Doctoral Students Present on "Empowering Communities" at ALAO Conference
Three students in the College of Communication and Information (CCI) doctoral program presented the roundtable discussion “Empowering communities through innovation: Doctoral student perspectives on knowledge navigation in the academic library” at the 2014 Academic Library Association of Ohio (ALAO) Annual Conference at Kalahari in Sandusky, Ohio, on Nov. 14, 2014.
Through each of their research topics, Shelley Blundell, Omer Farooq and Heather Flynn examined how to empower different communities served by academic libraries. Specifically, they asked attendees to consider how academic libraries can engage virtual/distance, non-traditional, international and remedial students more comprehensively, based on each community’s individual needs.
All three students are Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) graduates from Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science within CCI and have chosen a specific doctoral research focus within library and information science.
Shelley Blundell, M.L.I.S. ’09, from North Canton, Ohio, focused her dissertation research on the academic information search process (AISP) of undergraduate students enrolled in remedial coursework.
She chose to focus on this process for remedial undergraduate students because “Almost no library and information science research exists on the specific information needs and behaviors of remedial undergraduate students,” Blundell said, adding that national statistics show that remedial undergraduates are more academically at-risk than their college-ready peers.”
Almost no literature exists on information needs and behaviors of remedial undergraduates in library and information science research, Blundell said.
“Remedial undergraduates have different information literacy skills/information needs than their traditional peers,” Blundell said. “Because research shows that strong information literacy skills are tied to academic progress, understanding the specific needs of these students will allow practitioners to create targeted, needs-based information literacy instruction, which may positively enhance remedial undergraduate students’ academic progress.”
Blundell’s dissertation study goals include creating a theoretical model of the AISP of the remedial undergraduate student, and continued information research with the group and with other academically at-risk student groups.
Omer Farooq, M.L.I.S. ’12, from Kent, Ohio, is studying the integration of scholarly communication in information literacy instruction.
“I chose the academic library looking primarily at how students develop these cognitive and literacy skills in an academic library setting,” he said. “I look at what academic librarians can do to improve those skills in terms of information literacy (IL) assessment and teaching.”
Farooq said his master’s degree complements the CCI doctoral program, as his primary focus is looking at information literacy and online digital learning environments and designing different instruction modalities.
“The big thing for me is getting the practitioner's perspective on how they practice IL instruction,” he said. “Some colleagues [at the ALAO Conference] reflected that they cover it a little bit but expressed that they would like to expand. Time, resources, logistics and planning are all troubling factors.”
Farooq said the connections he has made through his research are vital to his study process.
“That’s the point of research,” he said, “to look ahead and build those connections. You have to have a good synergy and a good relationship with the practitioners and what the researchers are doing.”
Heather Flynn, M.L.I.S. ’13, from DeMossville, Ky., is researching the academic library use of information sources and services by the international community.
Her research concentrates on the issues of serving the international student, specifically in effective communication, language barriers and case-specific outreach initiatives through handbooks, tips and case reports.
Flynn is looking to assess international students’ cultural background influence upon their library usage at the Kent State University library, as their prior usage of libraries and reference resources in their home countries may predict their library usage behaviors here.
Through her research thus far, she said in her presentation, “Results of the interviews conducted showed that there is a gap of understanding in the library system between student respondents and that each student had a unique, individualized perspective of the library and their usage of the library at Kent State University, which could be somewhat influenced by their cultural background and personal experiences.”
Flynn said the findings of this study may assist in effectively improving the services of the academic library, establishing stronger relations and generating ideas to address international students’ library needs for increasing and enriching the students’ library usage.
The integrative doctoral program in the College of Communication and Information at Kent State University provides students with a foundation in communication and information. The curriculum begins with interdisciplinary core courses, and then becomes individually tailored to allow specialization in depth according to each student's developing areas of expertise and research. This Ph.D. program is a logical extension of the convergence of the communication and information disciplines taking place within the college as well as in the academic, commercial and professional world. Library and information science is one of several areas of study available to students in this program.