About the Digital Equity in Libraries Project

Full Title:  Advancing Digital Equity in Public Libraries: Assessing Library Patrons’ Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments

Project Purpose: To examine and understand the digital problem solving processes of vulnerable adults.  

Project Team: The research was a collaborative effort with contributions made by a core team of researchers and practitioners at Portland State University, the University of Arizona, and staff from the Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, Oregon. The research team was advised by a National Advisory Committee and an external evaluator.

Data Collection: A mixed methods design that included 1) a background survey (N=450); 2) the Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments (PS-TRE) assessment developed by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (N=211), and 3) an observation and interview of participants completing the PSTRE and a set of online library tasks the research team designed (N=18).

Analysis: Quantitative analysis included 1) basic demographics; 2) comparisons between groups of participants, and 3) a latent class analysis.  Qualitative analysis was used to develop the themes that were examined in relation to the quantitative results.

Findings and Outcomes: Quantitative analysis revealed that library website use was a strong predictor of PSTRE scores.  Qualitative analysis showed that digital problem solving needs to be seen as a set of contexts and events that are dynamic across different situations.  

The project resulted in three products: 1)  a design protocol with tasks for observing digital problem solving in the library, 2) an observational checklist to use when a librarian or other library staff member meets with a patron or within the context of a class, and 3) an operational definition of digital problem solving.

Suggested Citation: Castek, J., Jacobs, G., Gibbon, C., Frank, T., Honisett, A., Anderson, J., (2018). Project Summary. Advancing Digital Equity in Public Libraries: Assessing Library Patrons’ Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grant # LG-06-14-076-14A.

The authors acknowledge contributions by Vailey Oehlke and Patricia Moran at Multnomah County Library, and Matt Timberlake at Multnomah County IT, members of the grant’s advisory board as well as research collaborators  Mei-kuang Chen, Stephen Reder, Andrew Pizzolato, and Laura Hill for their many contributions.