Infomediaries and Community Engagement are Key

Infomediaries and Community Engagement are Key

Elizabeth Gould (University of Washington, USA) and Ricardo Gomez (University of Washington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch003
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Building capacity for collecting content and enabling access to information by community members means training staff as well building their digital capacities. The involvement of local community members in the establishment of public access venues, and the ability of the venues to serve the community’s information needs, suggests that the focus on technology may be less important than a focus on community-gathering spaces (Hearn, 2005), i.e. the effective exchange of information may be more dependent upon the venue than upon the technology. The expansion of information-gathering tools can develop through these trusted centers.
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Infomediaries In Public Access Venues

A review of the literature confirms that infomediaries are pertinent to the success of public access venues. Sey & Fellows (2009) pointed out that infomediaries “have been found to be important contributors to the viability and sustainability of a public access venue.” The idea is not new. In his study of knowledge and information systems of urban poor, Schilderman (2002) suggests “social networks are the foremost source of information of the urban poor.” The poor tend to believe people they trust rather than perhaps more informed contacts with which they do not have close ties. He identified successful ways to meet information needs of urban poor, including involvement of the poor themselves as equal partners who can draw from and build on local knowledge, using community-based communication methods, and building the capacity of community-based organizations and key individuals within them. These features manifest differently in each type of venue depending on context. As discussed in an earlier chapter, our findings must be placed in the context of the relative proportion of each type of venue studied: across all 25 countries, approximately 12% of the venues are libraries and another 12% are telecenters. Cybercafés account for almost 75% of all public access venues studied.2 Accordingly, in terms of public access, the relative weight of cybercafés is three times higher than that of both libraries and telecenters combined. These numbers are important to keep in mind – both for those who will make programming decisions and for other interested parties – in both libraries and telecenters, which tend to have more defined roles for infomediaries and community-engagement activities than cybercafés.

While infomediary work is generally considered an important component of library services, users put more value in the infomediary role of telecenter and cybercafé operators because they are perceived to offer more effective help with ICT tools and services. Although, the role of librarians is to help users find information, libraries tend to have more limited ICT services and their staff is generally not well trained in the use of ICT tools (if available to them).

Infomediaries can be formal or informal liaisons between communities. A formal infomediary might be a librarian or telecenter/cybercafé operator who has a paid position within the venue. Their job is to reach out to an underserved community, perhaps providing language bridges, literacy connections, needs links, or leadership associations. Equally important are informal infomediaries who may supply similar links but through different means (examples include a child to a parent or vice versa, language translators, or unofficial connections between communities). Infomediaries can act on multiple levels: at a community level, between communities, or between a community and a venue, as well as at an individual level: between a user and technology. In this chapter, we focus specifically on formal infomediaries, and we contrast their role in libraries with their role in telecenters and cybercafés.

How do infomediaries play a role in libraries, especially given that of the libraries studied, 44% do not offer ICT access to the public? Libraries that do offer ICT access generally do not have digitally literate librarians (trained to use or help users with ICT tools). These factors, prevalent in the majority of the libraries studied, strongly influenced users’ negative perceptions about the utility of libraries to meet community needs. Lack of ICT literacy also created negative perceptions concerning the skills librarians offered as infomediaries to members of the community. But we found that when libraries proactively become social and community resource centers, the “digital gap” of the librarians is less apparent than when libraries only provide access to books and other non-digital resources.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Ricardo Gomez
Chapter 1
Melody Clark, Ricardo Gomez
In order to understand the implications of this study, it is important to understand the context in which it was conducted. Consequently, this book... Sample PDF
Libraries, Telecenters and Cybercafés: A Comparison of Different Types of Public Access Venues
Chapter 2
Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho
Who are the customers of public access venues, where do they come from, and what are their needs? In order to better understand the situation –... Sample PDF
Who Uses Public Access Venues?
Chapter 3
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez
Building capacity for collecting content and enabling access to information by community members means training staff as well building their digital... Sample PDF
Infomediaries and Community Engagement are Key
Chapter 4
Ricardo Gomez, Elizabeth Gould
In this study, the authors found that trust is a key factor that drives people to actually make use of ICT in public access venues. Several factors... Sample PDF
Perceptions of Trust: Safety, Credibility, and “Cool”
Chapter 5
Melody Clark, Ricardo Gomez
To help frame their findings and discussion, the authors begin with a review of the existing published literature on user fees and other barriers to... Sample PDF
“Free” Service or “Good” Service: What Attracts Users To Public Access Computing Venues?
Chapter 6
Allison Terry, Ricardo Gomez
Studies show that due to systemic gender biases in the use of and access to ICTs and their applications, as well as socio-cultural norms that... Sample PDF
Gender and Public Access ICT
Chapter 7
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez
Libraries play a central role as venues that offer public access to information. Increasingly, libraries in developing countries are offering access... Sample PDF
Challenges for Libraries in the Information Age
Chapter 8
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho
User information needs vary by geographic location as well as by economic and social standing, among other factors. These factors drive the format... Sample PDF
How do Public Access Venues Meet Information Needs in Underserved Communities?
Chapter 9
Ricardo Gomez
Throughout this book, we have detailed the profile of a public access venue user, discussed the role of venue staff in public access venues... Sample PDF
Success Factors for Public Access Computing: Beyond Anecdotes of Success
Chapter 10
Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho, Elizabeth Gould
This chapter describes how the global Landscape Study was designed and carried out. The Landscape Study informs all the findings and results... Sample PDF
Behind the Scenes: Research Methodology and Analytical Framework
Chapter 11
Adrián Rozengardt, Susana Finquelievich
Public Access ICT in Argentina
Chapter 12
Marta Voelcker, Gabriel Novais
Public Access ICT in Brazil
Chapter 13
Adriana Sánchez, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Costa Rica
Chapter 14
Luis Fernando Barón, Mónica Valdés
Public Access ICT in Colombia
Chapter 15
Francia Alfaro, José Pablo Molina, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Dominican Republic
Chapter 16
Katia Sotomayor, Juan Fernando Bossio
Public Access ICT in Ecuador
Chapter 17
Melissa Arias, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Honduras
Chapter 18
Public Access ICT in Peru  (pages 228-248)
Juan Fernando Bossio, Katia Sotomayor, Erick Iriarte
Public Access ICT in Peru
Chapter 19
Ananya Raihan
Public Access ICT in Bangladesh
Chapter 20
Rohit Kumar Nepali, Bibhusan Bista
Public Access ICT in Nepal
Chapter 21
Maria Juanita R. Macapagal, Mina Lyn C. Peralta
Public Access ICT in Philippines
Chapter 22
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Malaysia
Chapter 23
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Indonesia
Chapter 24
Andrew P. Beklemishev
Public Access ICT in Kazakhstan
Chapter 25
Tracey Naughton, Lkhagvasuren Ariunaa
Public Access ICT in Kyrgyzstan
Chapter 26
Tracey Naughton, Ondine Ullman
Public Access ICT in Mongolia
Chapter 27
OPINIA Independent Sociological and Information Service
Public Access ICT in Moldova
Chapter 28
Public Access ICT in Georgia
Chapter 29
Leelangi Wanasundera
Public Access ICT in Sri Lanka
Chapter 30
Tina James, Alan Finlay, Michael Jensen, Mark Neville, Rasagee Pillay
Public Access ICT in South Africa
Chapter 31
Tina James, Milton Louw
Public Access ICT in Namibia
Chapter 32
Ndaula Sulah
Public Access ICT in Uganda
Chapter 33
Yahia Bakelli
Public Access ICT in Algeria
Chapter 34
Nayer Wanas
Public Access ICT in Egypt
Chapter 35
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Turkey
About the Contributors