Category Archives: Public Libraries

New Article in D-Lib Magazine

My colleagues and I have a new article that was published this past week in D-Lib Magazine. The article, which is co-authored with Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University), and Alexis Schrubbe (University of Texas at Austin) presents early findings from our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) research grant, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform” (grant #RE-31-16-0014-16) which examines wireless hotspot lending programs in rural libraries in Kansas and Maine.

Here’s the abstract:

Libraries straddle the information needs of the 21st century. The wifi, computers and now mobile hotspots that some libraries provide their patrons are gateways to a broad, important, and sometimes essential information resources. The research summarized here examines how rural libraries negotiate telecommunications environments, and how mobile hotspots might extend libraries’ digital significance in marginalized and often resource-poor regions. The Internet has grown tremendously in terms of its centrality to information and entertainment resources of all sorts, but the ability to access the Internet in rural areas typically lags that experienced in urban areas. Not only are networks less available in rural areas, they also often are of lower quality and somewhat more expensive; even mobile phone-based data plans — assuming there are acceptable signals available — may be economically out of reach for people in these areas. With older, lower income and less digitally skilled populations typically living in rural areas, the role of the library and its freely available resources may be especially useful. This research examines libraries’ experiences with providing free, mobile hotspot-based access to the Internet in rural areas of Maine and Kansas.

Read the full article here.

SLIS Public Lecture: Checking out the Internet

This Wednesday, April 12th at 12:00 PM at Simmons College, Madison Bishop and I will be presenting a talk, titled “Checking Out The Internet” as part of the SLIS Public Lecture Series. Here’s the event info:

How do hotspot lending programs help rural libraries address the unique challenges of Internet connectivity in their communities? This talk will present findings from a research project to explore how mobile wireless hotspot devices—which allow users to access the Internet from any place with a cellular signal—shape internet access and use for the patrons of 24 libraries in rural Kansas and Maine. The research examines the practical requirements for implementing hotspot lending programs; the impact on users’ digital literacy and quality of life; the role of libraries in rural information ecosystems; and the relationship between library hotspot lending programs and other institutions, including schools, local governments, and Internet service providers. This project is being led by researchers at the University of Austin at Texas, Oklahoma State University and Simmons College and funded by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Presenting on this project will be Co-Principal Investigator Colin Rhinesmith, Assistant Professor in the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and research assistant Madison Bishop, second-year graduate student.

New Article in Information, Communication & Society

ICSDr. Miriam Sweeney (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama) and I have a new paper published in Information, Communication & Society. In the article, titled “Creating Caring Institutions for Community Informatics,” we develop a feminist ethics of care framework for researchers and practitioners in the field of community informatics.

Here is the abstract:

This paper explores the potential affordances of applying a feminist ethics of care approach to community informatics practices in public internet access facilities. As feminist technology scholars have long observed, technology and technoculture are strongly encoded as masculine, privileging traits such as scientific knowledge, rationality, objectivity, and distance. These characteristics are expressed in traditional infomediary practices in a variety of ways, including notions of expertise, ways of conceptualizing technology, emphasis on skills attainment, and deficit-based models of user behavior. In contrast, ethics of care emphasizes the importance of relational and situated knowledge, pluralistic voices and experiences, and relationships bound by mutual interdependence. Traditionally, caring has been feminized and thus necessarily excluded from technoculture and relegated to invisible and unpaid labor. Caring and associated affective labor practices remain an under-examined subject in infomediary practices. Public libraries and community technology centers are logical places to explore for care work, given that they share many characteristics of the spaces where care work has historically been performed. We argue that an ethics of care framework has several possible affordances for infomediary practices in these institutions, including highlighting the gendered power dynamics that define and shape existing practices; distributing care work and making existing care work visible; and envisioning a more holistic and ethical approach to engaging diverse publics. We translate Tronto’s seven warning signs for ‘bad care’ in institutions into seven positive guidelines for providing ‘good care’ in public internet access facilities, then contextualize these for community informatics institutions and practices.

Joining the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University


I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be joining the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University as a faculty associate for the 2016-2017 academic year. During this time, I hope to extend my research and connect with new colleagues focused at the intersection of public libraries, digital inclusion, and broadband adoption.

Here’s a snippet from the Berkman Klein Center’s press release:

The class of fellows will primarily work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, alongside Berkman Klein faculty, students, and staff, as a vibrant community of research and practice. Honoring the networked ethos at the heart of the Center, faculty associates and affiliates from institutions the world over will actively participate as well. These relationships, as well as the countless fruitful engagements with alumni, partners, interns, and other colleagues, are fundamental to the Berkman Klein Center’s work and identity, and serve to increase the capacity of the field and generate opportunities for lasting impact.

Investigating Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs

I am excited to announce that my colleagues, Dr. Sharon Strover (University of Texas at Austin), Dr. Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I received a $496,586 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services for our research project, titled “At the Edges of the National Digital Platform: Rural Library Hotspot Lending Programs.”

Here’s the description of the project from the IMLS website:

Investigators at the University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, will use their research grant to examine how rural libraries address the challenges of Internet connectivity with hotspot lending programs. The project will gather qualitative and quantitative data from 24 rural libraries with hotspot lending program experience, focusing on the librarians involved with the program, the users of the program, local community stakeholders, and non-users. Research outcomes will address the role of rural libraries in local information ecosystems, the impact of hotspot lending programs on users’ quality of life and digital literacy, community outcomes of these programs, and practical requirements for offering hotspot lending programs. Deliverables for the project include a guidelines document on program implementation, a short report on rural Internet connectivity and libraries, and a final research report.

New Article Published in Government Information Quarterly

Brian Whitacre (Oklahoma State University) and I have a new article in Government Information Quarterly, which describes our findings from a recent study on public libraries and broadband adoption.  Unfortunately, the paper is behind a paywall.  But you can read about the study and its findings in a new piece that we have up on Daily Yonder.

Here’s the abstract from the article below:

“Providing access to computers with high-speed Internet connectivity is a central mission of public libraries in the United States. One pertinent, currently unanswered question is whether library Internet access leads to increasing residential broadband adoption rates in the communities that the libraries serve. This paper uses simple county-level regression analysis to document a positive association between a higher number of libraries and household broadband adoption rates as of 2013—but only in rural areas. This correlation does not imply causation, however. A propensity score matching technique is used to demonstrate that counties with libraries that aggressively increased their number of Internet-accessible computers between 2008 and 2012 did not see measurably higher increases in their rates of residential broadband adoption. These findings lend themselves to future research questions including how to appropriately measure broadband ‘adoption’ outside of the home and methods for engaging library patrons that ultimately encourage residential broadband adoption.”