INF100 –Introduction to the Information Professions
This module aims to assist students use the online tools and begin
preparation for their first assessment task.
Welcome to your first session in Information Studies at Charles
Your journey to becoming a successful information professional
begins here as you learn to be a successful student.
You will develop and use a range of skills and processes that you
will continue to employ throughout your career.
This subject can be seen as a foundation on which to build your
success as an information professional.
Throughout the subject make sure to regularly check the
Announcements section of the Interact site for news and other
information I need to give you.
This module will introduce you to the learning tools and
strategies you will use in this subject.
Your first task is to introduce yourself to others in the subject via
the online forum.
You will also complete an online quiz to help you get ready for
your first assessment task through analysing an essay question.
Then, you will move onto the content modules:
The Information Profession
Information and Information Seekers
Social and Legal Issues
When you work through the modules is up to you.
Some people will move through the modules faster than others
which is fine.
HOWEVER, each of the first two modules have compulsory
online quizzes that contribute to the mark in Assessment Item 1.
It is highly recommended that you do the quizzes in sequence as
they have been designed to:
give you a chance to learn the material in chunks
demonstrate your understanding of each important chunk
by being able to get instant feedback online
give you a chance to earn marks incrementally rather than
doing an early assessment task worth a lot of marks
After mid-semester break there is much more flexibility in that
Using the Forum:
Analysing an Essay
you will be working towards the major essay (Assessment Item 2)
and do not have smaller compulsory sections.
Objective: Upon completion of this section, you should be able
to: contribute to the subject's online forum.
If this is your first experience with distance education, learning
the online tools can be overwhelming.
They are not hard to use though – as you will discover when you
do the first task.
You will go onto the online forum to introduce yourself to me and
to the other students.
Forums allow for structured conversations that are organised into
As this is your first subject, the headings have been created for
you in accordance with the activities where you are asked to
make a contribution.
If you want to add a new thread of discussion – or if you are not
sure how online forums work – please refer to the guidelines in
the Subject Outline.
Objective: Upon completion of this section, you should be able
to: describe a process by which to analyse assignment questions,
interpret assignment questions, complete the first compulsory
quiz in the subject based on analysing an essay question and
select a topic for the subject's first essay.
Academic writing (essays, reports, short answers, annotated
bibliographies, and so on) allows you to:
practice your information seeking and research skill
exercise your communication skills
show that you have understood the questions
demonstrate that you have read the relevant literature
practice and express your ability to think critically
Proficiency in these processes will not only help you to be a
successful student but they are also essential skills for an
Before you begin to write your response to an assessment task, it
is vital to discover what the assessment task requires you to do.
Not doing this, and answering a different question from the one
actually asked, is one of the most common reasons students fail
assignments or do poorly in them.
The following five-step procedure will help you to analyse and
interpret assessment tasks – both for assignments and in
The five steps are:
1. Read the question
2. Identify the topic/s
Read the Question:
Identify the Topic/s
and List Keywords:
3. Identify the focus
4. Determine the task
5. Determine the limits
This seems like a logical step but many people do not pay enough
attention to this vital task.
Read the question a few times carefully before you start to
analyse it and interpret the requirements of the assignment.
Some questions are written in a way that the content and structure
is contained within it.
Most assignments, however, will require you to analyse and
interpret the question(s) to determine both the required direction
and the depth of analysis.
Having read the question, the next step is to underline or highlight
the topic/s and keywords associated with the content of the
Brainstorm the topic too, so you can determine any synonyms or
other words associated with these keywords.
Let's analyse the sample assignment question below:
Write a 2000-word essay, evaluating the new and emerging roles
of information professionals in special libraries in the AsiaPacific region.
Here is the question again, with the keywords highlighted in
Write a 2000-word essay, evaluating the new and emerging roles
of information professionals in special libraries in the AsiaPacific region.
And below a range of synonyms is provided for each
Roles – jobs, careers, profession, tasks, positions,
functions, responsibilities etc.
Information professionals – librarians, records
managers, knowledge managers, archivists etc.
Special libraries – health libraries, corporate libraries etc.
Asia-Pacific – Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia etc.
Identify the Focus:
Having identified the keywords associated with the assignment
topic, you should now determine the actual focus of the
To answer the question successfully, you must centre your
attention on the focus of the assignment.
If you don't get the focus right, then you may write a good
response about the general topic, but miss actually answering the
If we consider the sample question again, the focus of the
Determine the Task:
question is outlined in red below:
Write a 2000-word essay, evaluating the new and emerging
roles of information professionals in special libraries in the AsiaPacific region.
In other words, you should NOT write a response that focuses on
traditional or historical roles of information professionals in the
given region, but rather on the new and emerging roles of
The task is what the assignment has actually asked you to do.
Directional words are verbs that state what you are to do and how
you are required to approach the question.
These directions may be part of the assignment question or may
be included in the assignment instructions.
In an Australian university setting, you will be expected to apply
a high level of critical thinking skills.
Some assignments will require you to list, describe, explain and
More often though, you will be expected to critically analyse,
evaluate, compare or discuss material.
Write a 2000-word essay, evaluating the new and emerging roles
of information professionals in special libraries in the AsiaPacific region.
Above you can see that the task in our sample question is to
So what is expected of you when you are asked to evaluate?
The Learning Skills Unit at Charles Sturt University has a very
useful table of Assignment Task Words. You may decide to print
this table out as a handy reference aid when you are analysing
other assignments during your course. Or you might simply
bookmark the link for easy reference:
Limits are placed on assignments to guide you.
It is important to identify these limitations before you begin
working on the assignment because they will help you to tailor
Common limitations are:
assignment due date or examination time limit
format of response (i.e., essay, report, bibliography etc.)
submission requirements (i.e., forum posting, via Easts
content restrictions such as time (i.e., since 1990) or
context (i.e., in the Asia-Pacific region etc.)
Going back to our sample question, what are the limitations
you can identify?
They are in red below. How many did you pick out correctly?
Write a 2000-word essay, evaluating the new and emerging roles
of information professionals in special libraries in the AsiaPacific region.
Other limitations would also be:
the due date,
the required referencing style,
presentation and submission requirements.
Module Two: The
Quiz 1: Referring to what you have just learnt, complete Quiz 1 –
Analysing an essay question in Test Centre. Remember: the
quizzes are compulsory and assessable.
This module explores the role of the modern information
Part of the reason you may have chosen this course is because
you wish to become a professional librarian.
But what is a librarian?
The Macquarie Dictionary (2005) tells us that a librarian is:
A person trained in librarianship
A person in charge of a library
This does not tell us much.
Let's consider the same dictionary’s definition of a library:
A place set apart to contain books and other literary material for
reading, study, or reference,
as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read of
Librarianship is defined as: A profession concerned with
organising collections of books and related materials in libraries
and with making these resources available to readers and others.
Maybe you do not see yourself as becoming a librarian?
Maybe you think librarianship is part of a wider information
profession, including others who work with information?
Some people who graduate from our Charles Sturt University
courses do not go on to work in libraries, or do not remain
working in libraries throughout their professional careers.
Instead, they forge careers in other aspects of the management of
information such as knowledge management.
In this module we shall explore the information profession and
the place of librarianship within it.
Upon completion of this section, you should be able to:
discuss what an information professional is;
list some of the common workplace types for information
list the main functions of each of these workplaces
Librarians, records managers, archivists, museum curators,
knowledge managers, information architects, information
managers – these are names for different kinds of information
They each have their own professional groups, and their own
professional education and training courses.
They each have their own set of practices and procedures for
handling, storing and providing access to their different formats
and resources, as well as how they help their users.
Historically, each has dealt with different kinds of information, in
different contexts and with different formats of information.
For example, originally librarians traditionally dealt with printed
materials such as books and archivists dealt with paper-based
files kept for legal or evidential purposes.
One Profession or Many:
Libraries were traditionally interested in developing collections of
printed books and materials and journals (or substitute forms of
them, such as microfilm) and in providing access to these
collections by cataloguing and by classification and physical
They also provided 'information' or reference services to assist
their clientele to use these collections independently.
For example, reference librarians would not usually tell a client
the answer to a query.
Rather, they would help him or her search effectively to find
resources suited to their needs.
Some libraries fulfil archival and museum-like functions.
For example, a research library preserves texts permanently for
possible future use.
