“We’re Not Allowed”: Public Librarians’ Perspectives on Providing Health Information to Library Users Experiencing Homelessness
This paper describes the results of a qualitative study involving interviews with twelve public librarians about their experiences interacting with library users experiencing homelessness. The study examines the kinds of health information seeking experiences public librarians have, how public librarians respond to the health information needs of homeless library users, and the challenges public librarians undergo as they work to provide health and other information services to homeless individuals. The interviews show that public librarians have mixed experiences providing health information to homeless library users. Some viewed health information needs as a top-level concern, while others viewed health information as a lower priority need when compared to housing and food. Public librarians described several challenges when providing information services to homeless individuals related to professional roles, crisis management, the stigma of homelessness, privacy/confidentiality, and the library acting as a day shelter. Identifying the experiences and challenges of public librarians as they assist homeless library users is an initial step in creating more effective modes of providing services to this population.
Toward Accessible Course Content: Challenges and Opportunities for Libraries and Information Systems
The population of students with disabilities in post-secondary institutions is significant and rising. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 11% of students, or more than two million students, in post-secondary education report having a disability. Providing accessible versions of materials for courses is a core service of disability-services offices in schools. Finding, obtaining, or generating accessible course content is a challenging process for disability-services providers at institutions ranging from community colleges to research universities, many of which receive hundreds of individualized requests for content each semester. Although a range of sources and services to assist in this process have emerged, they are insufficient and inefficient because they keep people from working together on a complex, shared problem. In the summer of 2015, we conducted a qualitative study of the challenges facing disability services providers in U.S. post-secondary institutions, in order to design and implement information systems that would enable large-scale sharing of locally improved, accessible course content with qualified students in the U.S. This paper reports on the subset of our findings that addresses challenges to providing, sharing, and reusing accessible digital content. Our findings suggest that there are substantial opportunities for the LIS and library communities to apply our expertise to this gap in information services for an expanding population of students.
Exploring Linguistic Diversity of MOOCs: Implications for International Development
Recent practical initiatives and academic research have signaled optimism for the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as an alternative model for education in the developing world. At the same time, anecdotal evidence and observation have pointed to a lack of courses offered in languages other than English as one potential challenge for global use of MOOCs. We present a first empirical attempt to characterize the linguistic diversity of MOOCs and understand the resulting implications for the use of MOOCs in international development. We find significant differences in quantities and types of MOOCs available in English and non-English languages. This finding indicates that MOOCs do not yet provide a broad array of educational opportunities for people without adequate English-language proficiency and therefore, MOOCs may have limited potential for use in international development outside English-speaking populations at present. In recognition of efforts to increase linguistic diversity of MOOC offerings, we review and describe two types of initiatives, those to translate existing MOOCs and those to create new MOOCs in non-English languages, initiatives we identify as scaling-up or scaling-down MOOCs respectively. To situate our findings in development discourse, we turn to Sen’s capability approach (1999) to consider implications for the use of MOOCs in socioeconomic development.