Community Problem Solving

Community Problem Solving-26
Using this integrated framework allows us to examine both the information needs of citizens engaged in community problem-solving and the innovative community-focused model of engagement employed by a public library.

Using this integrated framework allows us to examine both the information needs of citizens engaged in community problem-solving and the innovative community-focused model of engagement employed by a public library.

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First, the model is used to help understand the information behaviour of selected Hartford organizations that seek to ameliorate community problems.

Secondly, we show how the public library has innovatively altered its practice to work within a specific problem-solving context (information use environment) to effectively anticipate and respond to community information needs.

As we analysed our data we recognized that Taylor's (1991) information use environment model provided a powerful framework to help understand how information was used in the context of community problem solving.

The results of that analysis are explored in this paper.

The team found that, in 2001, the Hartford library's director had received national recognition for 'building community connections and family library service' (Berry 2001). First, the better to understand information needs, seeking and use in the context of community problem-solving and, secondly, to examine the nature of a best-practice, community-focused approach to library service.

And in 2002, the Hartford Public Library was recognized as an exemplary community-focused library by the U. Institute of Museum and Library Services, for 'developing community partners and innovative programs to address current educational, social, economic and environmental issues' (HPL receives... In the course of study we found that many of Hartford's community problem-solving efforts are citizen driven and neighbourhood based.Scholars have theorized for decades that libraries and librarians can play a vital role in democracy (e.g., Ditzion 1947; Garceau 1949); and library professionals continue to struggle with how best to understand and carry out a civic mission (Durrance 1984a, 1984b; Durrance 2001; Kranich 2001; Schull 2004).This research was designed to inform our understanding of these issues.Information behaviour research in the past several decades has incorporated and developed theoretical frameworks—first, as Kuhlthau (2003) acknowledged, from borrowed theory and more recently in theories that have emerged within the field (Case 2002; Fisher, 2005).Recent research, particularly that influenced by the Information Seeking in Context conferences, has expanded the development of theoretical frameworks used and has consistently shown that context matters in studying information behaviour (Bishop, 2002; 1999).At any time in hundreds of communities in democratic nations across the world, citizens are working with others to help solve community problems—often at the local, neighbourhood level.They work with government agencies to reduce crime, improve the visual appearance of blighted areas, or stop an action that may adversely affect the community.In this paper we use Taylor's (1991) seminal paper on information use environments because of its links to and implications for the professional practice of librarians.Taylor developed the information use environment model as a user- and context-centric construct for framing practice.This community problem-solving requires timely access to relevant information (Durrance 1984a).While it is axiomatic that information is essential for the effective functioning of civic problem-solving and democratic functions more generally, information researchers know little about either the use of information to solve community problems or the role that information professionals might play in increasing access to that information.

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