In Australia, a State library is a research library.
Museums have traditionally stored and displayed collections of
physical, three-dimensional objects.
These included museums containing such items as: musical
instruments, costumes, furniture and household equipment.
There are others as well – such as maritime and railway
Archives were developed to collect the records that governments
and other organisations created as part of their day-to-day
These records were traditionally paper-based.
Because there has often been so many records produced,
archivists developed special techniques to decide what is useful to
keep, and what is not.
These appraisal techniques help archivists to decide what to
Archivists have highly developed practices for preservation of
Preservation – keeping material in good condition for the future –
has been a high priority for archivists.
Registries, like archives, were about handling an organisation's
The main difference is one of emphasis: registries tend to focus
on records that are still in quite frequent use in an organisation,
while archives focus on ones that are no longer in everyday or
frequent use (though obviously it is expected that archival records
will be at least of historical value).
During the last two decades there has been a major change in
what each of the professionals described above do.
One catalyst for this has been technological changes.
A huge rise in the general use of information and communication
technologies (ICTs) has caused a blurring between these
This has resulted in some people referring to them as being the
It is a good description if one considers that whatever they offer
their clients, librarians, museum curators, archivists and records
managers are interested in information – whether that be in
physical or digital format.
Perhaps you have heard of the term 'digital library'.
A digital library is a collection of resources that are developed
and maintained online.
The ways in which we develop digital libraries are changing
In other subjects in this course you will have the opportunity to
explore digital libraries further.
At this stage, it is enough that you consider the place of such
libraries in the future of the profession.
For example, in such a large geographical region such as
Australia, imagine the opportunities that such libraries can
provide to those who live in remote areas.
As many libraries exist as service providers, this should be
something information professionals are aware of.
Museums still collect objects on the same basis as before, what is
different is the display and educational aspect of museum
Digitising of information (a photograph of an ancient Greek vase,
for instance) allows that information to be displayed on the web
and be available to many more people than who could visit the
museum in person and look at the vase.
It is not just images that are available though.
Contextual and analytical information about an object, its history,
where it came from, and so on, can be made available more
In many cases, this additional information allows you to learn a
lot more about the object that would be learned by just visiting
and looking at the original.
Technological improvements bring challenges as well as benefits,
and information professionals must take these into consideration.
For example, the development of sophisticated audio equipment
has greatly enhanced the capacity of museums to collect historical
material, but, digitising cultural objects can cause enormous
Within Australian indigenous cultures, for example, there has
been some debate over who 'owns' such material, who has the
right to digitise it, and who has the right to access/use it.
Awareness of these challenges is, again, an issue information
professionals should be aware of.
The work of archivists has changed dramatically because of
More and more the records of transactions, that become archival
material later in their life, are being created by computers, and
stored only in digital format.
One of the main role of archivists is to preserve information, but
digital information has many preservation issues attached to it.
For example, many people will remember a floppy disk.
But, if you have purchased a computer recently, you will know
that it is unlikely to have a floppy drive on it.
This is called technological obsolescence.
This creates enormous preservation problems in relation to digital
The work of records managers has changed in much the same
way as that of archivists because of the amount of digital
communication and the extent to which the activities of
organisations are largely being recorded in digital format.
One of the main functions of the records manager is to assist the
users in his or her organisation to identify and access the records
Increasingly, records can be shared across an organisation’s
computer networks, even in organisations with offices in different
This raises issues such as security, privacy and confidentiality.
There are legal and other regulatory requirements about how long
certain classes of record are kept (for instance, the financial audit)
and whether records can be accessed.
In Australia, records management practices in the public sector
may be determined in part by instructions from federal or
Failure to comply can result in heavy fines (thus creating extra
demand for qualified records managers).
Why the Changes:
Many of the changes I have described can be attributed to
technology and the expansion of the information job market so
that librarians may end up working as publishers, booksellers,
database developers, indexers, website designers and so on.
With such changes come many new and stimulating challenges.
Being able to respond to these challenges is what you, as
information professionals, need to be able to do.
Choose ONE only of the tasks below to complete this
topic. Each task requires you to go to the wiki & add some
information to a particular page. Please try not to delete anyone
else's additions! If you don't know how to use the wiki, go to the
Interact wiki help pages. Remember that you only need to do 1
of the 3 tasks set out below but if you are especially keen of
course you can do more...!
Upon completion of this section, you should be able to:
Outline the four broad characteristics of the information
society, and describe them.
Define the role of information within each of the
following contexts: social, economic, organisational and
Discuss some of the jobs available to information
Find some information about social issues evolving from
the information society, including scholarly information
from CSU’s Library databases.
Demonstrate critical thinking skills by analysing the
Link search and critical thinking skills to compile a simple
Use search and critical thinking skills to complete two
assessable components in preparation for the first
assessment task – the minor essay.
Role of Information:
We often hear expressions such as ‘information age’,
‘information superhighway’ or ‘information revolution’ and
largely these are based on technological developments.
Information professionals, however, need a much broader
understanding of information and information flow in society
than that which is represented by these expressions.
Information work is not just about technology, but also about
people and their needs, about organisations and their information
practices, about social and cultural change, about government and
This is an age in which many claim profound social changes are
occurring as a result of changes in the means and processes by
which information flows.
What are the characteristics of this period, the information
society, that makes it different or unique, that separates it from
There are four broad characteristics that might help understand
the concept better:
This is an age in which the importance of information to
society is recognised to a greater degree than any previous
The information sector of the economy is larger than ever
before, and continues to grow in size relative to other
Information is growing in volume, in the variety of
sources from which it is available, and in the number of
formats in which it is available.
The role of technological change is far greater than ever
before, and technological convergence (the linking
together of computer technologies with communication
technologies) is having a dramatic impact.
Information is not a new invention of the information society, but
it has assumed a new and changing importance.
We can think of information as having four important roles, each
with its own inherent value:
Growth of the Information
In the societal context information is seen as important for a
It is argued by many that citizens who are well-informed are
better able to participate in democratic processes such as voting.
In economic terms we treat information both as a commodity –
something which can be bought and sold, traded, something
which has a price or an economic value and as a resource –
something to which we are entitled, of which there is an unlimited
supply, which is not consumed but which is reusable.
A copy of a book, for example, has a price for purchase, but once
purchased its contents can be read by many without cost to
One of the issues for information professionals is balancing the
commodity/resource equation in the provision of information
In organisations of all types (government, non-profit, commercial
and so on) there is increasing recognition of information as an
The sound management of corporate information is seen as
critical to the success of the organisation in meeting its
The growing area of knowledge management is part of this new
understanding and need to use technology in effective ways.
As individuals we have heightened expectations about the
availability of information and the speed with which we will be
able to get it.
We take for granted that our information needs can be met from
the vast range of sources.
The level of need influences the value we place on information.
For example, information on a particular health problem will be
more highly valued by someone dealing with that problem than
by others for whom it might have curiosity value only.
Modern economies are often called ‘information economies’ –
another label that emphasises the importance of information to all
areas of economic activity.
However, a separate information sector is identifiable and
measurable; it is the sector that produces information goods and
services and employs workers in specific information
Measuring the size of the information sector and its rate of
growth is rather difficult because of definitional problems:
What is an information occupation?
What is an information activity?
What is an information product or service?
Nevertheless it is easy to see that there are many products and
services, many new types of information work in what is called
the information industry.
One of the most visible impacts of each new development in
technology – paper, printing, electronic publishing – is an
increase in the volume of information generated.
Governments and businesses invest many of their resources into
managing the ever-growing rate of information – resulting in
substantial job growth.
While the value and volume of information has grown
enormously in the information society, it does not mean that
everyone enjoys the same benefits from it.
You may be familiar with terms such as information poor or the
These are simple terms for complex social issues that information
professionals must be aware of.
Social, cultural and legal perspectives will be covered in more
detail further in this subject.
The digital divide generally refers to the gap between those who
have ready access to current technologies and those who do not.
The term also infers social or educational inequalities as a result
of this division.
Typically the digital divide impacts most negatively on
underprivileged countries, illiterate populations and so on.
In Australia, telecommunications (and thus access to the internet
and other digital resources) have been an issue particularly for
remote and regional areas, and those from poor socio-economic
There have been many government reports and research into this
Being information poor generally refers to not having access to
the information that others are able to access.
