Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
Have you ever asked for a recommendation on social media? This is commonplace enough that Facebook has created a feature specifically designed to support these events. Information seeking is a part of everyday life whether making a simple decision like where to go for a car repair, or researching professional interests, and individuals often turn to trusted friends and colleagues, articles, or long-form published materials.
Libraries and information organizations serve the public through providing access to information. Beyond that core mandate, information professionals must do more than simply collect and classify information, they need to make that access meaningful and functional, and to do that they must consider the behaviors of the audience seeking the information within their managed domains. Information professionals enable the resolution of an information need by making the connection between the information seeker and the information they seek by considering the passive and purposeful behaviors of the seeker (Case, 2018).
Librarians observe information seeking and draw anecdotal conclusions about user behavior in addition to conducting formal evaluations and surveys to glean information on information seeking behaviors and make decisions based on that information. These observations have generated different theories on information seeking behavior, with one example being the Principle of Least Effort (PLE), “sometimes referred to as the Law of Least Effort or Zipf’s Law” (Case, 2018, p.52). The PLE puts forward that in tasks that involve writing and speaking, individuals will expend the least effort to complete that task (Case, 2018). One of the implications on information seeking behavior from the PLE is that information seekers are habitual about the sources they use in their research (Case, 2018). This is realized in information professions in the change management required to persuade users to seek out new methods and resources in their searches.
Other thought leaders within the information profession have developed theories and methodologies to further discern the strategies that can be employed by information professionals to address information seeking behavior. Carol Kuhlthau is one of these thought leaders and has published many papers on information seeking behavior. Kuhlthau puts forward that librarianism often focuses on the order of information, but a user’s search for information is often mired in uncertainty and chaos (Kuhlthau, 1991). This confusion, Khulthau writes, is associated with “vague, unclear thoughts about the topic or problem” (Kuhlthau, 1991), but this uncertainty clears up as the user becomes more familiar with the domain of knowledge and the process of searching for and discovering information. As users get a idea of their pace in the information search process and adopt a sense of ownership in that process and the strategies they need to employ, they become more comfortable with the iterative process rather than a linear one (Kuhlthau, 1991). Kuhlthau contends that the focus should be put on developing a task oriented approach to information management that she calls “Guided Inquiry”(Kuhlthau, 2005). “We need to take a ‘just for me’ approach to system design that is based on the user’s perspective of information seeking and use” (Kuhlthau, 2005, p.6). To achieve this, Kulthau suggests that information professionals focus on four imperatives:
INFO200 Information Communities was the first course I took on my MLIS journey and it was transformative for me in framing the purpose and function of the profession. In that class I primarily focused on the information seeking habits of attorneys, but I’ve been able to apply those principles in the real world when I build a system to deliver visual resources to video editors and then later to build a portal to deliver marketing materials to sales people in the field. As with any design, the needs of the user must be considered, and information design follows that same from the consideration of the values and breadth of the supporting metadata to the organization and delivery of those materials.
I submit this paper in support of this competency because it demonstrates the synergy of my research and insights on the information seeking behavior of law practitioners. In addition to examining the behaviors of this group, I also examine the legal research behaviors of this group and determine ways in which an information professional can address those needs.
I selected this paper to support my competency in information seeking behavior because it contains an audience analysis I performed in assessing the best delivery platform for digital content.
It is human nature to seek information, but it is the information professional’s responsibility to enable the discovery of that information. To achieve that goal, it is important to not simply categorize information within a rigid framework, but to consider the needs, preferences, and habits of the seeker of that information. In my professional career, I will consider the guidance of information seeking thought leaders and build information entry points that are designed to respond to user needs
Case, D. O. (2018). Information Seeking. In M.-J. Romaniuk (Ed.), The portable MLIS: insights from the experts (Second edition, pp. 49–56). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Kuhlthau, C. C. (1991). Inside the Search Process: Information Seeking from the User’s Perspective. Journal of the American Society for Information Science (1986-1998), 42(5), 361. https://search.proquest.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/docview/216895301?accountid=10361
Kuhlthau, C. C. (2005). Towards collaboration between information seeking and information retrieval. Information Research, 10(2), 8.