This is the fourth post in a series contextualizing my position as a researcher of connected learning.

Here are all the posts published so far:

  1. What Is Connected Learning?
  2. How Connected Learning Happens in Libraries
  3. Connected Learning in Libraries: Changes and Challenges

There are a number of opportunities for connected learning to grow in libraries. Here I’ll discuss some of them, beginning with the one most relevant to my current work.

Research-Practice Partnerships Research-Practice Partnerships allow library professionals to develop connected learning environments and programs in collaboration with researchers of learning and information sciences. The project I’m working on, Transforming and Scaling Teen Services for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (TS4EDI) is one such partnership. Myself and other researchers at the Connected Learning Lab, including PI Vera Michalchik and Research Manager Amanda Wortman, are working with state librarians in Rhode Island and Washington first to identify barriers and challenges to libraries creating CL environments and programs and then to develop resources to help library professionals overcome those barriers and challenges. The state librarians will recruit local public librarians in their state to be part of this partnership, and those public librarians will recruit youth to participate, as well. Other examples include the ConnectedLib project and the Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries project.

Brokering Youth Opportunities in Libraries Connected learning research over the past 10 years has highlighted the importance of caring adults or peers as brokers or sponsors for youth as they build their networks surrounding an interest. These brokers/sponsors can connect youth with other people and resources to help them expand their network and identify opportunities for learning and achievement related to their interest. Current research literature doesn’t explicitly offer guidance on brokering as a distinct activity, investigate the extent to which librarians currently act as brokers, or illuminate how youth may serve as peer brokers in the library setting. Research-practice partnerships and library professional-led professional development could address these questions.

Bringing Connected Learning to School and Academic Libraries So far, connected learning has been documented mostly in informal settings. A few studies have looked at connected learning in formal settings, but those tend to be individual classrooms rather than school or academic libraries. One area that offers potential for CL in these settings is the connection between interests and information literacy. This was the focus of my dissertation, in which I examined the information literacy practices of cosplayers. Cosplayers engage in connected learning as they learn about their interest, build relationships with each other, and find opportunities to contribute to the cosplay community or even become professional cosplayers. Throughout these elements of connected learning, cosplayers engage in information literacy, identifying resources, evaluating them, and even creating new resources. Because school and academic libraries are the primary center for information literacy education in their institutions and because they are not tied to a specific academic discipline, they have the potential to create opportunities for connected learning as learners build their information literacy practices.

That’s all for this series of blog posts, but I expect to write a lot more about connected learning through the course of my work at the Connected Learning Lab, so if you find this interesting, stay tuned!