Beyond the books: A qualitative study of a library learning centre

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Fenton, Kay
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Education
Unitec Institute of Technology
Panko, Mary
Meldrum, Ray
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand libraries
learning centres
qualitative evaluation
technology use
digital gap
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Fenton, K. (2011). Beyond the books: A qualitative study of a library learning centre. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education, Unitec New Zealand.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: Access and use: 1. Who is accessing the Learning Centre and for what purpose? Skills and capabilities: 2. How is the Learning Centre improving the skill level and capability of participants? Impacts: 3. What impact is the Learning Centre having on individuals? Dedicated physical spaces, called Learning Centres, have been created in a New Zealand city’s libraries to provide the community with free technology resources, including computer use, first-step computer training and Internet access. The effectiveness of these Centres has never been measured. This qualitative research, using a case study, investigates the impact of providing these free resources on users of a Learning Centre via three research questions. These questions relate to access and use of the Centre, the skills and capabilities that users are acquiring from attending the Centre and the different impacts access to technology is having on users of the Centre. While current literature provides valuable information on the uses of libraries as providers of free public Internet access, many studies report on the types of people accessing these Centres and the activities that the computers and the Internet are being used for, rather than the impact the provision of technology through these Centres is having on the users of the Centre. This study gathers rich data directly from the users of the Centre through questionnaires, interviews and observations. The findings reveal that this Learning Centre is being used for a variety of computerbased activities by both genders across all ages and income levels. The Learning Centre is having a short and long term positive impact on participants through improving their computer skills and capabilities, increasing their social connections, assisting with employment seeking and lifting their confidence levels as users of modern technology. The Learning Centre is helping to reduce the digital gap for residents and is meeting the goals and objectives created at its inception. It is also achieving the goals of the New Zealand Government’s Digital Strategy, by providing the infrastructure and training that allows the local community to access and use information and communications technology more effectively in their daily lives. These findings may assist in the future development of Learning Centres in New Zealand. As the use of the Learning Centre has progressively increased, concerns have been expressed that the current infrastructure may not meet the increasing demands of users, and recommendations are given that will help address this issue. Lastly, suggestions for further research, which include a long term study of the Learning Centre, are given.
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