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Community Informatics

CommunityInformaticsThe Community Informatics Division in the Center for the Study of Social Justice at the University of Tennessee explores the use of information and communication technologies to enable and empower underserved populations in meeting their needs, goals, expectations, and aspirations. Community informatics is based on principles of community engagement that combine teaching, research, and service activities in the American academy in a holistic and integrated manner to proactively promote community technology building and community development outcomes that make a real difference in people’s lives.

Conceptual frameworks in communication and information studies (including library science) and beyond are combined with interdisciplinary approaches from critical theory, feminist and cross-cultural studies, postcolonial literature, and race and gender research, amongst others, to build teaching-research-service intersections to further social justice and social equity agendas for minority and underserved populations. Members in the Community Informatics Division use qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods including interviews, focus groups, statistical analysis, critical research, participatory action research, situated user-centered library service evaluation/assessment, grounded theory practice, service-learning, needs assessment and community technology analysis, content analysis, narratology/storytelling, and scenario-building, to name a few. Information-based outcomes in critical research applications have included proposed changes in intercultural communication and information system delivery, library service design, institutional policy and technology development, knowledge representation of marginalized domains of experience, curriculum and course planning on social justice topics via virtual and face-to-face delivery systems, development of culturally responsive information resources, print and electronic access to appropriate information resource collections, development and use of community-based social and digital technologies, amongst others.

Representative Publications

  • Mehra, B., and Dessel, A. (2011). The Role of Library and Information Science Education in the Development of Community Health Information Services for People Living With HIV/AIDS: Perspectives of Directors and Managers of Public Libraries. World Journal of AIDS, 1(3), 78-87.
  • Mehra, B., Black, K., Singh, V., and Nolt, J. (2011). Collaboration between LIS Education and Rural Libraries in the Southern and Central Appalachia: Improving Librarian Technology Literacy and Management Training [Brief Communications and Research In Progress]. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 52(3), 238-247.
  • Mehra, B., Singh, V., and Parris, H. (2010). Open Source Software Collaborations in Tennessee’s Regional Library System: An Exploratory Study. Library Review, 59(9), 690-701.
  • Mehra, B., and Braquet, D. (2007) (invited). Library and Information Science Professionals as Community Action Researchers in an Academic Setting: Top Ten Directions to Further Institutional Change for People of Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities, Library Trends, 56(2), 542-565.
  • Horne, C., Chen, Chien-fei, Berg, J., &  Evermann-Druffel, K. (2009). Metanorm expectations: Determining what to sanction. Advances in Group Processes, 26, 199-223.
  • Pinkleton, B., Reagan, J., Aaronson, D., & Chen, Chien-fei. (1997). The role of individual motivations in information source use and knowledge concerning divergent topics.  Communication Research Reports, 14, 291-301.
  • Reagan, J., Pinkleton, B., Chen, Chien-fei, & Aaronson, D. (1995). How technologies relate to the “Repertoire” of information sources. Telematics & Informatics, 12, 21-27.

Funded Grants

  • Rural Library Professionals as Change Agents in the 21st Century: Integrating Information Technology Competencies in the Southern and Central Appalachian Region (ITRL) ($567,660). Institute of Museum and Library Services, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program , October 2009 – September 2012 (PI: B. Mehra, K. Black, V. Singh). Project Website: