"How the Karl Kinanen Student Research Scholarship is Supporting Young Researchers"

Published: Friday, January 20, 2023

A blog by Karl Kinanen Undergraduate Research Scholarship Recipient - Bria Mitrovica, BA (Hons) in Health, Aging & Society

During the pandemic, public libraries’ websites often became the only means for older adults to access meaningful library programming and services. I am grateful to have received the 2021-2022 Karl Kinanen Undergraduate Student Research Scholarship which supported my contributions as an RA on the project “Aging with Public Libraries: Mobilizing Social Infrastructures for Social Inclusion” led by Dr. Nicole Dalmer. In the first of three interconnected phases, we conducted an in-depth environmental scan of 25 Ontario public library systems’ websites to reveal the state of available programming for older adults during the pandemic. Insights from this search illuminated issues concerning social connectedness, representation, and assumptions about older adults' digital access and competency on public libraries’ websites. In July 2022, our article “The Public Library as Social Infrastructure for Older Patrons: Exploring the Implications of Online Library Programming for Older Adults During COVID-19” was published in the Journal of Library and Information Science Research and reported on these findings. We then began the second phase of the project, interviewing 51 community-dwelling older library patrons. We shared some preliminary reflections from the interviews in October 2022 at the 51st Annual Scientific and Educational Conference of the Canadian Association on Gerontology in Regina. Our presentation was entitled, “It’s just with ‘senior’ – the thing is I don’t feel like I’m 68”: Older adults’ opinions on age labels in the library. We shared what the older adult interviewees expressed regarding age-based labels that public libraries use to describe programs targeted towards them. Some expressed a particular dislike for the term “elderly”, while others preferred programming with defined age-groups. Our initial analysis suggests that age labels used to describe library programs influence whether or not older adults feel welcome, represented or included. These insights will be important as we begin the third phase of the project, which will involve speaking with public library staff to uncover their perspectives on the public library’s role for older adults. With support from the Karl Kinanen Scholarship, I had the exciting opportunity to speak at my first in-person conference. I also learned that producing knowledge is but one element of useful and accessible research, as we continue to mobilize our findings to community partners to inform their approach to enhancing services for older adults.

I extend my appreciation to Karl Kinanen, Ms. Beatrice Kemp and Dr. Anju Joshi for their generosity in having established this meaningful student award.