Week 3: The Information Use Environment

This week our class readings centred around the Information Use Environment or IUE which Taylor (1991) defines as “the social context or setting within which people live or work”. It was something I had never heard of or thought about before so it was interesting to read, although admittedly a bit challenging and lofty. Taylor notes that our Information Use Environment affects the way that we find and use information and he tries to develop a framework for examining IUE’s. He finds that different groups of people have different approaches to how they find and use information but the one thing they have in common is that they turn to other people for information. I thought this was interesting as it really emphasises the importance of the community – that no matter how much we communicate and find information virtually, people still prefer to interact with other people and it is their preferred method of finding information. So many of the libraries services are becoming virtual from renewing books to asking reference questions – it can all be done on-line and this is becoming more common, I just hope that in the future we don’t move to far away from the people aspect of LIS services as it’s one of the main attractions of the job for me!

The next article on the reading list examined community problem solving in public libraries using Taylor IUE framework. The article focuses on Hartford Public Library and it’s attempts to help solve the problems of the community. The HPL librarians became active members of the community and joined neighbourhood teams meaning that they had to go out and get involved in community affairs instead of just waiting for the community to come to them. This helped them to shed light on the communities information needs by actually being in the problem-solving environment. This approach reminded me of what Carol Maddock said at the NLI talk on social media use -that before the use of social media the NLI were relying on people seeking them out as opposed to being where people already are. This again stresses the importance of community engagement and gives me hope that the future LIS professional will not be a faceless worker behind a computer screen.

The final article we looked at put across a very interesting idea and one that I had heard of before. It proposed a new role for the public librarian – to advise the community on best practise of organising and archiving their digital objects for sharing with the community for the future. It’s a really interesting idea and before starting the MLIS I had never properly thought about how digital photography, email and social networking will affect the historical records of future generations. We are lucky enough to have the National Library and Museums and other memory institutions to protect the vast wealth of artifacts that our ancestors have left us. But unless our digital artifacts are properly organised they will be lost to future generations. The idea of public libraries helping the community to impose order on their digital objects is fantastic and absolutely necessary. The ‘third order of order’ has so many possibilities for how we organise information but unless people actually begin to embrace the third order of order then so much of our local cultural heritage will be lost which would be such a shame.

The articles for this week got me thinking of the LIS professional role in a whole new light and got me feeling nearly positive about the future! Here is a link to a discussion on the future of the public library that I found through This Week in Libraries discussion group. The speaker, Eli Neiburger sees the public library’s future as  a platform for the community to experience unique experiences and to host unique content and place less emphasis on having the ‘hot’new book. He thinks this is the only future of the public library or else witness the slow decline of circulation content. I think this idea ties in nicely with this weeks readings.



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