By: Hailey Temple

Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) faculty member Ruth Small received a $21,800 SPARKS! Ignition Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to redesign the Website Motivational Analyis Checklist (WebMAC).

Originally designed in 1999, WebMAC has seven Web site evaluation instruments used by teachers, librarians, and web designers. Due to great technology changes over the past several years, WebMAC users needed a free, automated and web-friendly tool to use in order to evaluate website content more effectively.

Working alongside Professor of Practice Marilyn Arnone, Information Management graduate student Ryan Backus and Library and Information Science graduate student Julianne Wise, the team will create, deploy, and evaluate a redesigned WebMAC to help students, educators, and school librarians critically evaluate web-based information resources for class assignments using new metrics and additional reporting functions.

Because the redesign idea was originally conceived by Backus and Wise, Small is providing these students with the financial support and opportunity to expand the project. “We are so excited about this grant because it allows us to reward students who show initiative and demonstrate their motivation and creativity,” says Small.

SPARKS! Ingition Grant projects are expected to test and evaluate specific innovations that will facilitate the ways in which libraries operate and the services they provide. With this one-year project, Small hopes to create a Web-friendly and interactive tool that will encompass a broader sense of evaluation. “We are thrilled to be able to revise and automate a valuable and popular Web resource evaluation instrument and make it freely available to librarians, educators, and others who will use it themselves or teach others to use it,” says Arnone.

Small is a founding director of the Center for Digital Literacy at Syracuse University, an interdisciplinary, collaborative research and development center partnering the iSchool, School of Education, and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, to understand the impact of information, technology and media literacies on children and adults and the impact of these literacies on people, organizations, and society. As the Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor and director of the iSchool’s nationally ranked school media program, she has received two national research awards for her scholarly work, the 2001 Carroll Preston Baber Research Award from the American Library Association and the 1997 Highsmith Research Award from the American Association of School Librarians.