Alum Pam Okosun Investigated YA Needs in Public Libraries as Part of Grant-Funded Research Team

Alum Pam Okosun worked with Associate Professor Anthony Bernier’s grant-funded research team to discover how to design and build Young Adult (YA) spaces in public libraries. Her experiences as a research assistant during the Spring 2011 semester also supported her career goals in academic librarianship and community service.

Directed by Dr. Bernier, the Making Space for Young Adults in Public Libraries project is a three-year study funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). It will document and analyze current approaches to planning and building public library spaces for teens and help libraries create more equitable YA spaces.

Okosun, who graduated in May 2011, described her work on the project. During her last semester at SLIS she worked with the team to develop survey instruments, met with architectural consultants, and prepared to collect data on approximately 800 libraries that have completed construction or renovation projects in the last five years.

Future project objectives will include collecting librarian- and teen-produced videos of current YA spaces, creating virtual representations of teen spaces in Second Life, analyzing public comments, and publishing findings in the professional literature.

Okosun said meeting with the architectural firms was particularly interesting, because “it reinforced the importance of thinking broadly in terms of who your partners are when you’re making project plans. In this case, architects also want to know what teens want and what librarians need in terms of space for teens, and their input helps us get the best information to maximize the benefits of our research.”

Project meetings took place virtually, as Okosun lives in Indiana and her team members reside in California, Washington, and Oklahoma. Doing virtual research work gave Okosun the skills to expand her professional network far beyond her geographic region, which she said will be beneficial in her future career.

Okosun enrolled at SJSU SLIS in Fall 2008 to build on her background in social service and social justice. She has worked as a youth administrative director, homeless shelter director, youth counselor, and victims’ court liaison, and also enjoyed conducting academic research for colleagues and her husband, a university professor. “It occurred to me that I could bring all of these interests together as a librarian by helping people gain information to make improvements in their lives,” she said.

Along with her research assistantship and e-Portfolio course, Okosun also completed LIBR 287 Seminar in Information Science: Virtual Services in Spring 2011.The class, taught by SLIS lecturer Lori Bell, touched on topics from Okosun’s previous coursework and was directly applicable to her research. She was able to evaluate how hundreds of library websites presented their virtual services as she collected information for the project.

Okosun emphasized the benefits of joining a research project for students pursuing any kind of library and information science work. “Being a student on a research project is not just for students who want to continue and get a PhD someday,” she said. “It really helps you gain a better understanding of how important it is to conduct investigations in order to make plans and improve services in any environment.”