Libraries at the Crossroads of the Digital Content Divide

Authors: Michele Masucci*, Temple University, Alan Wiig, University of Massachusetts, Boston, David Organ*, Temple University
Topics: Social Geography, Field Methods, Historical Geography
Keywords: African American history, archive, digital divide, digital inclusion, Philadelphia, STEM, urban geography, youth education, Community GIS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galerie 2, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper will examine the role of libraries as community partners in the context of a long-standing program to support STEM skills development among students engaged in the Building Information Technology Skills Program. The was established 14 years ago with funding from the NSF to model a youth led participatory geographic information system and to address the challenges they face to overcome barriers to gaining access digital technologies and acquire the skills to use them. We used a social action method that involved student participants to: define and learn about local community problems based on their experiences and interests, engage in geographic field methods to provide context related to the problems, and construct digital information resources to address decision making needs related to the defined problem. One partner that played a critical role in connecting cultural, historical, and geographic dimensions to the identified problems was the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection housed at Temple University. The collection served as a nexus for students to anchor experiences and perceptions to important sources of existing community knowledge encapsulated within the archives of the collection. The students related their experiences to African American heritage historic markers in Philadelphia, a program championed by Mr. Blockson himself. They developed a system to denote the spatial characteristics of the markers, connecting their development of geospatial skills with gaining contextual understanding of the sites they examined. It also enabled them to leave an archive in place that can be built upon by others in the future.

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