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Information Needs of English Children


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Information Needs of English Children

  1. 1. Natalie Sapkarov September 11, 2006 LIS 501 AL1/AD1 LaBarre/Taylor Information Needs of English Children Although children are often aptly nicknamed “little scientists” or “baby Einsteins” for their inquisitive nature and exploration of the vast world around them, research about the information needs of children has been scarce in the United States. In “Just What Do They Want? What Do They Need? A Study of the Informational Needs of Children,” Andrew Kenneth Shenton and Pat Dixon consider a British academy-funded Ph.D. research study that was conducted in a small town of northeast England during the 1999-2000 school year. The study took place in six neighborhood schools—two primary, two middle, and one high school. A total of 188 students, representing a wide range of abilities, were randomly selected to participate in this study, and, from those, 121 individual interviews were conducted. As Shenton and Dixon delineate, “the typology was constructed by investigating the ideas of children as expressed by them, and the understanding of need that was developed was based on their perspectives (37).” In short, researchers were curious to find what children themselves identified as their own information wants and needs by asking them directly about the last time that they felt they needed to learn something. After interviewing these students, researchers sorted their results into 13 types of information needs as described by the sample children. These information needs include: advice, response to problems, personal information, affective support, empathetic understanding, support for skill development, school-related subject information, interest-driven information, consumer information, self-development information, preparatory information, reinterpretations and
  2. 2. supplementations of information, and verificational information (37-39). For each category, these information needs were not only described with specific examples but also correlated with the type of student (primary, middle, high school) who responded with this need. In most cases, the concerns of the primary students were different than those of high school students while the middle school students were found, quite appropriately, in the middle. For example, in relation to affective support, primary and middle school students expressed the need for information about new experiences while middle and high school students were concerned about their self-images (38). Therefore, information needs not only differ between adults and children but also within age groups of children. For Shenton and Dixon, these findings pose a starting point in discovering the information needs of children, as these children are not a true representation of all children worldwide but merely of their specific demographic. This study, however, can be useful for American schools and libraries as it illuminates the variety of children’s informational needs. Since much of children’s time is spent in school, it goes accordingly that many of their informational needs will stem from school assignments and activities, a need that is unique to this group. In order to facilitate the information retrieval process for children, libraries should use kid-friendly online catalogs or offer bibliographical information for a topic that is known to be studied in the schools at that time. In the school, librarians should also be teachers of the library by explaining the organizational system, locating varied reference materials, directing research, and being available to answer individual questions. Most importantly, librarians and designers of information systems must recognize that the information needs of children are rather different than those of adults and are just as valid. Works Cited
  3. 3. Shenton, Andrew Kenneth, and Pat Dixon. "Just What Do They Want? What Do They Need? A Study of the Informational Needs of Children." Children & Libraries 1.2 (2003): 36-42.