetail.action?docID=10373420

Harlan, M. A., Bruce, C., & Lupton, M. (2012). Teen content creators: Experiences of using information to learn. Library Trends, 60(3), 569-587.

Howard, V. (2011). What Do Young Teens Think about the Public Library? 1. The Library, 81(3).

Islam, M. S., & Ahmed, S. Z. (2012). The information needs and information-seeking behaviour of rural dwellers: A review of research. IFLA Journal, 38(2), 137-147. doi: 10.1177/0340035212444513

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.  Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com /login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=16734380&site=ehost-live

Lee, S. A. (2014). Beyond Books, Nooks, and Dirty Looks: The History and Evolution of Library Services to Teens in the United States. Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 4(1).

Meyers, E. M., Fisher, K. E., & Marcoux, E. (2009). Making Sense of an Information World: The Everyday‐Life Information Behavior of Preteens. The Library, 79(3).

Novotny, E. (2004). I don’t think I click: A protocol analysis study of use of a library online catalog in the Internet age. College & Research Libraries, 65(6), 525-537.

Pew Research Center (September 10, 2014). Younger Americans and public libraries: How those under 30 engage with libraries and think about libraries’ role in their lives and communities [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/09/10/ younger-americans-and-public-libraries/

Puckett, C., & Hargittai, E. (2012). From dot-edu to dot-com: Predictors of college students’ job and career information seeking online. Sociological Focus, 45(1), 85-102.

Savolainen, R. (2009). Everyday life information seeking. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences.             http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://www.tandfonline.com /doi/abs/10.1081/E-ELIS3-120043920#.U2FyPVfcfro

Walter, V. A., & Mediavilla, C. (2005). Teens are from Neptune, librarians are from Pluto: An analysis of online reference transactions. Library Trends, 54(2), 209-227.

Wemett, L. (2008). Teen space and the community’s living room: Incorporating teen areas into rural libraries. PNLA, 72(4), 13-18.

Wilson, T. D. (2000). Human information behavior. Informing Science, 3(2).  http://www.inform.nu/Articles/Vol3/v3n2p49-56.pdf

Wu, J., Chatfield, A., Hughes, A., Kysh, L., & Rosenbloom, M. (2014). Measuring patrons’ technology habits: An evidence-based approach to tailoring library services. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 102(2), 125-129. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofm&AN=95705185&site=ehost-live 


Teen Information Sources Survey

Hello! Thank you in advance for agreeing to participate in my survey.

I am a graduate student at San Jose State University, and I am collecting information about the way local high school teens look for information, how familiar you are with their local public libraries, and a little about what your interests are.

The first thing I ask you for is your name & a report name. Your name is your actual name. Your report name is the name that I may include in my assignment. So, for example, your real name might be Tony Hawk, but your report name might be sk8brdr. If you don’t include a report name (or if you give me an inappropriate report name), I will use your first name/ last initial if I quote you in my report.

Feel free to add comments to any of the questions in the survey — all answers will be helpful.

I appreciate your assistance in helping me with my research!

Teen Information Survey 2014

Name: ____________________________

Report Name: ______________________________

School: __________________________________

Grade: __________

Teacher: _________________________ Period: ___________

Gender: (please circle) M       F          Other

Language Spoken at Home: _________________

Briefly describe your plans after high school graduation:




Please answer each question by clearly marking your answer. Feel free to include written comments for each question.

  1. Do you have a library card? Yes                  No
  2. How often do you use the public library?


Once a week

2-3 times per month

Once a month

Several times per year

Once a year


  1. What kinds of things do you do at the library?

Look for/read books

Read magazines

Look for movies (DVDs)

Check out music CDs

Use the public Internet computers

Study/work on homework

Ask questions at the reference desk

Hang out with friends

Attend events


Other ____________________________

  1. What kinds of library activities do you do at home?

Place holds on materials from the library website

Use library databases for help with homework/research

Download:      eBooks




Pay library fines

  1. From information asked in previous questions, have you been surprised by anything the library offers?       If so, which items?



  1. What free library events for teens might you be interested in attending?

Movie nights

Book group

Creative writing workshops

Arts/Crafts programs

Musical events

College Prep workshops

Career workshops

Video gaming nights

Other ________________________________________

  1. If you were to attend a library program, what would be the best time for you to attend?

Week night (Monday-Thursday, between 6-9 p.m.)