Developing countries are usually labelled as information poor,
and thus vulnerable to exploitation, restricted economic growth
and so on.
International organisations such as the United Nations have
invested huge resources into addressing this issue.
The 10 tasks outlined below are designed to help you:
search for information effectively
read the information you find
be able to demonstrate critical thinking through
commentary about what you have found.
You will also learn about taking necessary bibliographic details
from the information you find.
While you are learning (or strengthening) these skills, you will
also be deepening your understanding about some of the many
social issues interconnected with information.
The set of tasks includes some of the compulsory online quizzes
and lots of reading so make sure you set aside significant time to
complete what is required of you here!
Task 1 – Work through the SmartSearch online tutorial in
Task 2 – Have a look at CSU Library's guide about scholarly
(peer-reviewed) articles. When writing an academic essay, you
should be aiming to use articles from good quality journals, and
this will usually be part of the marking criteria for an assignment.
Task 3 – Use this Search Strategy template to plan a search about
the digital divide either in Australia, a different country or
Note: Even though there are new technologies allowing multiple
ways of searching and might assist with aspects like truncation, it
is still very important as information professionals to understand
the elements of successful searching as you may be need to
provide input on improvements to vendors or participate in
developing appropriate retrieval systems if you take that route in
Task 4 – Do a database search on one of CSU’s Library
databases and locate a full-text, scholarly journal article on the
digital divide in the area you selected above.
Task 5 – Read through the information on critical thinking from
CSU’s Learning Skills unit.
Task 6 – Take notes on the item appropriate to your learning
style using text notes or visual/concept mapping notes concept
Task 7 –Go to the INF100 online forum. Briefly describe what
you read and what you thought about it. Your entry should go
under the appropriate heading in the forum (i.e., The Digital
Divide) and should only be a paragraph maximum length.
Task 8 – While the internet is often criticised for the amount of
rubbish it contains, it can also provide valuable information for
use in academic essays. Critical thinking and critical evaluation of
websites are important skills to use when choosing internet
To demonstrate your ability to evaluate relevant material, go
back to the Development Gateway. Select ONE resource (e.g. a
report). Read it, take notes, and write a one paragraph response
about the item. Go to the online forum and share what you have
read (and what you think about it) with the rest of us. The heading
in the forum will be Evaluation using the Development
Go to Test Centre and complete:
Quiz 2 – Searching for scholarly resources
Quiz 3 – Critical thinking, reading and note-taking.
Rate of Technological
Keeping track of your
Our Dynamic Professional
Task 10 – Finally, apply the same search processes to start
looking for scholarly information for the minor essay topic in
Assessment Item One.
The rate of change in technology is a particular characteristic of
the information age.
Think about the rate of technological change from when you were
a child to now.
What have you noticed the introduction of? Microwaves? Mobile
phones? Hybrid cars? Digital cameras? i-pods? What else can you
You will realise by now that studying via distance involves quite
a lot of reading!
Using annotated bibliographies is one way of keeping track of
what you read in an abbreviated format, particularly when you
have an assignment like your first one.
An annotated bibliography can also help you remember to record
and reference the bibliographic details of an item correctly.
Putting references in the correct bibliographic style is required in
academic work and is therefore a skill you must become familiar
In the next module there will be more information about
referencing, and there is a compulsory quiz on it.
Upon completion of this section, you should be able to:
Understand the role of professional associations
Describe the main functions and services of the Australian
Library and Information Association
First we need to look again at the changing nature of libraries and
the role of librarians in them.
Instead of the word ‘changes’, perhaps the term ‘continuing
development’ should be used to describe the ongoing changes
that see the roles of librarians evolving as well.
Some examples are:
The use of full-text electronic resources and information
Enhancements in library resource sharing, through
electronic catalogues and shared networks.
Use of commercial document delivery services.
Shared cataloguing through computer networks.
Electronic links with library suppliers.
The increasing educational role taken on by librarians in
helping clients access the huge amount of information
Many of the changes in the role/s of librarians are generated by
developments in the electronic delivery of information.
This is not the only reason for change though.
An example is the change in the corporate sector, as libraries in
companies (special libraries) struggle to prove their value to their
In some organisations, libraries have become cost centres – which
have to pay their way within the organisation, leasing space and
recovering costs by charging other divisions for their services.
In other organisations, libraries have disappeared altogether.
In some cases, librarians have been replaced by 'information
managers' with wider responsibilities than management of library
resources, or by 'information analysts' who are expected to play a
proactive role in the analysis of corporate information needs.
Information analysts require a sound background knowledge, for
example, of business processes and research methods.
Throughout this section, and the previous sections, the roles and
responsibilities of information professional have been changing
as the information society has developed.
These changes could be said to reflect:
The changing tools and methods used by information
professionals to meet the information needs of their
The diverse range of information products and services
information professionals (with wide occupational titles
and roles) fulfil
The diverse range of places where information
As these changes take place, new issues arise for information
professionals to deal with, and their professional responsibilities
This raises questions as:
Are we an information profession or information
What should be the role of professional associations?
What values underpin the work of the profession?
Does the information profession need a code of ethics?
Professional societies play an important role in assisting the
information professional to work in an effective, ethical and
There are several professional associations relevant to
information work in Australia, including general, specialised and
This is a common pattern for professions, and individual
professionals may belong to several associations.
Professional associations perform several functions:
They act as the 'governing body' of a profession; that is
the association controls entry through setting minimum
qualification requirements, establishing standards and
monitoring levels of competence in practice.
They represent the members collectively on matters to do
with their work and working conditions through industrial
activity, through lobbying, participation on government
bodies, and publications.
They actively seek to promote and develop the profession
through marketing and professional education activities.
In Australia, there are several professional associations relevant
to the broad definition of information work.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) acts
as an umbrella organisation.
Sometimes professionals join a couple of associations at the same
Maybe you are already a member of one, or more, yourself.
As a professional these tax-deductible organisations are very
valuable to us, and as a student you will always find interesting
reading about current topics being covered on the site so keep it
in mind for future reference.
Information professionals may also belong to a number of
international organisations that operate as global professional
Their concerns are focused more on broad issues and trends
affecting information work.
For example, there is the Association for Information Science and
There are also international professional associations established
to perform functions like the one in Australia.
For example, there is the Hong Kong Library Association.
The International Federation of Library Associations and
Institutions (IFLA) declares that it is:
the leading international body representing the interests of library
and information services and their users. It is the global voice of
the library and information profession.
IFLA is focused more on practitioners in libraries and aims to
represent the profession internationally and to develop and
promote guidelines for practice.
This module looks at how libraries and information centres
In this module you will look at information as a process:
You will start by looking at how information is created
Libraries acquire information, usually by purchasing
materials that contain information or by purchasing a
license to use information.
Once libraries have acquired the information, it needs to
be organised so that it can be efficiently located and
retrieved when it is needed.
Information is stored and you will learn about how this
Finally, in this module, you will be introduced to how
information in libraries is retrieved and matched up to
As we learnt in the introduction to this subject, librarians are only
one kind of information professional, and libraries are only one
kind of information service.
Librarians might work in any aspect of the information profession
as librarians, publishers, booksellers, database developers,
indexers, website developers or much more.
Nevertheless, the library context is being used to explain the
information processes covered in this module, before the broader
information context is used.
You will also undertake more quizzes that include academic skills
development to prepare you for academic essay writing.
Upon completion of this section, you should be able to:
Define the overall information process as relevant to the
library and information context
Outline each of the main processes in the library and
In the wider information environment, the information process
may be referred to as information being:
... created, distributed, used, maintained, disposed of ...
In the library and information context, however, the information
process could be described as follows:
the fundamental function of a library is to acquire, preserve,
and make available information in all its forms
Let's consider how this applies.
Libraries select the items containing information suitable to their
Items can be in physical formats, such as books, maps, CDs or
videos, or in digital form, such as an online database.
This selection function is a major part of what is referred to as
Libraries then acquire, that is, they order and then receive the
items, or perhaps the items are donated or received automatically
under legal deposit.
When the items arrive in the library they are organised in such a
way that they can be found fairly easily by the user.
That is, the information they contain becomes available to the
user; the user is able to access it.
Each item is organised by cataloguing it and classifying it.
This topic provides an overview of these operations, and they are
examined in more detail in other subjects in this course.
If the item is a physical object (books, CD, DVD, etc.) it will be
processed, covered or boxed if necessary, and labels attached.
It is then available for circulation to the user – that is, the user
can now borrow the item.
Of course some items, like reference material or rare books, may
not be available to borrow.
If the item is not in physical format (such as online database) then
processing may not necessary, although organising it is.
Increasingly, items may also be digitised as part of processing
(and later access) purposes.
The library items will need to be housed and cared for.
Preservation – activities and strategies aimed at keeping the
items as long as they are needed or wanted – is part of this aspect
of the information process.
The above is only one way of describing the information process
Another is described later in the section.
The same information resource may appear in a number of
For example, a conference 'paper/presentation' may appear:
in a set of proceedings published in book form;
in a set of proceedings published on a CD or DVD;
via live videostreaming from the conference itself; or
on an audio file downloadable to a MP3 or other audio
A journal may be published in electronic format and be available
on a remote database provided by a commercial vendor or on a
CD-ROM, but it may also be published in paper format, or made
available on the internet free of charge to anyone wishing to
Libraries provide access to information resources.
They may not be physically owned or located in a library.
Instead a library might lease or license access to them for a period
of time, or they could be owned by another library.
The business of the librarian is to help people make use of them.
Librarians then might:
Develop a collection of information resources, which will
meet many of the users' information enquiries, and help
users to locate relevant resources in the collection – this is
sometimes referred to as 'just-in-case' librarianship
(acquiring items in case they come in useful).
Help the user to search for relevant information resources
outside the library and to access selected resources (for
example, locating a useful journal article on a database) –
sometimes described as ‘just-in-time’ librarianship.
Librarianship is a dynamic profession.
Traditionally libraries did not usually create information
themselves, or have the responsibilities of publishers.
With rapid changes in technology, this is changing.
Think about, for example, how many academic libraries (in
Australia and elsewhere), now maintain their own digital
repositories where they provide open access to research published
by their staff.
If you have not seen a repository before, take a look at CSU's
institutional repository called CRO.
Libraries are, however, part of the information distribution chain,
because they purchase or license access to information.
They are also very important players in the information processes
that follow creation and distribution.
They acquire information through purchase or licensing, and then
make it available to users.
You will learn more about this in the next section on collection
You already know that libraries are only one kind of information
Information professionals work in a wide range of information
Other environments might be archives, or museums, record
keepers in organisations and so on.
In many non-library information environments, such as an
organisation's information records on staff, the information is
created by the organisation.
Think about how a doctor's office may have patient records about
you; how many forms you submit to a government when you
apply for a visa to travel to another country and so on.
What happens with this information?
If you look at any large company's website you will often find
that other significant information can be found such as the history
of the company, or annual reports.
It should be noted though that distribution or access to that
information may be limited or restricted, influenced by laws such
as privacy for example.
We will look at these issues later in the subject.
One of the topics you can choose for the first essay is to do with
informal, digital means of creating and distributing information
and how it might affect organisations like libraries.
Self-publishing was rare traditionally because of enormous costs,
privilege and so on.
Some people circumvented this through vanity publishing where
they paid to get their information published.
Now, with the rapid growth of Web 2.0 and other technologies,
virtually anyone who has access to a computer and the Internet
In the first essay you might still be wondering what is meant by
informal, digital means?
Think here of things like blogs, wikis, youtube and how these
represent a large portion of information.
For those going to undertake this essay, these will be useful
search terms for you to consider.
With all of the vast and increasing amounts of information being
created and being made available (both in print and digitally), it is
not feasible for even the largest libraries to attempt to collect all
relevant published information resources.
Despite this, most libraries do develop collections of information
resources relevant to the needs of their users or clients.
The processes by which they do this are sometimes grouped
together under the general heading of collection management.
(Note: Many information organisational roles may not involve
collection development in this sense as the items they have
carriage of may be items that are part of their job without being
planned or purchased - for example, think of knowledge manager
where the collection largely comprises the items generated within
The purpose of collection management is to provide materials
that serve the library's basic objectives.
Each type of library – academic, public, school, or special – has a
set of specific objectives that support the user's activities.
Because few libraries have adequate funds to buy all the materials
needed, a selection process is applied to decide which materials
will receive the highest priority.
Selection policies help reduce some of the problems.
They often provide criteria for selecting different categories of
For example, a public library that serves a large number of older
users may have criteria or guidelines for selecting large print
fiction, or more audio books, to meet the requirements of these
older users (a generalisation but an example).
Acquisitions is the name for the process of getting hold of items
to add to a library's collection.
After the selection process identifies an item to be added to the
collection, an order for this item is typically:
verified – checked to see whether there are copies of the item
already held, or on order; whether the bibliographic details are
correct; and whether the resource is available for purchase).
Then the item is:
ordered – online or in print form;
received and paid for – this involves checking that the
correct number of items has been received; recording date
of receipt; authorising payment for items received; and
adjusting fund accounts.
Processing is what happens to an item when it is added to the
It may be, for example, that a barcode is added to an item (if it
hasn't been added by the vendor).
There are a large and rapidly growing number of electronic
publications, most of them available online for a fee.
The increasing quantity of digital material is changing the ways
information is distributed, how users seek information, and how
libraries acquire information.
Many of the electronic information resources accessed by
libraries on behalf of their users are provided by large database
vendor companies such as Ovid.
All of this will be a reason for rapid change in library practice.
You are part of this changing environment!
It is also worth noting that there is a move towards digitising
many printed information resources.
This has been done for many reasons such as increasing access
opportunities and preservation.
However, it should be noted that there are many issues (including
cultural perspectives) that information professionals need to be
aware of for such practice.
We will explore some of these later.
Organising information can take various forms by information
These are typically:
intellectual organisation (such as organising by subject
and cataloguing or metadata)
Any information centre (even a one person library) has to be
efficient in the way it organises its information resources (that is,
the items in its collection).
If it is not efficient, then chaos will result.
This is particularly true as the amalgamation of print and
electronic resources in many libraries and information
There are several ways in which information resources could be
physically arranged, but probably the most familiar to you, as a
library user, would be by:
Author, for example, for shelving fiction books in a public
Language, which is particularly helpful in a multicultural
Format, which may be necessary where storage
requirements for different categories of material are
substantially different (e.g., in the case of large maps,
which may be stored in special cabinets, or newspaper
clippings, which may be stored in vertical files);
Subject, which is the most common type of arrangement
in the case of non-fiction collections
With the growth in the number of digital resources, great
attention has been placed on the use of space in physical libraries
to best reflect the changing needs of users.
For example, many academic libraries have large areas dedicated
to group work and technology hubs where increasing numbers of
computers and/or power and charger ports are available for
people to use mobile technologies.
Have a look at this section on Space at the University of
Libraries could simply arrange resources in categories that make
sense to users, as many bookshops do, with categories like
Science fiction, Thrillers, Cookery, Gardening, Self-help and so
Some public libraries use broad subject categories to organise
their non-fiction collections.
Most libraries however use a more detailed form of subject
arrangement called classification.
This means organising similar things together.
Zoologists, for example, class together marsupials, an order of
animals which carry their young in a pouch and which includes
species such as kangaroo and wallaby.
Bibliographic classification also involves organising like things
(that is, things which are similar) together, in order that users can
find related material together on the shelves.
You have just learned that libraries organise their collections
physically to make them useful and accessible, and that items can
be arranged by grouping subjects together.
Another way in which libraries help users to access collections is
by cataloguing their collections.
A common kind of catalogue is the online catalogue (often called
an OPAC – online public access catalogue).
A catalogue is an information retrieval tool that lists the
information resources held by a library or a library network.
Catalogues tell the user whether or not an appropriate resource is
held in the collection, give a description of it, and indicate where
to find it.
Each listing in the catalogue, called an entry or record, represents
a particular resource.
The catalogue record not only identifies and describes a particular
item, but also usually tells you where to find an item on the
shelves (or elsewhere).
With the rise of Web 2.0 technologies, many library catalogues
incorporate images and other features that were previously not
available to assist users.
There are three main processes involved in the cataloguing
Isolating those attributes or data elements which help to
identify and describe an information resource.
Combining those attributes in a record (a representation of
Providing access points to enable users to find the record.
Simple data elements that are commonly used to describe a
resource include author, date, title, edition, call number and so on.
Users may search for an item on any of these elements.
Cataloguing rules are complicated.
It takes considerable expertise and time to catalogue information
As a result, for more than one hundred years libraries have been
sharing the time, effort and cost of developing catalogues.
Today, many libraries carry out copy cataloguing, that is, using
catalogue records that have been created elsewhere.
These are found on very large databases of catalogue records,
which libraries get access to through computer networks.
In Australia, the most common databases used for copy
cataloguing are Libraries Australia (operated by the National
Library of Australia) and SCIS (Schools Cataloguing Information
Service) for school libraries.
Many other databases of catalogue records exist.
Another example is OCLC, which started out as a cooperative
network in the United States, but is now widely used in other
countries including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Japan.
One of the more recent developments about describing and
organising materials is to do with increased participation by users
to tag or otherwise identify an item using Web 2.0 technologies.
Librarians have recognised for many years that traditional
description and organisation can create a lot of confusion for
Web 2.0 technologies have enabled resources to be more easily
related to, and related with, other items that the user might find
We've already talked about the growth in digital libraries.
Even within many non-digital libraries, the growth of online
information in library and information collections has seen the
emergence of new ways of cataloguing and classification.
One of these developments, often being used in conjunction with
'traditional' organisation methods is metadata.
Very simply put, metadata is data about data and in the library
and information context it is about analysing and describing
online information in order to help users find resources.
Another very significant role of metadata is preserving online
information for future access.
This is a major issue that we have already touched upon earlier.
Let's have a look at how it works. In a traditional organisation
system, resources might be classified using the Dewey Decimal
Classification system so a book on drought-tolerant plants is
likely to be around the subject number 635.955 (varying due to
region and so on). In the library catalogue, there will be a record
that may use the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2 is
the current version).
Have you heard of these?
If not, search for the AACR2 website where you can read
A replacement for AACR2 called RDA (Resource Description
and Access) is a major development in information
organisation. To read more about this you might want to take a
look at the RDA section of the National Library of Australia.
In regards to this item then a library user might :
visit a library and search on its catalogue because he/she is
interested in planting a new garden that is drought-tolerant
(a major issue for Australian gardeners as many of you
see a book available on the catalogue, and be able to see
related topic areas, and the classification number which is
used to organise the book on the shelves
go to the shelves at that number and look and/or borrow
These and other cataloguing and classification numbers worked
well for physical items.
The use of metadata is also about tapping into the searching
psyche of current users.
For example, as I mentioned earlier, librarians themselves have
seriously questioned whether the traditional methods of
organising information are really methods that people think of
when they are looking for something.
Today, the use of Amazon, for example, is a common way that
people search for information about particular books.
How frequent is the expression 'Google it' today? Very – and
people do not need to necessarily understand a particular 'system'
to access it.
They follow links within items to lead them to other items too.
So, how does this work – and why use it?
DC Metadata is partly about describing a resource (keeping in
mind that the system was originally designed for use with online
resources) so that it can be easily located.
There are several areas of description that a librarian would look
at and include in their system if they were using DC Metadata.
These areas are known as the Dublin Core elements.
They include things like Title, Creator, Publisher and so on.
As it is a relatively new scheme, it is still being amended and
developed so the website is the best place to keep track of
changes and in a later subject you will explore metadata further.
If you have a keen interest in the organisation of information then
I suggest you access the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative site.
The subject INF209 gives you a much more detailed look into
describing and analysing resources too.
It is not enough to just collect and organise resources.
There has to be some provision for storing it safely so that it will
be available to users for as long into the future as there is likely to
be a need for it (which may be hours or centuries, depending on
the material and the situation).
Storage is an important consideration in information work, and
any library manager will tell you that a lot of time and
funding are absorbed by matters relating to storage.
What an information resource is made from, both physically and
chemically, is one significant factor which affects how
information is stored and how long it will remain useable.
Let's take the example of a photograph.
If the temperature and/or humidity in which it is stored get too
high, the material the photograph is made up of reacts chemically
and starts to deteriorate.
First the colours will fade, then the image could disappear
The same is true for all information resources, with varying
degrees of susceptibility.
Paper is relatively stable and strong, except for some paper on
which newspapers are printed, so books will usually last a long
time and withstand a lot of handling.
At the other end of the susceptibility spectrum, digital
information is very vulnerable.
Part of this is because of how easily the data can be 'lost' – say in
a system failure – and because of the rapid changes in technology
that make previous data difficult to access with obsolete
Some of you might be asking What does it mean when we talk
about information in the cloud?
De Saulle (2012) demystifies the concept by explaining that it is
like having back-up storage in off-site servers.
These days, provision of such services (as with Dropbox and
SugarSynch, for example) represent big business.
This is not surprising given that the rapid growth in technologies
and the complexity of managing huge data and information sets
that information professionals typically deal with.
All storage solutions have inherent problems and the same goes
with cloud storage.
As this is a topic that can be selected for the first assignment, I
want you to explore the area further if you are interested in what
these issues might be.
Note – you have already practised searching for academic
resources as part of the quizzes in preparation for your minor
essay. In this next activity you will use these skills again, and also
practise your academic writing skills. If you are returning to study
after some time, or beginning study at Australian university level,
you would be wise to consult your local library, or the CSU
Library, for an appropriate academic writing skills book (there are
many electronic books available on this topic from CSU Library).
As part of this final section on information processes, you will
also complete the final compulsory quiz (Quiz 5) which is about
referencing your academic work.
You will have gained an introduction to working in the
information professions and will also be well prepared for
academic success at this University.
The word retrieved is being used in this topic in a broad sense to
mean how information is matched to the user, and also how
information is provided to the user.
Some of you may already work in libraries and/or be familliar
with using retrieval tools.
What tools do you use to retrieve the information that is available
in the library's information resources?
The library catalogue is the most obvious example of an
information retrieval tool you will use, but there are more.
Other common information retrieval tools used in the library
Bibliographies – which also list information resources.
Indexes – which list information resources but which, like
bibliographies (and unlike catalogues), are not limited to
listing resources belonging to a particular library or library
network. An index, unlike a bibliography, usually focuses
on parts of volumes, particularly articles published in
magazines and journals.
Abstracting services – these are like indexes in generally
focusing on articles published in magazines and journals,
but which provide short summaries (abstracts) of the
articles they list. Like indexes, there has been a move
towards electronic provision of abstracting services.
Catalogues are typically produced by libraries.
The other three types of information tool are generally published
by commercial organisations or scholarly associations.
All four are produced in a variety of different formats: paperbased, microform, CD-ROM and online.
In recent times there has been a move towards electronic versions
of the above.
Online library databases – such as those in the Charles Sturt
University Library – are a good example.
Large companies, such as OVID and PROQUEST, are known as
vendors in the library environment, and provide many of the
The information stored on these databases has probably not been
produced by the vendors themselves.
Usually the vendors are quite distinct from the producers.
Search facilities available online provide the user with a range of
powerful search facilities.
Where information retrieval tools in print were quite restrictive,
and sometimes required the user to consult more than one
volume, online information retrievals usually enable a user to
search options such as keyword, author, title and even the full text
of an item.
The term document delivery refers to the process of obtaining an
information resource or a copy of a particular information
resource that is not available within a particular library.
Because even the largest library can collect only a small
proportion of the world's published information resources,
libraries make considerable use of each other's information
resources, not to mention those of other information services.
Users may request a library to obtain a scanned copy of a journal
article or a conference paper, for example.
Inter-library lending is the name used for one library providing
an information resource in its collection, to another which does
not have that information resource – for example, a book.
Reciprocal borrowing is an alternative to both document delivery
or interlibrary lending.
This means that users of one library may have permission to
borrow from another library.
Sometimes a library – or individual – might use a commercial
document delivery service.
These types of services incur a fee.
Online vendors often provide these services.
The Wider Context:
Information professionals need to be aware that while libraries
are major players in the provision of information retrieval and
document delivery services, they are not the only players.
Continually they have to look for ways to improve their services
or they could quickly lose their position as major information
The increase in electronic delivery is both a threat and an
opportunity for libraries.
The traditional tools, systems and practices applied to retrieving
information in collections of information resources are changing.
As already noted in this module, one major reason is that
information centres now provide electronic access to information
which is not owned by the information centre, but which is of
value to their users.
