Find Community. Share Expertise. Enhance Library Careers.

Gender and Library Technology

Gender and Library Technology

This article is from our guest blog contributor, Dr. Sharon Whitfield, Electronic Resources and User Access Librarian at Rider University.

Designing library databases and websites that work for diverse populations is essential to ensuring equity in information literacy. Unfortunately, how differing genders interact with online information resources and the possibility of gender biases in their development has received almost no attention in the library technology community. Yet, there is research to support that there are significant gender differences in the use of library technology. Kim (2010) reports that gender differences may cause potential disparity in the benefits of using library website resources. Kim (2010) finds that female library users seek out resources that are easy to use, while male library users seek out resources that allow them to reach their research goal. Taylor and Dalal (2017) report gender differences in information literacy where males are more “confident” in their information seeking behavior than females. Greene and DeBacker (2004) discuss gender differences according to tasks and expectancies. Girls tend to have lower self-expectancies for success than boys on novel tasks but not on familiar tasks (Greene & DeBacker, 2004). This research indicates that library technologists need to take more action to mitigate gender differences in human-computer interaction. One solution would be to apply the GenderMag method (Gender Inclusiveness Magnifier), which aims to help software/website creators to identify gender-inclusive issues in their developed technologies.

The GenderMag method is a National Science Foundation-funded collaborative project, involving researchers at Oregon State University and Northern Arizona University.  The GenderMag method uses four personas that focus on five facets of gender differences: motivation, information processing styles, computer self-efficacy, risk aversion, and tinkering (Burnett et al., 2016). Using a cognitive walk-through approach, the GenderMag method identifies “gender inclusivity” bugs in software and web design.

Recent research by Cunnigham, Hinze and Nichols (2016) applied the GenderMag method to the Greenstone Digital Library software.  Their findings were that the Greenstone digital library software had some gender-inclusivity bugs, such as lack of feedback, lack of guided process, and marginalization issues (Cunningham et al., 2016).  By resolving these issues the Greenstone digital library software can be more gender inclusive and mitigate gender disparity.

Library technologists, who develop library websites, databases, and digital library platforms, need to consider gender differences so that library information resources work for diverse populations. Libraries and content providers that apply the GenderMag Method can work towards a more gender-inclusive online environment, which may result in more equity in information literacy. For more information about the GenderMag method and to find about their GM Tool (open source), go to:


Burnett, M., Peters, A., Hill, C., & Elarief, N. (2016). Finding gender-inclusiveness software issues with GenderMag: a field investigation. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2586-2598.

Cunningham, S. J., Hinze, A., & Nichols, D. M. (2016). Supporting gender-neutral digital library creation: A case study using the GenderMag Toolkit. Paper presented at the International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries, 45-50.

Greene, B. A., & DeBacker, T. K. (2004). Gender and orientations toward the future: Links to motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 16(2), 91-120.

Kim, Y. (2010). Gender role and the use of university library website resources: A social cognitive theory perspective. Journal of Information Science, 36(5), 603-617.

Taylor, A., & Dalal, H. A. (2017). Gender and information literacy: Evaluation of gender differences in a student survey of information sources. College & Research Libraries, 78(1), 90.

Interested in becoming a blog contributor for CoreNews? Learn more!