Friday night (between 6-9 p.m.)

Saturday afternoon (between 1-5 p.m.)

  1. How do you find out about community events? (Please number 1-10 where 1 is most likely)

At the public library _________       Family member ____________

Flyer at school _________           School Announcements _________

Friends __________             Local Newspaper (Tribune) ________

School Newspaper ________      Television ________

Radio _____________    Other _________________________

  1. Did you participate in our Summer Reading Program last summer?

Yes                                                      No

If yes, please tell what you liked best.



If no, why didn’t you participate?


10. How often do you use the following library materials?

Daily Weekly Monthly Occasionally Never Didn’t know the Library had this
Music CDs
Library Databases
Library Internet computers

Information Gathering. For this section, “information” can refer to the type of information you look for when doing research for school assignments OR can be for personal use, like for information about hobbies, fashion, health, sports, etc. — whatever interests you.

  1. When searching for information, what online websites do you most often use? (A website can be something like Google, YouTube, or even skatewarehouse.com) Please list up to 10 of your favorite sites.





  1. When searching for information, what “people” sources do you use? Please number 1-7, where 1 is most likely to be consulted.

Friends ________                               Family _________

Teachers ________                             Librarians ________

Religious Leaders _________                        Student/Peer leaders __________

Other adults __________________________

  1. When searching for information, what community sources do you use? (A community source can be your school or local newspaper, flyers, television, radio, etc. — any community source you may use to find         information). Please list up to 5 of these sources you use regularly.




  1. From your answers above, what are the top three sources you consult when working on homework/school assignments?
  2. ______________________________________
  3. ________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________

What do you like best about these choices?




  1. From your answers above, what are the top three sources you consult for personal use?
  2. ____________________________
  3. ______________________________
  4. _____________________________

What do you like best about these choices?


  1. Which online social media do you use? Please number from 1– 12 where 1 is the most used.

Facebook __________                             Tumblr __________

Instagram __________                            Twitter __________

Pinterest ___________                            Vine ____________

Reddit _____________                           Kik _____________

Snapchat ___________                           Pheed ___________

Wanelo ____________                            4Chan __________

  1. What groups do you belong to? These can be clubs, church groups, organizations such as Girl or Boy Scouts, etc. This can also include school groups such as sports, music, drama, etc.





  1. Do you have a part-time job?

Yes                                          No

  1. Do you have access to transportation? Mark the one you use the most.

Own vehicle              Parents/friends vehicle            Public transportation

  1. Which of the following do you use regularly?

Smart Phone                            Laptop computer

Desk top computer                  Pad computer (like an iPad)

eReader                                   Other _________________

If you are available to be interviewed on information topics, please give me your contact information below:


Phone: ____________________________________

Text: ______________________________________

Email: ____________________________________

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Emerging Technologies and College Bound Teens

Rural college bound teens are often behind their urban peers in adopting emerging technologies. It can take years before rural libraries and their patrons catch on to the latest technological trends, often due to lack of funding or staff to implement the technology. That said, I have found in my research this semester, rural college bound teens are computer savvy. About 40% of the rural college bound teens I surveyed have access to smartphone technology and 25% use laptops. They are well-versed in searching the web and using social media. So what do the rural college bound teens of the near future have to look forward to?

To answer this question, I went to a somewhat more urban area, Santa Barbara, California, and interviewed David, a current sixth-grader and Emily, a current fourth-grader at Washington Elementary School and their mother, Mary. Washington is a California Distinguished School (2000) that added iPads to their curriculum for all students, grades 3-6 in Spring 2014. This was huge transition for the school district involving policy decisions, funding and training for teachers, parents and students, and changes to the curriculum.