The increasing significance of the internet in information
provision has meant that information retrieval tools developed to
handle digital information resources, such as full-text retrieval
tools, image and sound retrieval tools, and internet search
engines, are becoming more common.
Let's look at some of these.
Many of us are becoming more used to searching the full text of
information resources in digital form.
When carrying out full-text searching we are searching on every
word in the document, or set of documents, that we are searching
(except 'stop-words' like a, an, the, which are ignored).
This means the result of the search provides us with all
occurrences of the words or phrase on which we have searched in
the document or set of documents.
This is potentially very helpful to the user, but it also has some
We are likely to retrieve documents which do mention the word
or phrase somewhere, but which are not really relevant to the
topic that interests us.
Another problem is that of terminology.
There are likely to be several words meaning the same as the
words used by the author, and this can lead to unhelpful results.
If we think of library terminology, it is not completely
Some librarians, for example, use the term weeding to refer to the
removal of damaged, obsolete, or redundant material from their
Others prefer the terms deselection or stock relegation.
There are an increasing number of image and sound information
resources available in libraries and other information centres.
New technologies are constantly developing which means that so
is the range and format of these resources.
Retrieval tools, often emanating from commercial enterprises, are
also constantly evolving.
The internet is a major information retrieval tool.
Some would say it is another development that offers users
previously unimagined information retrieval potential.
Others would say it is a competitor for libraries.
These perspectives are probably both true.
in a Wider Context:
Certainly a massive amount of information is available to more
people today than it ever was in previous ages.
That does not mean that all information is available via the
internet, however (despite some popular opinion otherwise)!
As information professionals you will likely experience the
internet in several ways – as a user, as an observer of users who
use it in your libraries or information centres, or as an educator of
users of the internet.
You are the information professionals of the future and will thus
be influential in determining how libraries – and other
information centres – will assist users best make use of this
powerful retrieval tool.
In this section we have looked closely at how information is
managed in a traditional through to more modern library
As we've already discovered though, the "information profession"
can encompass other areas such as data management and
Increasingly the expertise of "librarians" is being seen as valuable
to these growing fields.
Much of how information processes occur in these environments
will vary widely according to their particular context.
For example, possibly the role is to manage the corporate
knowledge of a major international company.
An information professional may therefore be required to:
ascertain where the knowledge exists (and where/how it is
recorded, and if that is still accessible)
design an information system (or apply an existing model)
for how that knowledge is best captured and organised for
the specific user requirements of that company
put that knowledge into the system
maintain that system
train users how to retrieve information as appropriate
manage ongoing changes in system requirements etc.etc.
Can you see how the processes are similar but the needs of the
particular organisation and its users dictates what those processes
might look like and be performed?
In cases, like in this job ad from 2010, the company was looking
for someone with strong indexing and abstracting skills.
In this instance, the processes the information professional would
be involved with is creation from existing material and retrieval
because the better an item is abstracted and indexed, the more
likely it will be used.
All of this section has hopefully given you an idea about what is
involved in being an information professional and the fantastic
opportunities we have available to us today in such an exciting
I look forward to reading your essays; happy studying!
In the first module of this subject it was stated that libraries and
information organisations can function well only if they are
relevant to their context.
An important part of this context is users.
We can put together a collection of books and other information
resources, maybe house them physically (or provide them
digitally) and call it a library (or cybrary – or other similar name).
But there is another very significant element of course – users!
Some people prefer the term client while others identify this as a
commercial – not service-based term.
Whatever term you prefer, this module is all about the people
who interact with us as information professionals.
The module includes an introduction to how people seek
information, how communication between people takes place, the
barriers people face in seeking information, what 'information
literacy' means, and the role of information professionals in
offering education, services and systems oriented to assisting
Upon completion of this module, you should be able to:
Outline the role people/users play in a library and
Define and discuss information literacy
Define and discuss information seeking
Discuss how library and information professionals might
develop user-friendly systems for the environments they
Information, Libraries Information is considered to be extremely important in modern
society, to the extent that we speak of the information society.
As more and more information is generated, however, people are
overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that is
In our role as information professionals, we must develop a
deeper understanding of information acquisition, transmission
and use, to develop user-oriented and friendly systems, services
The key phrase is user-oriented systems, services and products.
In order to know how to develop these, or to modify existing ones
to become more user-oriented, we need to know how our users
are experiencing them.
It is unrealistic to expect that any one system, service or product
is perfect or is ever likely to be perfect.
We can only seek to continually improve them.
Understanding how people use information may be helped by
visualising how information is communicated.
Models of communication enable us to analyse each stage of the
process in becoming informed.
Information scientists have been developing increasingly more
complex models of communication since Shannon and Weaver's
mathematical model was expounded in 1948.
Shannon and Weaver considered that communication has the
Source transmitter - message or signal - channel - receiver destination noise (any interruption to the receipt of the message).
These early models are very simplistic.
There are many things they do not take account of, such as the
information environment of the situation, feedback to the sender,
the differences between the world view of the sender and the
recipient, the influence of other people on the communication
process, the need to evaluate the information being received, and
the usefulness of the information received.
The information-seeking behaviour of people comprises a
significant field of research in the library and information
There is some dispute over whether this field is, or should be,
distinct from the information literacy research field which also
includes studies in how users seek information.
This debate is not for you to engage with at this point in time
It is just important to be aware that the role of people in using the
information libraries manage is of paramount importance to all
information professionals for if we do not understand this, our
organisation of materials, and access provision to them, cannot be
achieved with success.
It is possible that you have already come across the term
'information literacy' in your study of library and information
Some of you may even be involved in delivering information
literacy sessions in your own organisations.
The opportunities and benefits associated with an information
literate populace includes lifelong learning, creation of new
knowledge, informed citizens, social inclusion and active
participation in the workplace.
Enabling, or assisting, people to become information literate is a
primary role and issue for librarians in the information age.
In 2003, a meeting of information literacy experts was held in
The outcome of this meeting was the Prague Declaration Towards
an Information Literate Society.
This declaration proposed the following base information literacy
The creation of an Information Society is key to social,
cultural and economic development of nations and
communities, institutions and individuals in the 21st
century and beyond.
Information Literacy encompasses knowledge of one's
information concerns and needs, and the ability to
identify, locate, evaluate, organize and effectively create,
use and communicate information to address issues or
problems at hand; it is a prerequisite for participating
effectively in the Information Society, and is part of the
basic human right of lifelong learning.
Information Literacy, in conjunction with access to
essential information and effective use of information and
communication technologies, plays a leading role in
reducing the inequities within and among countries and
peoples, and in promoting tolerance and mutual
understanding through information use in multicultural
and multilingual contexts.
Governments should develop strong interdisciplinary
programs to promote Information Literacy nationwide as a
necesary step in closing the digital divide through the
creation of an information literate citizenry, an effective
civil society and a competitive workforce.
Information Literacy is a concern to all sectors of society
and should be tailored by each to its specific needs and
Information Literacy should be an integral part of
Education for All, which can contribute critically to the
achievement of the United Nations Millenium
Development Goals, and respect for the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. (Source:
The recognition of information literacy as contributing to the
elimination of social, political and economic inequities sits well
with the role of information professionals in all sectors, which is
why information literacy education is now considered a primary
role for them.
We all continually seek and use information.
However, the way we seek information (our information-seeking
behaviour) differs and our information needs also differ.
This can depend on many factors:
the situation (and context)
our role in society
the availability of information
our personal experience
our reasons for requiring the information
our ability to synthesise and apply the information
At any one period in our lives, we are engaged in multiple roles
that require different types of information to solve problems, for
developing intellectual interests, for pleasure or recreation and to
complete tasks .
No person exists in isolation, and in our daily life we inhabit a
number of parallel communities, such as our family, the local
community, our place of work, the educational institution at
which we are enrolled, and recreational bodies and groups.
Our information needs and behaviour differ according to the
community we are operating in.
At various stages in one day, we also take on different roles.
We may be:
a parent, child, or sibling
a traveller or visitor
an employer or employee
a student or a teacher
a seller or a buyer
Examining the concept of information need becomes complex
because information needs are dependent on many factors.
