Tuesday news ticker header.
Community members working on computers in a public library.

Published November 19, 2019

Improving digital literacy in Canadian public libraries

GSE professor leads research project in Canada

Heidi Julien, professor from the Department of Information Science, and other colleagues from universities in Canada have been awarded a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The grant will help fund a project exploring public library approaches to digital literacy.

The goal of this project is to identify how public libraries in Canada can best deliver and evaluate the digital literacy initiatives they provide to the communities they serve. “Being digitally literate leads to more positive health outcomes because people are more capable of accessing high quality health information online, better access to government services, participative governance, improved job performance and bridging the digital divide,” says Julien.

Julien and her colleagues will focus on (1) organizational factors that foster or challenge digital literacy initiatives led by public libraries; (2) user considerations concerning public library-led digital literacy initiatives; and (3) performance measures that effectively evaluate digital literacy initiatives led by public libraries.

The research team intends to gain insight on these three areas through a national survey of Canadian public libraries about their digital literacy initiatives, and a series of in-depth case studies of Canadian public libraries that have developed digital literacy initiatives for their community members. The Canadian Urban Libraries Council and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations are partner organizations in the research project and will administer the national survey and identify/recruit potential case study sites.

Hamilton Public Library, a Canadian leader in the delivery of digital literacy initiatives and a partner organization in the study, will serve as one of the case studies. McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement, also a partner organization, will provide insight and background on Hamilton Public Library’s social lab approach to addressing digital literacy in the community.

Once results from the nationwide survey and case studies are finalized, the findings will be used to produce a public library digital literacy initiative evaluation toolkit. This toolkit will incorporate performance measures to assess organizational factors and user considerations important to the successful delivery of public library-led digital literacy initiatives.

“With digital literacy programs emerging as an essential component of public library service, the development of effective outcome-based performance measures is important for programming,” says Julien. “This research project will help library partner organizations learn how to best design and deliver public library based digital literacy programs, and how to best measure and report on the success of these programs.”

Tuesday News Briefs feature the stories of the Graduate School of Education faculty, students and alumni who are engaged in their communities and making an impact through their hard work, dedication and research initiatives. If you have a story to share, please email us with the details for consideration as a future news feature.