Help-seeking in an electronic world:
How people use the Internet for everyday situations (1998-2000)
During the 1990s the phenomenon of community networks (also known as “Free-Nets”) arose with the popularity of the Internet as a means for facilitating information flow within different types of communities. We viewed community networks as another vehicle for studying how people seek and share information, this time regarding the public in general. Interested additionally in how public libraries were using the Internet as a medium for providing everyday or community information, and how they were participating in community networking initiatives, we received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Our study “Help-seeking in an electronic world: The impact of electronic access to community information on citizens’ information behavior and public libraries” comprised two phases: (1) a two-stage, nation-wide survey with public library directors and community librarians about their involvement in community information provision, followed by (2) case studies of three public library-community networking systems (in northeastern Illinois, Pittsburgh, and Portland). For each case study we conducted an online survey followed by in-depth telephone interviews based on Brenda Dervin’s sense-making approach with network users, and conducted observation, interviews and focus groups with library and community network staff.