Some of these factors are:
our current level of knowledge about the subject
our life experiences
our ability to recognise personal information needs
our information-seeking skills
our ability to synthesise information
IL in Context:
IL and Lifelong Learning:
The concept of information literacy is closely connected to the
concept of lifelong learning, which is the ability to continue
learning throughout life.
More than a decade ago, Margaret Butterworth (1996, p.59)
stated that information literacy is:
A prerequisite for participatory citizenship.
Required for the production of new knowledge which
assists with economic development.
Needed to address global problems.
The development of information literacy skills is an essential
element in lifelong learning.
In relation to graduate students, these authors state that:
access to and critical use of information is absolutely vital to
lifelong learning, and accordingly no graduate – indeed no person
– can be judged educated unless he or she is information literate
(Candy, Crebert & O'Leary, 1994, p. xiii).
Psychological, Social and
Cultural Perspectives on
Information literacy research in each of these areas is minimal.
It should be obvious however that particularly in light of all the
material you have covered in the other sections of this subject,
that these are extremely important areas for information
professionals to understand.
Research into this area is still in its infancy.
In 2002, Cheuk describes information literacy as:
a set of abilities for employees to recognise when information is
needed and to locate, evaluate, organise and use information
effectively, as well as the abilities to create, package and present
information effectively to the intended audience.
Lloyd's 2004 research into firefighters' experiences with
information, defines an information literate person as having:
a deep awareness, connection and fluency with the information
environment. ... Information literate people are engaged, enabled,
enriched and embodied by social, procedural and physical
information that constitutes an information universe. Information
literacy is a way of knowing that universe (Lloyd 2004, pp.222223).
Lloyd's definition does not characterise information literacy as a
set of skills; instead it conceptualises the nature of information
literacy and connects it with knowing in context.
In recent years, much discussion has taken place about strategies
for developing information literacy.
The importance of individuals needing a new level of information
literacy for the modern world is emphasised by politicians,
educators, employers and information professionals.
Refer, for example, to the Australian Library and Information
Association's policy Statement on Information Literacy for all
All areas of librarianship – school, public, academic, corporate –
have involved themselves in the debate about the who, what, how
and where of information literacy.
Some of this debate has concentrated on a need to educate the
community in the use of the technology to access information
In this respect, information literacy is strongly connected with
ICT (information and communication technologies) literacy.
IL in Education:
Regardless of the context, the role of librarians in facilitating
people's access to information, enabling the development of ICT
skills in the context of information seeking and assisting people to
think critically about information is central to the educational
function of all librarians.
Libraries have long held a role in information literacy education.
Originally called bibliographic instruction, it has also been called
reader education, user education, and more recently information
Information literacy education can involve in-depth reference
guidance, one-on-one formal instruction, group instruction or
integration into academic curricula at all levels of education.
Information literacy education can occur face to face, or
electronically (online tutorials, for instance).
Increasingly, organisations use Web 2.0 or other means
of assisting people in using information effectively.
The content of information literacy education can encompass
various –usually outcomes-based instruction – such as how to:
define an information need;
locate a particular resource or type of resource;
locate scholarly material in a particular discipline;
track citations, or follow the development of a piece of
use a particular resource;
evaluate an information resource – perhaps in terms of its
relation to the person's information need, not necessarily
the scholarly quality of a resource;
cite information sources correctly; and
organise or manage information.
To support their training and educational role, librarians also
create print and electronic guides to the library or information
service, repeating some of the information provided on signs and
expanding or improving their ease of use.
These may be include: guides about specific information retrieval
tools, guides to loans policies, library layouts and so on.
In an environment of accreditation frameworks, one challenge
that is particularly facing some librarians is 'proving' their value
or measuring their 'success' in information literacy education.
This is not always easy because while someone can
acknowledge that they have learnt a skill such as citing an
information resource, other aspects such as organising
information effectively are not as straightforward.
Information professionals also need to keep in mind that if we are
to broaden our understanding of the role of information
professionals in information literacy education, we also need to
consider that the focus on skills is perhaps understandable given
that these are the areas in which librarians' expertise is most
We must not forget though that information literacy is a much
broader phenomena that can encompass people's experiences with
information literacy, which will vary between situations and
specific (cultural, workplace or other) contexts.
While some will argue that we cannot or should not concern
ourselves with these issues – and/or that they may fall outside the
domain of librarians – others, such as those in public libraries,
will say that information professionals have a unique, and
significant contribution to make in society.
Lloyd (2004 ) said:
We educate and empower our clients to become information
literate. We understand information seeking behaviour and are
able to respond to the information needs of people. We are
educators who enable information seekers to become engaged
with their information environments and the information systems
which are created for them by us.
If, as an information professional, you agree with this then you
are probably going to agree that information professionals must
play an active role in providing information literacy education.
A lot of research has been carried out into how people use
By the 1980s, researchers were also starting to look at how people
The emphasis changed from concentrating on providing more and
better information, to the realisation that if the way people prefer
to seek information is ignored then information professionals may
not provide an effective information retrieval systems.
Understanding information-seeking behaviour allows information
professionals to focus on developing client-centred services.
Defining information-seeking behaviour is complex, and there are
many different theories and approaches.
We will look at some of them here, to give you a flavour of the
different theories and approaches and alert you to their
(This subject is only an introduction to library and information
work. You will study more about information-seeking behaviour
in other subjects.)
One commonly accepted approach used in studies of information
thinking is behavioural analysis.
The behavioural approach studies the influence of social, cultural
and personal influences on information seeking.
Some of the variables identified by this approach are:
Cultural systems – the individual or group's view of the
Social systems – the particular social, economic,
geographic, and political environment in which the
individual or group operates.
Personal systems – the internal information processing
ability, the motivation to seek information, and the
personal knowledge base.
We all exist in a cultural system based on religious, community,
national or ethnic norms.
Our view of the world is influenced by local, regional and
Information-seeking behaviour will also be influenced by culture.
For example, some information may be taboo and restricted to
certain elements in society.
(As an example, some traditional knowledge of the Australian
Aboriginal people is clearly divided into men's knowledge and
The socioeconomic status, level of education, and level of
community involvement of individuals have been found to relate
directly to their ability to acquire information successfully.
For example, people who are better educated tend to be more
successful in acquiring information.
The particular role played by an individual in an organisational
community is also important.
Managers in a business not only have a greater need of a broader
perspective about the organisation, but also have greater access
through the pool of organisational knowledge and are more
successful in acquiring information.
Research is showing that people engaged in research and
decision-making have more interesting, and varied need for
information than people in administrative positions.
The geographic location of an individual may also influence their
ability to acquire information successfully.
Geographical or physical isolation, lack of knowledge about
sources, poor delivery systems and inadequate informationseeking skills, may all result in ineffective information seeking.
Personal knowledge depends on life and work experiences.
The level of prior knowledge you have and your experiences in
the past will always play a major role in your information-seeking
The knowledge stored in our brains is often called tacit
Many other factors influence information-seeking behaviour.
The ability to retrieve information – the ability to find the
kind of information you need, at the time you need it.
The ability to integrate information – (the ability to
integrate and process information affects how successfully
individuals seek and use information.
Information relevance, value and use – information value
can be determined by how relevant and useful the
information required is to the information seeker - for
example, if the information required leads to better
decision-making, then its value increases.
Reasons for seeking information – another useful way of
thinking about information seeking is to focus on why the
information is sought. Brenda Dervin - a leading
information seeking researcher - suggests five reasons are
seeking information: to make a decision, to become
informed, to go around a barrier, to cope with a problem,
and to become reconciled to a situation.
Access to, and availability of, sought information – the
environment in which a person exists influences their
ability to access information.
The process of acquiring information can be passive or active,
depending on the need and the level of motivation to seek
Similar channels may be used, but the information-seeking
behaviour will differ.
The information seeker makes choices about the best channels
and providers, based on his or her own knowledge base.
The passive information acquirer stumbles upon the information,
without purposefully seeking it.
When an individual initiates action to acquire information, then
that individual is more likely to absorb and used information.
Perceived need is the greatest motivator, and people will be more
persistent if they are motivated to seek a solution to a problem.
It is also known that people have a hierarchy of preferred
methods of acquiring information.
If the subject matter is new to them, people prefer to take an oral
approach and will seek information from friends, family,
neighbours, fellow workers, supervisors and so on (that is, the
easiest sources to access) before seeking further afield.
If this method is unsuccessful, they will then seek assistance from
specialists in the subject area.