Students are issued school-owned iPads which come pre-loaded with various school-based software, including some textbooks, math programs such as Front Row Math, Kahn Academy, and DreamBox; and literature programs such as Lexia Reading Core. Some students with learning disabilities also have Speak to Type software to assist them with completing assignments. One of the most useful features of the tablet is the school’s own web program that allows both students and parents to examine grades and assignments. Mary, in particular, appreciates this feature. “Because it is in real time, I am able to check on my children’s grades and make sure they are completing all their assignments. If I have questions about any of them, I can immediately link to the teacher or an administrator if necessary.” Part of the school’s programming also includes internal email and messenger service; the student has access to a group of students (usually the class she is in), but not everyone in the school. All messaging is accessible by the teacher, so students have learned to be careful what they message to others.

Currently, most homework is completed on the tablet, while in-class use is between 10-20%.  Multiple-choice, spelling, and other tests are also taken on the iPads. Depending on what parents allow, students can add apps, use email, and access their iTunes accounts. This allows the parents to act as “filters” for their child’s specific iPad. FaceTime is also available, but is only to be accessed outside of the school day; parents are notified by email if their student is currently using FaceTime, allowing parents to keep track of who their child is interacting with (and when).

Teachers use their iPads to replace a variety of traditional teacher tools. Grade books are now all tablet-based. Because the school’s tablets are connected to large-screen monitors in each classroom, teachers no longer need overhead projectors to project their notes, and films are also accessed and shown from the teacher’s iPad. Student work on the tablets is stored on the school’s servers, cutting down on the amount of paper in the classroom as well. In spite of all this new technology, Washington Elementary School still functions as a traditional school rather than a flipped classroom; teachers still impart the majority of the information in the classroom while homework is completed at home.

This type of technology based learning is what the next generation of college bound teens needs to be prepared for; evidence provided by the Pearson Foundation (as related in Cassidy, 2014) shows that tablet computer use had tripled between 2011-2012, with 25% of college students using tablets in 2012 (p.125). In 2013, nearly 35% of students were using tablets (p.130).

Widespread tablet use can have implications for public libraries as well as schools, with patrons demanding wireless printing options and downloadable collections (Cassidy, 2014, p.127). With the use of Skype on tablets for public school student interactions, we may start seeing this technology used by reference desk staff, adding a personal element to remote computer access. Some ILS companies are already designing platforms that run on tablets such as the Polaris LEAP product by Innovative Interfaces (http://www.iii.com/products/polaris/polaris-leap); although this product is designed to make reference staff more mobile (they can take tablet computers with OPAC and Circulation software to the shelves as they assist patrons), it is not impossible that library staff could attend off-site gatherings of teens and others to promote library services. Library programs also have the ability to become technology based with speakers visiting the library via Skype or using online tutorials to demonstrate techniques. Libraries need to work with their local school districts to provide easy linking to library downloadable collections and reference databases for student access.

When asked what they liked about the tablet program at Washington Elementary, David and Emily were both strongly in favor of it. David said that he prefers to type rather than write his assignments because they are neater and he can edit them better. Emily finds that learning the technology prepares her for the future, giving her skills she will use for the rest of her life. I believe that this technological trend will continue to grow, and more schools will adopt programs similar to the one at Washington. In just a few short years, these students will be the next college bound teens; public libraries must also adopt some of this technology to stay a vital part of the community.


Cassidy, E., Colmenares, A., Jones, G., Manolovitz, T., Shen, L., et al. (2014). Higher education and emerging technologies: Shifting trends in student usage. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(2), 124-133.  Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S0099133314000147 


Stereotyping: Implications for Librarians

LIBR 200 Meme assignment

As any search of the Internet will show, there are about as many stereotypes for librarians as there are for any other professional group. There is the traditional type (grey hair in a bun, conservative black or grey attire, sensible shoes with support stockings, with a perpetual finger to lips), who is both a rule enforcer and font of all knowledge. There is the femme fatale librarian (conservative on the outside, hellcat on the inside) who doesn’t have to be femme to be fatale, and no matter what the gender, projects a brainy sexuality with a possible secret side to their lives as well. Finally, there is the stereotypical male librarian who can possess aspects of the other two types but also has his own unique milquetoast mousiness. In constructing this meme, I thought it was important to show how different user groups in public libraries view we librarians, and how that can change depending on the different places (age groups, patron needs) in which a user may find himself.

