As this qualitative research project focuses on comprehending on-reserve Aboriginals' "perceptions, perspectives, and understandings" of public libraries and fulfilling their information-seeking needs, a phenomenological study approach will work best as the methodology framework (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010, 141). A phenomenological interview will be used as opposed to a hermeneutic interview as this research project aims to broadly explore the experiences and perspectives of the participants. Once this groundwork has been established, it will be possible for further research to dig deeper with a hermeneutic interview to explore more with regard to context and "interpretive meaning" (Adams & van Manen, 2008, para 29).
To collect the data for this research project, a sample of Aboriginals aged 25-34 living on the Enoch, Blood, and Fox Lake reservations in Alberta will be surveyed through face-to-face one-on- one semi-structured interviews. For an outline of interview questions, please see Appendix B. This age group is selected due to a 2002 study from Leckie and Hopkins that found that individuals ages 25-34 made up a larger proportion of public library users than any other single demographic (343). Although the results come from a study looking at Toronto and Vancouver, the sample size was large enough to appropriately generalize across to Alberta. This study concentrates on this age group as to focus on the individuals who are most likely to use a public library in the first place. It is further required that the participants speak and understand basic English as that is the sole language understood by the researcher and the cost of employing a translator should be avoided. Participants will be provided with a Letter of Information (Appendix C) and a Participation Consent Form (Appendix D) to be read and completed before the interview.
Approximately 30 interviews of 1-1.5 hours in length will be conducted on the three reservations in Alberta to provide a sample of perspectives on the topic of public libraries and information needs. This number was chosen by blending Creswell's (1998) recommendation of 5-25 participants for a phenomenological study and the expectation that approximately five interviews will be required to refine the prepared research questions and the researcher's interview method/style (Creswell, 1998, 64). If fewer interviews are required, the number of individuals in total to be interviewed will decrease proportionally so that 25 individuals in total are interviewed. Semi-structured interviews were selected as the method for collecting the data for this study as it is important to focus the interview around the main research questions while having the flexibility of following up on interesting answer paths to gather unexpected information (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010, 148). The interviews will be audio-recorded with the researcher also taking hand-written notes for the purpose of backup in case of possible technology failure.
The interviews will take place in the local community hall or cultural centre as they are quiet locations that the participants will be familiar and comfortable with. Once funding is secured, a meeting will be arranged with the Elders of the three reserves with the assistance of my contacts on the three reservations to discuss the project and gain their support for the study. This meeting will take place either in-person, by phone, via Skype, or through an on-reservation contact as required. If Elders at a single reservation prove to be unsupportive of the research project, the study will continue at the two other locations. It is important to have the Elder's support of the project in order to obtain credibility as an outside researcher. At the point of approval, the locations for the interviews will be contacted and secured.
I expect to gain access to this specialized population through my contacts that currently work or have worked on the Enoch, Fox Creek, and Blood reservations. The participants for this study will primarily be selected through the use of recruitment posters that will be posted in high traffic areas on-reserve by my contacts. Please see Appendix E for the recruitment poster. If this method does not prove to be successful, the remaining participants will be recruited by recommendation by my contacts. This possible hand selection will not skew the results of this research as the study is focused solely on the experiences of on-reservation Aboriginals aged 25-34 and it provides the possible opportunity to balance the gender difference of the sample. Interested individuals will be directed to either phone or e-mail the researcher directly or provide contact information to the contact individual. The reason for this second option, although not ideal, is to include individuals who may not have access to phone or internet in the study.
The recruitment process will take place in late-August 2011 – early-September 2011 with the interviews to take place in late-September 2011 – early-October 2011. The reason for this time frame is that the researcher will be driving to the various reservations and road conditions can deteriorate quickly as winter approaches. Fox Lake is the exception as it is not fully accessible by road and a flight will be taken from Fort Vermilion. The interviews will take place on Friday-Monday with approximately 8-10 interviews scheduled over the four day weekend. A different reservation will be visited for three consecutive weeks with transcription of the audio-recorded data taking place as soon as possible, ideally while on-site or during the week before the next reservation is visited. If all twenty-five participants cannot be fully interviewed within the alloted three weeks, time will be scheduled in the fourth week for completion.
Credibility will be obtained in part through association with the on-reserve contact as well as the support of the Elders. It will also be achieved through pre-testing the interview questions on up to five individuals before solidly committing to documenting the obtained data. The study will be dependable as the methods used will be plainly stated and easily duplicated – as much as a semi-structured interview can be duplicated – on other reservations. As the three reservations in this study are vastly different from each other (Enoch is central and within 20km of the Edmonton metropolis, Blood is southern with the largest land mass of any reservation in Canada, and Fox Lake is northern with a small population and extremely remote), they provide an excellent representation of the reservation demographics as a whole as seen in Alberta. Therefore, the transferability of results will speak for on-reserve Aboriginals as a whole in Alberta, but may start to lose transferability when looking at other provinces.
This research study focuses solely on the interviews with the on-reserve participants and will include their opinions and experiences. Their word will be taken and reported at face-value and follow-up action will not be taken to verify the so-called validity of their report. This study will not include the opinions and perspectives of surrounding public librarians, tribal librarians, or other information professionals as this activity is outside the scope of this project. Although this would be an excellent topic for further research, it is not the focus of this particular project as the purpose here is to hear from the on-reserve Aboriginals themselves as their voices (as stated previously) are too often unheard or underrepresented in the research literature.