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World librarians: A socio-technical system providing library search services to offline schools and libraries in Malawi

Charles M. Schweik, Carl Meyer, Pempho Chinkondenji, Jeremy Smith and Promise Mchenga

World Development Perspectives, 2020, vol. 20, issue C

Abstract: World Librarians is a socio-technical system that strives to solve the information access problem many remote offline schools and libraries have in lesser developed contexts. In this Case Report, we describe the system we have developed over the course of three years, where we first establish solar-powered computer labs in remote schools and libraries in Malawi, and then provide them digital information that they want, rather than what we in the Global North think they need. After providing background on these issues, we describe the socio-technical underpinnings and workflow in the World Librarians program. This involves the establishment of “Requester nodes” in the offline schools and libraries, the management of these deployments using a cloud-based WL app, and the operations of the WL “Searcher node” at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as a novel micro-payment system that enables the transfer of large digital datasets through the use of teacher or librarian cell phones and data plans. We close the report with findings from a preliminary survey suggesting that the WL program is making a positive impact on the schools and libraries served. At its core, WL represents a global librarian support system working to remove the barriers to educational information for all global citizens, with central attention and awareness to Global North/South information power dynamics.

Keywords: Digital Divide; Global North-South Inequalities; Information technology; ICT; Education; Open Access; Librarian (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2020.100234

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