Generally speaking, children using the library love the library staff. Like Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, librarians are viewed by children as the passports to intellectual fun; we provide them with entertaining programs such as story times and summer reading programs, and help them with those pesky homework assignments, giving them the “ruby slippers” of the children’s library, the information that will help them on their journey. This perception by children is pretty true; people who become children’s librarians usually enjoy working with children, so this stereotype is not far from accurate.

By the time a student is in her teen years, however, the vision of the librarian has changed from Glinda to the Wicked Witch of the East, calling on her flying monkeys to make life miserable for the teen patron. In her study of urban teens, Agosto found that teens perceive librarians as unfamiliar with the types of books they want to read, and find the library to be a dismal and unwelcoming place to visit. (Agosto, 2005). Howard’s (2011) research also showed that teens lack good relationships with library staff, preventing them from having positive feelings toward librarians.

Parents often use libraries as free child care facilities, believing that all library staff resemble Mr. Rogers in demeanor if not in wardrobe. They feel that library staff welcome their children to the library “neighborhood,” and that their children are as safe there as they are in their favorite sweater. Even the parents that remain in the library with their children often cast the librarian in a parental role, saying to their misbehaving youngsters that the librarian will charge them a fine if they talk too loudly (maybe this is what leads teens to have such a negative view of library staff!). Unfortunately, this perception of everyone in the public library being a safe Mr. Rogers figure is far from accurate; while staff members have been taught to watch out for children in the library, many members of the public who visit the library are less kind.

This leads us to our next category of patron, the misbehaving patron. In our library, quite often the misbehaving patron is an adult who is caught viewing inappropriate material on our public Internet computers. Library staff do usually have to put on their Grumpy Cat faces to handle those breaking the rules, whether the patron is eating in the library, talking on a cell phone too loudly, or is so disruptive that police involvement is required. The misbehaving patron does make library staff say “no” and a few other choice words that dominate the Grumpy Cat persona as seen by Google image searching “Grumpy Cat.”

grumpy cat 2

The non-users of the library are perhaps the most likely to view librarians in the traditional stereotypical mode. Because their experience is limited to what the media teaches the viewer about librarians, non-users think this portrayal of librarians is correct, leading them to believe the library is not for them. Pagowsky (2014) cites the work of Green, who believes that the public’s lack of knowledge about what librarians actually do leads them to the stereotype and further denigrate the librarian’s public status.

Users of the public library who do venture so far as to ask questions of the staff often have a spiritually uplifting library experience which can cause them to view librarians as miracle workers who walk on water for their users when their questions are answered. Because the user has often tried searching for the information on her own with no success, she is especially impressed when library staff are able to find an answer to her question.

Unfortunately, some library patrons have an awkward perception of library staff — that underneath their professional appearance lurks a sultry vixen ready to take off her nerdy glasses and pull the bobby pins from her bun. This is rarely true, yet many an attractive staff member at the reference desk has been singled out for unwarranted attention. I myself was stalked by a patron back in my younger, thinner, cuter days; I did nothing to encourage this “gentleman” except wait on him as I did every other library user, yet he persisted in making every excuse he could to have me wait on him and even got in the habit of following me to my car when I left work. My situation had a happy solution when a police detective had a stern conversation with my unwanted “beau,” but I sometimes wonder how many wonderful librarians are turned off by this aspect of the profession.

The two ducks provide a great metaphor for the relationships between library staff and our fundraising groups. Many fundraising groups (represented by the white duck) feel (often rightly) that they have kept the library (represented by the brown duck) afloat, particularly during the recent economic downturn. The ironic side of this viewpoint is that as a result of this, some actions by fundraising groups may make staff ask who is really in charge of the library — the governing body or the fundraising group?

Are librarians the new superheroes? An argument can be made that in spite of the often negative stereotypes cast upon librarians, as a whole, we are well-educated dedicated professionals. Our specialized training has provided us with a variety of skills including not only those of the information seeking variety, but also people management skills. We’ve come a long way from non-library user’s point of view of that dowdy old matron.

Finally, what is true in this examination of stereotypes is that there are aspects of truth in each user group’s perception of the librarian. Because public librarians satisfy a number of patron needs both of educational and entertainment value, they are perceived as different things to different groups. Is this a bad thing? Certainly our profession is viewed favorably by children and their parents. We are revered by those we assist in the quest for knowledge, and provide a venue for residents to give back to their communities. We do still need to work hard to encourage new users to try us out, and to focus our customer service skills on the teen population as they are our next generation of voters. Once we are able to overcome these hurdles, librarians may just be viewed as superheroes by the whole community of users.


