The Community Informatics Club started as an effort to extend the Graduate School of Library and Information Science’s (GSLIS) Community Informatics curriculum in stride with the start of the Community Informatics Initiative in 2008 and to enable GSLIS students to get involved in community engagement projects in the short time (often 1-2 years) they are in the program. GSLIS Research Assistants and Community Informatics students came together to create an organization that was both social and service oriented. The Community Informatics Club provided opportunities for students to meet one another, learn about community engagement projects, and put digital technologies into action. The club also filled a gap in the Community Informatics curriculum since those elements were lacking from the curriculum at the time. The group worked on a variety of programs and short projects for a couple years and eventually started the Urbana Free Library Technology Volunteers program in 2009.
The Community Informatics Club has worked on several projects including the following:
- Urbana Free Library Technology Volunteers—Provide technology assistance to patrons in the computer lab as well as at monthly computer literacy classes.
- Independent Media Center—Help provide information and educational resources to prisoners through Books 2 Prisoners and organize zines with the Radical Librarians and Archivists using a custom Drupal cataloging system
- eBlackCU—Digitized African American history from the local archive
- East St. Louis—Rescued and organized items for the Katherine Dunham Archives, held digital storytelling workshops at the Mary Brown Center, and offered digital literacy training at the Eagle’s Nest Homeless Services Center
- Conference Presentations—Members have attended and presented at iSchools, eChicago, and the eBlackCU symposium series
Community Informatics Club Today:
The focus of the Community Informatics Club has changed over the past couple of years because of participation demands. The projects the Community Informatics Club has done in the past require leaders who have connections around town and people with time to commit. Most masters students don’t live in Champaign-Urbana long enough to get to know the Champaign-Urbana and GSLIS communities well enough to rally people and coordinate events while juggling classes and jobs at the same time. Therefore, some of the projects of the past have been replaced with ‘shop talk’ meetings where GSLIS students can come to talk about problems they are encountering in classes, skills they need to learn or to find support for projects they are engaging in. However, some projects live on including:
- New Hope Academy—An after school program in partnership with Champaign Unit 4 that offers kids a safe place to do homework and promotes guided and student-driven computer learning
- Washington Park Library—Volunteers sort and reduce the collection to increase accessibility and make way for future digital cataloging
- Tap In Leadership Academy—The IMLS-funded Mix It Up! Grant allowed Tap In to renovate its computer lab and implement programs for scholars focused on digital and print literacy
- Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club—Workshops introduce participants to Photoshop and computer-assisted video production. Kids learn by doing by telling stories with cutting-edge technologies
- Douglass Branch Library—GSLIS students are working to bring the success of the Urbana Free Library Tech Volunteers to the Douglass Branch Library for workshops as well as extended and advanced computer help
- Urbana Free Library—The Tech Volunteers are bolstering library programming with classes that include job searching on the web and email basics that help participants learn information and communication literacies. Volunteers are also collaboratively tackling problems and documenting, developing, and evaluating best practices using an online tool based on the open source Drupal content management system.
- Shadow Wood Computer Lab—GSLIS volunteers, led by CU-Citizen Access, a news site and social network, volunteer at the Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park. Volunteers have reconfigured and upgraded existing public computers, renovated the existing space to be more inviting to users, and established lab hours and programming to create a neighborhood news lab.
- Clark-Lindsey Village - Tech volunteers consisting of GSLIS graduate students and UIUC undergraduate students visit the Clark-Lindsey library on Friday afternoons from 3 to 4 to assist the residents with their technological needs. The residents are encouraged to sign up ahead of time on the sign-up sheet located at the librarian's desk.