Only when the information is unavailable through other sources
will people use documentary records (written sources) and use
extended information networks.
You need to keep in mind, however, that this is not the only way
people will seek information; again factors such as cultural
context are very important.
Another physical factor, which is known to affect the information
seeking behaviour, is distance from the information source.
Many of you studying this subject may be in this position.
Studies have shown that people much prefer informal channels of
communication to formal channels.
Why do you think this is?
Role of the
Some of the reasons are that familiar, informal sources are the
least stressful to use, and the most cost-saving in time and effort.
This desire to use informal channels is an important reminder to
the information professional, and we need to recognise and make
use of that knowledge.
Let's recap what we have covered so far.
Some important points are:
As information professionals we need to make sure that
the services we offer are responsive to and focused on the
needs of our users.
To do this we need to know about the environment we are
working in, and about how information is transferred and
used in this environment.
We also need to know how people behave when they look
for information .
A considerable amount of research into user needs has
been carried out for some groups.
Information professionals use their communication skills
to listen and build a relationship with the user when
assisting them with information seeking or when
providing other services.
How can we apply some of what we have learned to improving
the way libraries operate and the services libraries offer, so that
they are user-focused?
One way we have already considered is to provide information
literacy education programs.
Now we will look at some of the issues relating to those
programs, for example:
how delivery of information services is changing –
evolving roles of information agencies, electronic
delivery, and so on;
online documentation, tutorials and assistance, and how
these can be improved;
interface designs – human-computer interface research
and its importance;
barriers that impede access to information; and
some particular services which can be offered.
Thinking about the intermediary role is a good way to think about
what librarians and other information professionals do.
In libraries today, information professionals are proactive in
offering services and products related to their users.
Electronic delivery of information is one of the ways in which
information professionals have chosen to build and deliver
services which are more user oriented.
We have already noted many of the barriers to information which
are put in front of the user.
Some of these barriers are able to be reduced or removed thus
allowing us to offer services which are more user-friendly.
Some of the barriers are unfortunately out of our control:
Cost of accessing information – some people can readily
afford access to information and others cannot. Public
libraries have an obvious role in reducing the gap between
the two groups. There is an increasing tendency, however,
for public libraries to charge for access to some kinds of
Psychological barriers – some users do not know how to
ask their questions, some people find librarians
intimidating, the personality of an individual also plays a
part. Psychological barriers can also be caused by cultural
Physical barriers – the way users interact with the
physical environment and the facilities such as the layout
of the information desk, the height of the shelves and
signage can also impact on effective information seeking.
Information overload – a term used for the condition
experienced by people when they receive so much
information about a particular topic they are unable to
digest or use the information received. This may cause
information paralysis where the individual faces too many
options to make a balanced decision.
The packaging of information – this means classifying
materials in a certain way and organising it in certain
formats. Barriers can occur when individuals attempt and
fail to use the systems effectively. The design of
classification schemes, OPACs, shelf arrangement, and
instruction on how to use them, needs to be very userfriendly. Information professionals must understand the
information needs of the community.
It is impossible to cover all the services that information
professionals may provide to assist their users.
Let us consider some possibilities.
Whether users come to an information service in person, or use it
remotely, the single most important factor in providing a userfriendly service is the staff.
Staff must be approachable and should look as though they are
interested in helping the user.
They should acknowledge, assist and/or answer queries as
promptly as possible.
It is preferable that in doing so staff take an educative approach
thereby empowering people to feel they can get what they need
The communication skills of staff is of paramount importance.
Cross-cultural communication is important, as is communicating
through other points of difference (across age, gender, disability
and so on).
Several aspects of the service environment need to be considered
for face-to-face users.
These can include:
Physical attractiveness, comfort and design. It also
includes its physical location. Many studies of different
libraries have shown that the further a user is from the
library or information centre, the less likely he or she is to
use it. You may have witnessed or experienced library
managers working on these issues.
Visual attractivess. This applies to both the exterior and
interior of the library. From outside the information
service should appear welcoming and comfortable. From
inside amenities such as photocopiers, toilets and meeting
rooms should be suitably positioned and should allow
access by people with physical disabilities. Good lighting
Thermal and atmospheric comfort. The movement of air
and the rate of input of fresh air needs to be acceptable to
the particular context.
Noise. The amount of acceptable and/or comfortable noise
varies from library to library, and place to place.
The online service environment should not be ignored.
Several factors are important:
Home page. The library or information service home page
needs to be attractive and well designed. Many studies are
available about web design, especially in relation to the
business sector. They provide an important source of
information for information professionals because as the
online face of the library is like the exterior or interior of a
building. Many libraries include virtual tours of their
libraries to help bridge the physical distance between a
user and a building.
Interface. The interface between users and staff must be
well-designed, easy to use, and suit an extremely diverse
group of people. This is not an easy task. Many libraries
seek to work collaboratively with user feedback and
information technology experts to improve this aspect of
their service. Alternatively, many large libraries have
expert in-house staff to focus on this.
Services and level of access. This needs to explicit and
clear. Communication online is often more difficult than it
is face to face, so staff must be able to put online
information seekers at ease if they are tentative, and be
able to assist with their information request.
Format. Providing materials in a suitable and accessible
format is extremely important. There is no use in using
whizz bang technology to create a great website if users
are operating with much lower technologies and cannot
This consideration applies to both physical and online service
In a physical environment, signs are potentially a very effective
guide for the user.
Directional signs should be placed outside the library that identify
the centre, display opening hours and other constant information
about the availability of services (some libraries are making use
of things like plasma televisions to broadcast this information).
Inside, there should be guides about the layout and floor plan, and
key service areas such as the loans desk.
Signs must be functional and aesthetically acceptable.
The purpose of a sign is to communicate essential information
about the use of the library or information centre.
Many libraries also consider how they can accommodate
language speakers foreign to their own, or that make up a large
cohort of their user group.
Several examples have now been provided about how some
libraries and information centres cater for language and cultural
There are other specific groups that information professionals
may develop and provide specific services to.
age (e.g., services aimed at senior citizens)
disability (e.g., sight impaired)
ethnic background (e.g., immigrants)
Libraries Without Walls:
These are people who have not traditionally been users of the
particular information service in question.
This group might include people who come from a culture that
does not have a tradition of using libraries (or from a country
where it has not been possible to use them); the non-literate;
members of ethnic communities who require information in
their first language; the physically and mentally disabled; the
elderly; house-bound people; people in specific institutions;
children; or those from poor socio-economic backgrounds.
Frequently these groups feel disempowered, and need special
There is another subject in this course, INF332 which focuses on
identifying community needs and developing appropriate library
programs that some of you might be interested in doing later on.
Perhaps this is a concept with which you are already familiar.
It refers to the fact that with the increasing transportability of
information (due to formats and technologies), users do not
necessarily have to physically visit libraries or information
Many libraries are also choosing to opt for increasing their digital
collections (for many reasons such as greater access to materials
and saving physical space).
This era is likely to see the growth then of more 'libraries without
What are the implications for information professionals?
Some of them might be:
Information professionals need to have strong skills in
using and adapting to rapidly changing new technologies.
They need to have a set of research techniques which they
can use to investigate more precisely the information
needs of their users, and their potential users.
They need to have skills in repackaging information to
better suit the needs of the users.
They need to compete proactively in the information
Of course there are many more.
It is important to realise that information literacy is a 'young'
field, and there is lack of consensus within the literature as to
what information literacy even is, let alone what constitutes an
information literate person and what practices and skills can be
attributed to information literacy.
Part of this lack of consensus reflects the contextual nature of
The term can mean different things to different people in different
You will find that the majority of definitions for information
literacy are located within the library and education sector and
focus on the skills of an information literate person, rather than
identifying what it means to be information literate.
A key document, Australian and New Zealand Information
Literacy Framework: Principles, Standards and Practice (2nd
edition, edited by Alan Bundy, 2004) indicates that through the
education sector in Australia and New Zealand: information
literacy has been generally defined as an understanding and set of
abilities enabling individuals to 'recognise when information is
needed and have the capacity to locate, evaluate, and use
effectively the needed information' (p.3).
The reason there is the use of inverted commas within this
definition is because the definition originated from the American
Library Association's Presidential Committee on Information
Literacy (1989) , which was clearly influenced from the education