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

[Boss duck image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.justmemes.com/funny-memes-pictures/like-a-boss/attachment/duckridelikeaboss/

[Glinda photographic image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.shindigz.com/party/glinda-good-witch-wizard-of-oz-standee/pgp/14szsupggw?source=igodigital

[Grumpy Cat image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.freeallimages.com/grumpy-cat-no/

[Grumpy Cat No image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://awesomeshit.ninja/2014/11/asn-movie-preview-grumpy-cats-worst-christmas-ever-trailer/

Howard, V. (2011). What do young teens think about the public library? The Library Quarterly, 81(3), 321-344.

[Jesus walking on water image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.whatdomormonsbelieve.com/2008/06/traveling-jesus/

[Librarian pinup image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/508836457868695629/

[Librarian reading image]. Retrieved November 8,2014, from http://bookriot.com/2014/06/24/what-do-librarians-read/

[Librarian super hero]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://library.sdsu.edu/reference/news/attention-all-students-librarians-are-information-superheroes

[Mr. Rogers image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from http://thebus.net/fred_esquire1998

Pagowsky, N., & Rigby, M. (2014). Contextualizing ourselves:  The identity politics of the librarian stereotype. In N. Pagowsky & M. Rigby (Eds.), The librarian stereotype: Deconstructing perceptions and presentations of information work (pp. 1–37). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/publications/booksanddigitalresources/booksmonographs/stereotype

[Wicked Witch of the East image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014, from https://www.etsy.com/listing/155394187/wicked-witch-art-print-wizard-of-oz?ref=market






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Teens Are People Too: Privacy Rules and the Teen Patron

We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted (American, point III). When the American Library Association crafted these words regarding patron confidentiality, they set a privacy standard that usually called to mind privacy standards for medical or legal professions, and they set that standard for ALL patrons, even those who are under eighteen. The issue of privacy in libraries has two parts: confidentiality concerning materials of interest to the patron and confidentiality of the patron’s library account information.

Teens in the library have the same privacy rights as adults when they seek information, even when asking for  information concerning difficult or controversial issues such as sexuality, drugs, the occult, or mental health. For the most part, it is fairly easy for library staff to wrap their minds around this area of privacy for teens since it is easy for them to put themselves in the teens’ place. Because staff would not want their own reading broadcast to the world at large, they can identify with the teen patron. The time when this does become an issue is when the staff member’s personal values conflict with the request for information. An example of this might be when a teen is asking for a title that has been banned such as Jay Asher’s controversial book Thirteen Reasons Why. This book deals with teen suicide and the reasons one of the characters in the book took her own life. Criticisms of it include: references to suicide, drugs, alcohol and smoking, and offensive language and sexually explicit text. Asher’s book is written in a way that the reader feels uncomfortable with and perhaps even complicit in the suicide by immersing the reader in the after effects of the death. Many people feel the book is inappropriate for the young adult age group for whom it was written, causing this book to be the third most banned book in 2012 (American, n.d.). When confronted with a young person asking for a title with so many potentially controversial topics included in it, a staff member might be disinclined to offer the book as an option; they might try to act in a parental rather than professional role. A solution to this problem is to provide an excellent training program for staff before they are faced with making these types of decisions and to continue that training throughout the staff member’s employment (Rubin, p. 1753). Staff must recognize, as stated by Hansen, that, “Patron confidentiality is a major component of ethical practice. An individual’s reading choices are confidential. The questions they ask, the reference sources they consult, the internet sites they visit, and the books they check out are all confidential” (Ethical, p.10).

A teen’s use of the public internet in the library is also confidential. Search histories and documents can be in danger of being viewed by future patrons who use that computer. At the Paso Robles City Library, unless staff receives a complaint about what the teen is viewing, he can access sites just as any adult user. Confidentiality is further maintained at the end of each day; when the computers shut down, they reset themselves, erasing any documents patrons may have created, and voiding any search history. Teens can request that staff reset the computer at the end of their session as well.

