If you missed my recent introductory post about this new SIG-USE mailing list initiative, you can check it out below (Message 1).
The first theme is “The Literature” of information behavior and today’s message focuses on a great resource, the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd edition (Bates & Maack, 2010), known for short as ELIS. [This ELIS is not to be confused with another beloved information behavior ELIS, “everyday life information seeking” coined by Reijo Savolainen (1995)].
Encyclopedias are designed as gateways to topics and literatures. I have personally slogged through many research projects only to learn later of a succinct and authoritative encyclopedia article that would have expedited my progress significantly. We are fortunate that one of the ELIS editors, Marcia J. Bates, was a pioneer of information behavior (teaching the first class on the subject at Berkeley in the 1970s); she has given information behavior generous treatment in ELIS. Dozens of leading information behavior scholars have made excellent contributions to this encyclopedia.
The articles in the ELIS print and online versions are arranged in alphabetical order by title, a traditional access strategy that scatters related topics. Fortunately, there is a separate “Topical Table of Contents” (TTOC) that restores the conceptual relationships between the articles (available as a PDF on Bates’ website and also available in both the print and online versions of ELIS). One can use the TTOC as a navigational device to the information sciences and information behavior, specifically. It would be time well spent for any newcomer to information behavior to peruse the ELIS TTOC just as one examines a road map to begin a journey. Here, using the ELIS TTOC, we will consider: Within the library and information sciences, where or how does information behavior fit?
Stepping back, the encyclopedia is structured around 11 topical categories: 1.) Information Disciplines and Professions, 2.) Concepts, Theories, Ideas, 3.) Research Areas, 4.) Institutions, 5.) Systems and Networks, 6.) Literatures, Genres, and Documents, 7.) Professional Services and Activities, 8.) People Using Cultural Resources, 9.) Organizations, 10.) National Cultural Institutions and Resources, and 11.) History.
There are 4 places where information behavior scholarship is concentrated:
Topical category 1, Information Disciplines and Professions, has a section on Information Science. There, Information Behavior is one of 6 major constituents of information science (alongside Information Architecture, Information Management, Information Retrieval Experimentation, Informetrics,and User Centered Design of Information Systems). This is where you can read the article Information Behavior (Bates) and related but narrower articles on Information Behavior Models (Wilson), Information Needs (Naumer & Fisher) and Information Practice (Fulton & Henefer). That should get you warmed up!
Topical category 2, Concepts, Theories, and Ideas, is the home of several major concerns and discoveries of information behavior research. Here you will find statements on the Information Search Process (ISP) Model (Kuhlthau), Information Overload (Tidline), Library Anxiety (Mizrachi), and Sense-Making (Dervin & Naumer), among others. Tip: read these before attempting to reconnoitre the subjects on your own.
In topical category 3, Research Specialties, a sub-section entitled Information Behavior and Searching serves as a banner over several research tributaries associated with information behavior, namely, Information Searching and Search Models (Xie), Information Use for Decision Making (Cokely, Schooler & Gigerenzer), Personal Information Management (Jones), and Reading and Reading Acquisition (Byrne), among others. There is also a well-stocked section on Information Retrieval, which is closely related to information behavior.
Finally, topical category 8, People Using Cultural Resources, showcases the prevalent socio-cultural approach to information behavior, also known as “information (seeking/use/behavior/practice) in context.” Here you can enjoy broad articles on the Internet and Public Library Use (Jorgensen) and Reading Interests (Sheldrick Ross). Narrower articles treat social worlds such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Information Needs (Keilty), Older Adults’ Information Needs and Behavior (Williamson & Asla), Students’ Information Needs and Behavior (Julien), and Youth Information Needs and Behavior (Gross), among others. There are also articles that address information behavior in various subject areas such as Area and Interdisciplinary Studies...(Westbrook), Arts...(Zack), Biological Information...(Shankar), Business Information...(Abels) and many more. [Doctoral students: set your sights on becoming an authority in an undocumented social world and then write the article for the next (4th) edition of ELIS.]
To close, within the library and information sciences ELIS casts
information behavior as:
* one of six major areas within the discipline of information science
* a unifying banner over a number of important concepts, models, and ideas
* a research specialty and site of several active research tributaries
* an organizing lens on information phenomena in social worlds
A tension underlies these multiple perspectives on information behavior within ELIS. Some represent the nomothetic (scientific) tradition that seeks abstractions and generalities, and others reflect an idiographic (humanistic) tradition that privileges texture and distinctions. Reading these articles altogether requires a nimble mind that can leap across the metatheories (or “isms”) of the information sciences.
All SIG-USErs: Your general comments on ELIS or this posting are
ELIS is just one way to see the literature of information behavior; complementary views will be presented in forthcoming posts. Up next: ARIS&T (Annual Review of Information Science & Technology) chapters on information behavior.
Bates, M. J. and Maack, M.N. (Eds.) (2010). Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd Ed. New York: CRC Press. (Also available in online form.) See also Introduction to ELIS, Topical Table of Contents (penultimate version), and Alphabetical Table of Contents.
Savolainen, R. (1995). Everyday life information seeking: approaching information seeking in the context of way of life. Library &Information Science Research, 17(3), 259-294.
Jenna Hartel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto