While some tribal members certainly utilize traditional information services and traditional information organizations, it doesn’t appear that the majority of them use them with regularity. This may be due at least in part to the fact that they have differing information needs from the general population. These needs are sometimes best addressed through alternate means, whether it’s user-generated information sources, tribal governments, or elsewhere.
Tribal members definitely create their own information sources and services. Facebook groups are popular. Even my primary informant, D. (personal communication, September 26, 2014), who is resistant to using Facebook due to privacy issues and the perceived issues of drama, admits that Facebook can be useful for obtaining information important to the community. Tribal members have created groups to buy and sell things on the Reservation. There are groups dedicated to pan-tribal humor. It’s also a way in which people may find out about births, marriages, or deaths in the broader community. Additionally, members of various tribes have created internet discussion lists to discuss aspects of native language and culture, and there are tribal members who blog. Indianz.com is a news aggregator owned by a corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and an Indian-owned media corporation (Noble Savage Media, LLC, & Ho-Chunk, Inc. n.d.). It provides news related to tribes across the United States, Canada, and internationally. These are all resources utilized by tribal members to fulfill a variety of information needs.
User experience difficulties may be another factor contributing to non-use of traditional information services and organizations. Racism and the perception of racism are still problems in many communities bordering Indian reservations in the United States. The fear of being treated poorly by library staff probably contributes at least in part to tribal members not utilizing libraries. D. (personal communication, September 26, 2014) described the town library as “kind of weird.” This implies that she perceives some difficulties in her experience of the library as a user. D. (personal communication, September 26, 2014) also described a common difficulty of many libraries as well as some computer centers offered by her tribe: indigent individuals may monopolize computer resources, and their presence may cause other patrons to feel uncomfortable in the information centers. These difficulties, as well as others, play into the triangle that Schmidt (n.d.) describes in this week’s lecture: touchpoints should be “useful, usable, and desirable.” Together, these factors explain a lot of why tribal members may not utilize libraries to their full advantage. Some of the information provided is perceived as not useful, and information that is useful is often not present. Sometimes when the information present is useful, it’s not usable for one reason or another, because of real or perceived barriers to its access.
In my next blog, I’ll discuss some legal and ethical reasons for barriers to access to information as they apply to tribal communities.
Noble Savage Media, LLC, & Ho-Chunk, Inc. (n.d.). About Indianz.com. Retrieved from http://www.indianz.com/about.asp
Schmidt, A. (n.d.). A quick intro to library UX. Retrieved from https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/239835/LUX-200.mp4