A more complicated  aspect of the teen privacy issue arises when information from the teen’s account is being requested. Usually for teens to open an account at the public library, they must have a parent or guardian sign paperwork saying that they will be responsible for charges incurred on the account. Once the parent has signed the teen up for the library account, the teen is free to use the library without the parent being present. This system usually works well, until a problem with the account arises. An example of this is when the parent who signed for the account becomes aware of charges (overdue or lost items usually) and visits the library to find out what is owed. Staff members often have difficulties with this issue; they take the position of the parent, believing that as the legal guardian of the teen, the parent should have full access to the account. This attitude flies in the face of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights which states, “A person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of…age.” (Hansen, Professional, para 4, point 5). Libraries have different ways of handling this type of request. At the Paso Robles City Library, I believe we have developed a fair plan that both recognizes the financial liability of the parent while still maintaining the confidentiality of the teen. If the parent either has the teen’s library card in hand or has the teen present with their school ID card, all information from the account can be given. Sometimes, though, the parent visits the library without either the teen or the library card present. Because the parent can be sent to a collection agency since they signed for the account as the responsible party, often the parent’s main concern is paying what is owed. We have allowed lead staff to access the patron’s record and have supplied the parent with the amount owed. Sometimes the parent wants to know the details of the charges, such as title information, and this is where we draw the line. Assuming the parent pays the charges (as is usually the case), we write a handwritten receipt for the transaction rather than a printout that would include title information. If the parent insists on knowing the details of the charges, we ask them to bring in the library card. There have been times when a teen is caught between two households (as in the case of a divorced family) where we have made the decision to open two library accounts for one teen (one with each signing parent’s address and other information) to make it easy for the parents to keep track of their responsibilities regarding their child.

Library records can be accessed by law enforcement agencies if there is a subpoena or warrant for the information. The most recent experience I had with this situation involved an officer from Florida working on a case of identity theft. He wanted to know what identification had been presented when a particular patron’s account had been opened (this example did not involve a teen account, but the procedure would be the same). The officer did not have a warrant or subpoena, so I had to turn down his request. Although I would have liked to have helped the officer with his case, because he had not acquired the proper documentation needed, he did not receive the information he requested.

The issue of privacy in the library can be a complicated one. Although the guidelines for staff behavior in enforcing patron confidentiality are clear and mostly simply worded, staff often let their personal beliefs override their professional behavior. This happens frequently when staff are working with young people (under 18) as it is easy for adults to want to guide them in a parental way rather than treating them the same as they would an adult. This can lead to breaches in confidentiality, a real problem for the agencies to which the library belongs. It is important that all staff be trained, and reminded of this training, throughout their employment with the library to avoid these breaches in confidentiality, particularly when assisting teens in their use of the library.


American Library Association. (2010). Intellectual freedom manual. Retrieved from http://www.ifmanual.org/codeethics

American Library Association. (n.d.). Frequently challenged books of the 21st century. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10

Hansen, D. (n.d.). Ethical issues and the information seeker. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1117618/files/34242003/download?verifier=mc7nxBK5jp5knHCLvI1zuFdxYErpAHtYTuiFi8Gi&wrap=1

Hansen, D. (n.d.). Professional codes of ethics. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1117618/files/34242012/download?verifier=8kUQ6JixZhAQlMmtdrLvCAAPcTeiP3OigzR98Ppw&wrap=1

Rubin, R. & Froehlich, T. J. (2010). Ethical aspects of library and information science. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences.  (pp. 1743-1755).




Paso Robles College Bound Teens Speak Out

In my previous posting, I established that rural college bound teens are a viable community worthy of study. In beginning my research about my specific local community’s college bound teens, I have found that interviewing these students is going to give me some excellent ideas for improving my library’s service to them. In preparing to gather information about this group, I contacted one of the English teachers at Paso Robles High School, Aaron Cantrell, through Facebook messenging. Mr. Cantrell teaches upper division Advanced Placement (AP) English; virtually all his students intend to go to college after graduation. I asked him if I could have his students fill out a survey regarding their information acquisition habits, suggesting that it could be a homework assignment, possibly for extra credit. He readily agreed to this proposal. I am also hoping to connect with a similar teacher at Templeton High School (a small school in a neighboring community without a public library) and possibly also at Liberty High School (Paso Robles version of a continuation high school). I hope to cover territory about my local rural community that is similar to the study completed by Denise Agosto regarding urban high school students. Agosto emphasized everyday life information seeking (ELIS) in her study (answering questions about what types of information they seek, what media do they prefer, and what people sources they consult) (p.142); I hope to also include academic information seeking for a more complete picture of my community. For purposes of this blog posting, I personally interviewed two Paso Robles High School college bound teens, Jordan Dickey and Stephen Preston. The topics of our discussion were:

  • which social media they frequently use for information gathering
  • which “people” sources of information they consult often
  • what the “library” in general, and the Paso Robles City Library specifically mean to them
  • what community sources (local newspapers, Paso Robles Department of Library and Recreation’s Activity Guide, etc.) they consult for information
  • what might keep them from visiting or otherwise using the library

We also talked about the way they would approach a typical search of a personal nature and of an academic nature. Finally, because I feel strongly that the library is a community gathering place that unfortunately not many teens in our community use as a place to gather, we talked about what features they would have in their ideal study environment.

First, a little background on these two students. Jordan Dickey is a 17-year-old Paso Robles High School senior. She will be attending a community college, then plans to transfer to a four-year college or university to major in fine art. She is a member of the drama club, and last year was in charge of the costume design for the high school’s Spring musical performance of “Hairspray” (the costumes were amazing, reflecting Jordan’s interest in vintage clothing).  Jordan is also a Peer Mentor, assisting new freshmen with making their way in high school. She has a part-time job at a local Wendy’s franchise. Jordan lived in Paso Robles until she was about five years old, then moved to Arizona with her mother for a number of years; she returned to Paso Robles two years ago to live with her father.

Stephen Preston is a 16-year-old junior at Paso Robles High School. Although his college plans are less firm than Jordan’s are, he currently plans to attend Stanford, USC (University of Southern California), or UCSC (University of California at Santa Cruz) and major in biochemistry. Stephen is on the Paso Robles Youth Commission (an advisory body to the City Council), is involved with the high school’s award-winning Crimson Chronicle newspaper, and is a member of the school’s History Club. Stephen is also well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. Stephen enjoys backpacking and online gaming and was employed at a summer camp as a lifeguard over the summer. Stephen has lived in Paso Robles for all his life and has attended Paso Robles public schools exclusively.

It was interesting talking to these two teens about their online information seeking behaviors. In questioning them, I wanted to see if they more or less followed the  six stages of information seeking as described by Kuhlthau (p.366) or the thinking practices as described by Harlan (p.577-582). Jordan and Stephen did not seem to follow the Kuhlthau’s initiation-selection-exploration-formulation-collection-presentation pattern (p.366-368) in our discussion; instead they both plunged right in to answer my questions about the process they use when researching. They did, however, demonstrate some of Harlan’s thinking practices as they searched for information. Both of them are avid social media users who listed Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram as three sites they use frequently. In addition, Jordan also uses Pinterest and Twitter. Both said they use these venues as places to post information about life events and share photos with family and friends. They also emphasized the “social” aspects of social media as this is a place where they can interact with their friends much as my generation did on the telephone after school every day. Mary Ann Harlan, in her article about teen content creators, talks about a process in which teens experienced information to learn how to create online. (Harlan). The group she studied were more similar to Paso Robles teens than the group studied by Agosto since Harlan’s population were from a rural community (Harlan, p.572). Although in this instance, Jordan and Stephen were not being asked to create and post online, many of their information gathering procedures were similar to those of Harlan’s population. Both Jordan and Stephen talked about their “serendipitous encounters” (Harlan, p.573) with information, especially when using social media or discussing topics with their teachers. Stephen referred to information that he had overheard friends talking about at school that he later investigated. Jordan described collecting inspiration for her artwork and housing it on her Pinterest page, and example of “focused browsing” (Harlan, p.575).  When asked specifically about looking up personally interesting information online, they had rather different strategies. Jordan stated that when she is learning how to learn a new skill, such as a new art technique, she will watch YouTube videos, an example of Harlan’s direct searching (p.576). so she can see how something is done. Stephen, on the other hand, was more likely to do a Google search using keywords about his topic then narrow down which websites he examined further based on factors such as recommendation by a peer or mentor, or past positive experience with a site. These results seem to illustrate one of Debbie Hanson’s points in her lecture for Module 3 about information seeking behavior based on gender, “Men preferred to be involved in the research process, while women were happier when the requested information was simply presented.” (p.10) Stephen spent more time conducting his actual research, while Jordan was content to watch a video presentation. Will this play out in the larger survey?

