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Lecture 15

INST 352 Lecture 15: INST352 Lecture 15: Categories and Contexts of IBExam

Information Studies
Course Code
INST 352

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INST352 Lecture 15: Categories and Contexts of IB
Reviewers have approached the research corpus in a variety of ways. Most make a
similar distinction to that of Choo (1998, quoted previously), between studies that are
actually investigating information channels (e.g., journals) or systems (e.g., libraries)
and those that are studying people (the emphasis in this book). Review authors have
used varying terminology to reflect the latter type of investigations. For Choo and
Auster, they are studies of “work, organizational, and social settings of the users … .
users’ membership in professional or social groups, their demographic backgrounds”
(1993, p. 284). Talja, Keso, and Pietila ¨ inen (1999, p. 752) speak of “socioeconomic
conditions, work roles, tasks, problem situations, communities and organizations” as
variables typically examined. Taylor (1991) talks about “information use environments”
as consisting of four types: professions, entrepreneurs (including managers), special
interest groups, and socioeconomic groups. Julien et al. (2011, p. 19) refer to studies
that are “broadly concerned with analysis of people’s information seeking, both active
and passive, and their information use.” And so forth.
Given that the origins of IB research are found in nineteenth century studies of library
users, and only gradually expanded their horizons to include sources of information
other than print, it is not surprising that the use of books in libraries tended to be a
common focus of the earliest research. Starting in the 1940s attention shifted to the
investigation of various occupational groups, especially scientists, engineers, and
managers. This emphasis on work roles continued for several decades and has
gradually expanded to cover a wide variety of job titles.
Perhaps the only “nonwork” role to be widely studied in these early decades was that of
“student,” of which there continue to be a great many investigations. Yet, even student
life has some resemblance to paid work, and so a significant development in the 1970s
was the emergence of research questions concerning everyday life information needs
(e.g., solving practical problems concerning food or shelter, or the pursuit of hobbies
and political activities). Even so, “work” and “nonwork” activities tended to be treated
somewhat separately by investigators, as if activities outside the job did not matter. The
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