Saturday, November 10, 2007

5.5.1 General computer experience

In order to determine what level of computing experience respondents had, they were asked to rate themselves on a scale that allocated different levels of experience according to how long they had been using computers (Appendix 2, Question 15). Although the time spent using computers was not necessarily the most appropriate way of characterising skill levels, this was the scale use in Kuglin’s research so for the purposes of comparison this scale was used in this study. No respondents claimed to have no computer experience at all and so all respondents were expected to answer the computing questions that followed. The results in this study were reasonably close to those in Kuglin’s earlier research (Chart 14) with the largest percentage of respondents rating themselves as “very experienced”. This might suggest that whakapapa researchers have more computing skills than Māori library users generally, possibly as a result of their involvement in whakapapa research. However more research will need to be carried out in order to determine if this is the case.
Chart 14. All respondents whose questionnaire was printed from the PDF version made available online rated themselves as “very experienced”. Given that these respondents would have to have found the questionnaire online, download it, and print it out, it is not surprising that these respondents would have at least a moderate level of computing experience. Although data from this question was analysed by age, no noticeable trends were evident across the age ranges.

Respondents were also asked in what ways they used computers for whakapapa research (Appendix 2, Question 16). Respondents were given a range of options and these are ranked according to frequency in Table 6 below.
Table 6. Ways of using computers for genealogy
In Kuglin’s (2004) research the respondents ticked on average 4 options each. In the current research respondents ticked an average of 2.7 options each. This suggests that whakapapa researchers may not be using computers in as diverse a fashion as genealogists in general. In both studies the most often selected option is searching on the internet. Given that Parker’s (2003) research found that less than 30% of Māori had access to the internet at home, the provision of internet access by public libraries may be an important way in which libraries can support their whakapapa researcher customers. Parker also found that 65% of Māori had never used the internet (Figure 3). This figure is not reflected in the 78% of respondents in this study for whom searching on the internet was a part of their whakapapa research. This also supports the notion that whakapapa researchers may be more IT savvy than other sections of the Māori population, though more recent statistics than those used by Parker would paint a clearer picture. Further research is needed to identify how heavily whakapapa researchers make use of the computing services on offer at public libraries.

Though at least some respondents are using library websites for this purpose (see 5.4.4 Librarian produced materials used by whakapapa researchers), it is not clear which other internet sites whakapapa researchers use. It is perhaps worth noting that one respondent reported that they were the webmaster of a whānau/family website that contains whakapapa information. The researcher’s library and whakapapa research experience suggests that this kind of “homegrown” resource may be a growth area in terms of whakapapa resources online and again, this is an area that could be the subject of future research.


pcsourcepoint said...

I found that searching on the internet might produce limited information, and it also depends on how one searches (i.e. relevant keywords such as archive index numbers and govt. departments, alternative family names, etc). Some times data is available, but for further details, visits are required to the departments or libraries concerned. It's also helpful to email or contact information web sites, and that relevant questions are submitted.

After I emailed the Maori land court, and NZ archives about my Grandfather's land shares (we are applying for succession), I was sent several copies of documents from over a 50 year period. The information helped build up a family tree, and also had information that we did not know (e.g. alternative names for my grandfather, names of his step parents, brothers, etc). Though MLC suggested I visit them for further research or visit libraries, which meant traveling up north from Auckland. However, I prefer to research online, as I can easily cross reference data with other web sites (e.g. family, and even the recent old friends, amongst other sites).

I agree more research is required to identify how heavily (and perhaps how focused) whakapapa researchers make use of computing services at public libraries. It would be even better if there is a general tutorial and informational web site, with specific research examples, to allow researchers to easily and quickly create their whakapapa or family tree. Information for whakapapa research is widely available, but spread across various web sites and physical locations, making it time consuming and tedious at times to gather data ...


mo-mo said...

Thanks pcsourcepoint, for your feedback.

I think that other researchers probably have the same experiences with using the internet for research.

I agree that a comprehensive, one-stop shop, online guide would be extremely useful.

Perhaps another MLIS student in the next few years could pick up the ball and run with it in terms of researching the level of use of library computers and internet by Whakapapa researchers.

Amena said...
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