In addition to online sources, both of these teens consulted with their friends extensively for recommendations for both personal and academic information. Both also mentioned teachers and parents as secondary sources. Jordan seems to have good rapport with her high school art teacher and consults with him on questions of technique regularly. It was surprising and somewhat disturbing to me that neither of these teens said that they consulted books, magazines or newspapers for information.

Although both students use their school library a minimal amount (both mentioned printing hard copies of school assignments), neither of these students is a public library user. When asked what she thought of when she heard the word “Library,” Jordan said, “Nostalgia.” She has fond memories of visiting the public library to check out books and attend library programs when she was a young child. When asked the same question, Stephen said “Aquarium.” (The Paso Robles City Library has a 250-gallon aquarium feature at the entrance to the Children’s area). When asked what they thought the public library had to offer, both said, “Books,” but neither knew of the many other media we offer, including our downloadable collection of eBooks, eAudio, eMagazines and eVideo. They were unaware that we have databases that can help them to prepare for their upcoming SAT and AP exams.

This led to a discussion about where they would look to find out information about library programs and offerings. They named the social media sites that they follow, and both also listed flyers to be hung up around the school, the morning P.A. announcements, and the school newspaper. With Jordan, I discussed the types of teen programs we had over the summer, and she did sound interested in some of them, but was not aware that we were offering them. With both students, we discussed possible community sources of information, but neither of them regularly reads the local newspapers or the Activity Guide. Stephen mentioned that his family sometimes watches the local television news, and he was familiar with the Activity Guide due to his role as a Youth Commissioner, but neither were sources he consulted when he was looking for something to do. In addition to being unaware of what the library has to offer, there were other barriers to their own ability to visit the library: both of them are in school during many of the library’s open hours. In addition, Jordan’s part-time job after school further prevents her for visiting the library. Stephen lives outside the downtown core, making it difficult for him to get to the library after school.

Not surprisingly, both students remarked that they usually just consulted the Internet first when doing research “because it is easy.” They both mentioned that they have smart phones that allow them to access a wealth of information instantly. If they were unable to find what they needed online, they next consulted with a person, usually a friend, but sometimes a teacher or parent. When looking for information of a personal nature, they often consulted with a friend first, then Googled the topic to see if they could find more information. This discussion exemplifies Harlan’s thinking practice of “choosing,” and “the importance of a low barrier (low cost, ease of use) to expression and engagement” (p.577).

One point of interest in our discussion is that both these students are fairly discriminating in their online searching. They both “evaluated information based on a judgment of authority” as described by Harlan (p. 579). Both recognize that not everything they find in a Google search is of value. Jordan learned to look at the URL for an item to see if it “looks legit.” Stephen mentioned that he often visits Wikipedia — not to read the article at that site, but to visit the articles cited by the author of the Wikipedia article.

In keeping the Library a lively and vital place, it would seem that library staff has its work cut out for them both in educating teens about the resources we have available for them and in making the library a teen-friendly gathering place. We will have to re-examine our marketing strategies for this group and perhaps create a place within a place for teens to gather. It will be interesting to see if these two teens are typical of my community as I complete my more comprehensive survey.

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

Hansen, D. (2014). Information-seeking and information communities: A study in diversity. Retrieved from https://sjsu.instructure.com/courses/1117618/files/34242001/download?verifier=x36FuD8jrH7lnmuZkSl7RFENpJfZGDJEGy1TwDo4&wrap=1.

Harlan, M. A. & Bruce, C. & Lupton, M.(2012). Teen Content Creators: Experiences of Using Information to Learn. Library Trends 60(3), 569-587. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved September 29, 2014, from Project MUSE database.

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.



Teens as a Community to Be Studied (LIB200 Module 3)

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#