My Research Statement is available online. If you would like to collaborate with me, please send me an email.

Current Research

Let’s Move in Libraries

The Let’s Move in Libraries project is focused on understanding how public libraries create opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities to move and be active. Libraries do this through movement-based programming, which includes, among others, yoga, Zumba, running, aerobics, and even CrossFit in the library. Inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, this study seeks to assess to what extent, how, and why libraries encourage physical activity in the communities they serve. Visit the project website for more information.

Recent Research

The Community Informatics of an Aging Society: A Comparative Case Study of Public Libraries and Senior Centers

As the global population ages, and as digital technologies become ever more densely woven into the fabric of everyday life, the localized social support older adults rely on to maintain digital literacy will increase in importance. While many older adults struggle to learn digital technologies for the first time in their lives (Pew, 2014), a growing number of older adults have learned some digital technologies, and have access to some digital equipment. This growing population struggles with maintaining and extending digital literacy. The roles of the family in supporting older adult digital literacy has begun to receive scholarship. Less well understood are the extra-familial, community-based social supports older adults rely on. The hypothesis of this study was that maintaining and growing digital literacy in older adulthood requires ongoing social support at the level of the local community. This study's research question was "How and to what extent does community-based information infrastructure support older adult digital literacy?" To analyze this topic, I used the tools of participant observation and interviewing to study the community-based, primarily publicly-funded information infrastructure that in the United States of America serves older adults' social, recreational, and informational needs: senior centers and public libraries. The results of this research appear in my successfully defended doctoral dissertation.

Older adults, a community, a library, and all their digital devices

Invited by managers at a local residential community for seniors, my doctoral advisor, Kate Williams, and I carried out a study of what residents do and want to do with technology and who gives and gets tech help. The study looked at people, but also at community. This study dovetailed with a long-running U of I tech volunteer program initiated by the CI Lab and managed by the Illinois Informatics Initiative.

Community informatics literature review

An analysis of a systematically-gathered collection of 563 community informatics studies from leading journals and edited volumes across nine disciplines. How do these studies, conducted in 119 countries, speak to our finding of a positive role for local community connections in sustaining technology use? What are general agreements, disagreements, and silences? Research led by Kate Williams. Early findings presented in award-winning poster at iConference 2013 and in a publication in First Monday.

eBlack Champaign-Urbana: A Digital Portal for Community history and archives

Digital technology enables new forms of networking community cultural heritage information held by multiple institutions and individuals. This research project centers on a multi-year, action research case study on how academics can collaborate with community members to create a digital library on local African-American history. In Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, institutions such as churches, schools, businesses, libraries, museums, archives, and private homes all contain documentation and records of local experiences. Documentation includes everything from oral histories of local elders to master's theses on community evolution. In networking together this local African American cultural heritage information, new connections are built, both among diffused sources of information and among the social institutions holding this dispersed documentation. This process also contributes to the breaking down of boundaries between institutions of higher education and underserved communities. Social capital theory was used in the analysis of this project to understand the successes and failures of this experimental proof of concept digital community archives. Findings illustrate a critical dialectic between bridging and bonding social capital in community digitization: local, historically underserved communities need bridging social capital to become aware of digital possibilities; they also need to invest bonding social capital into digital community archives to achieve collective, self-determined digital representation. Flows of global economic capital intersect with local forms of social capital to shape the resulting form and use of digital community archives. This research resulted in an award-winning paper at iConference 2012, a journal article and a a website containing tens of thousands of digitized documents, visited by over 50,000 individuals around the world.