Title: Applications of Community-Based Action Research in Elective Courses: Partnering Library and Information Science Students with Underserved Populations to Meet their Information Technology Needs


Author(s): Bharat Mehra and Robert Sandusky (Tennessee)




American library and information science (LIS) education increasingly engages students in community-based experiences involving application and use of various information and communication technologies to meet community needs (Bishop & Bruce, 2005; McCook, 2000). This requires a corresponding increase in faculty effort to train future information professionals in community engagement methods. Community-based action research (AR) provides significant learning experiences to LIS students by connecting learning, action, and research while meeting relevant community-prioritized goals and objectives (Stringer, 1999; Curry, 2005). Additional LIS course examples and case studies incorporating community-based AR are needed to help LIS educators reflect upon relevance of core and peripheral functionalities in the profession to community service, and thereby, develop a wider and deeper range of effective LIS applications to community engagement (Pasque et al., 2005).


This paper addresses this gap by summarizing faculty and LIS student experiences applying community-based AR in three graduate-level elective courses. The paper describes how each course integrated learning, action, and research in different ways, tailored to each community engagement situation. The three courses that are discussed in the paper include:


* IS 590 (Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Information Professions) (course syllabus at URL: https://web.utk.edu/~bmehra/IS590Syllabus.rtf ): The course was taught by Mehra as a synchronous distance education course in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee during spring 2007 and incorporated student involvement in community-based action and community-based research projects throughout the semester in all the course assignments.


* LIS 590SJ (Social Justice in the Information Professions) (course syllabus at URL: http://leep.lis.uiuc.edu/fall04/LIS590SJ/index.html ): The course was taught by Mehra as an on-campus course in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during fall 2004 and incorporated student involvement in community-based research projects as a final course assignment. In addition, students were introduced to various community-based learning components throughout the semester.


* IS 585 (Information Technologies) (course syllabus at URL: http://web.utk.edu/~rsandusk/is585/ ): The course is taught once or twice per year by Sandusky in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee. During fall 2007 IS 585 is taught as an on-campus course and incorporates student projects building or enhancing Web content management systems co-designed and co-managed by community members to meet community-defined objectives.


The paper reflects upon significant learning experiences of the students, community members, and faculty, and identifies key issues, activities, and community outcomes achieved during these three courses. Documenting how community-based AR has been applied in different courses provides valuable lessons in how LIS educators can involve graduate students in social justice and community-based empowerment agendas in elective courses. The paper suggests a categorization scheme for the activities LIS students engaged in during these courses that helps identify potential relationships between the taxonomic core of the profession and applications of community-based AR.




* Bishop, A. P., & Bruce, B. C. (2005). Community Informatics: Integrating Action, Research and Learning. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 31(6). URL: http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Aug-05/bishopbruce.html .


* Curry, A. (2005). Action Research in Action: Involving Students and Professionals. Proceedings of the World Library and Information Congress: 71st International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, General Conference and Congress (Libraries- A Voyage of Discovery), August 14-18 2005, Oslo, Norway. URL: http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla71/papers/046e-Curry.pdf .


* McCook, K. de la P. (2000). A Place at the Table: Participating in Community Building. Chicago, IL: American Library Association Editions.


* Pasque, P. A., Smerek, R. E., Dwyer, B., Bowman, N., & Mallory, B. L. (2005). Higher Education Collaboratives for Community Engagement and Improvement. Ann Arbor, MI: National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good.


* Stringer, E. T. (1999). Action Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.