Guest post by Professor Ian Ruthven, co-editor of Information at Work: Information management in the workplace
We live in a society characterized by quick technological developments and rapid processes of change. Technological developments have automated processes that used to be done by manual labour whilst new professions and work tasks have emerged. Earlier generations were accustomed to life-long positions in the same company. Nowadays people search for work opportunities in a global market, experience more frequent career changes, must learn new skills throughout their careers and manage the increasingly fluid boundaries between work life and home life. Even our work environments have changed: as Alvin Toffler’s metaphor of the ‘paperless offices’ from 50 years ago is now being realized, we are starting to move into the state of ‘peopleless offices’ in which work is conducted in digital rather than physical spaces. Many workplaces are already now hybrid digital/physical spaces where the work activities addressed, tools utilized and information consumed are the same no matter if engaged in the office or at home.
Rapid changes to information infrastructures are also changing the nature of work forcing a reinvention of old practices and the creation of new ones. For example, bloggers and online newspapers are now as influential as traditional journalism; social media is now a key means of interacting with customers instead of direct marketing; many services such as banking, home-buying, booking travel and commerce are now primarily online activities created by experts in digital environments rather than experts in built environments; government services are increasingly online services, etc. The vast amount of Internet information means that even traditional information experts such as doctors are taking on larger roles in explaining information rather than providing information. There is hardly a discipline or area of work that is not touched by new technology.
More data, more information, more work
The relatively inexpensive information storage available now means organizations can capture massive amounts of data which can be mined to provide more robust decision-making about managing cities, predicting demographic changes, tailoring marketing campaigns or managing simple performance. How this information is stored, organized, classified, shared and secured are classic information management concerns which need new proven solutions. Many organizations are moving towards cloud services forcing hard discussions about which information to store, where it is stored, and who has access rights to this information.
This change in how we store, manage and make available information is set against a fluid background of changing legislation surrounding what organizations can and cannot do with information. Rights to access information, rights to information privacy, rights to data protection, and other assorted information laws vary locally, nationally, and internationally resulting in a complex and shifting network of laws, policies and guidelines that institutions must create systems and practices to manage. The role of information is essential in all these processes, as a resource for learning, managing change, developing and running processes and creating professional networks.
The information revolution within our workplaces calls for a new examination of information, information technology and information practices within the modern workplace. There is no single framework nor epistemological perspective that single-handedly explains the entire phenomena of workplace information, but rather the different work situations are made of aggregations where information plays in from several perspectives.
How to study the work place from an information perspective?
This richness of views on workplace information leads to different understandings of information-related activities, such as information need, information management, information sources, information sharing, information production, information storing, information retrieval, information searching/seeking, information valuing, and information use. Some of these concepts have been discussed since the beginning of workplace information studies, while others are new concepts coming from the latest trends and developments in workplace information environments. The richness of approaches and varying meanings for concepts can create deep understandings but also conceptual confusion.
One of the motivations for our new book Information at Work is that such themes and concepts are often considered separately, by distinct groupings of scholars, and appearing in venues that offer little interaction between these topics. This, in part, comes from the perspective taken by individual authors – our disciplinary backgrounds bring their own theories, models and ways of looking at the world and, hence, different ways of approaching the study of information in the workplace. These different approaches can focus on different objects of study (environments, systems, tasks, objects, practices etc.), some of which are more amenable to certain theories and ways of doing research than others. Each perspective is valuable in highlighting different aspects of what it means to study workplace information. Bringing these perspectives together in one text we hope will show the diversity in this rich area of study and promote new discussions on how we can appreciate these perspectives to create new ways of investigating and understanding different phenomena within the field of workplace information.
Our aim in this book is to present the full spectrum of workplace information research, flowing from contributions on the nature of work when viewed from an Information Science perspective, through considerations of the social and cultural environments in which we work, to issues of managing our work and the information we need to do work, to discussions of the information artefacts and properties of those artefacts that enable us to ‘work’ with information to complete our ‘work’.
As information professionals, how often do we consider whether our workplace information environments are working for us?
Ian Ruthven is a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval at the University of Strathclyde. He published over 100 articles in the areas of interactive information retrieval and information seeking and edited two collections: Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval (with Diane Kelly) and Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management (with Gobinda Chowdhury).
An integral resource for students and working professionals alike, Reference and Information Services: An introduction has served a whole generation of reference librarians. But authors Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath aren’t resting on their laurels. We spoke to them about the brand new fourth edition, discussing their collaboration and why reference librarianship is more important than ever.
How would you describe your collaborative process?
Harmonic! When we are beginning a new edition, we talk about the whole book and the changes that we want to make and then we each work on specific chapters. With Kay as an academic and Uma as a practitioner, we have mutually exclusive areas of expertise that makes it easy to segment the research.
Were there any surprises working together this time around?
How has virtual reference made things easier and how has it made things harder?
Entire books have been written on this. Suffice to say, the very factors about virtual reference that make things easier tend to make them harder as well. It is easier since the user and librarian can be anywhere and still able to communicate about both the question and the answer. Anytime/anywhere access to information, at the point of need, is certainly the defining advantage of virtual reference.
Virtual access, however, has an abracadabra quality. The user learns less about the incremental steps to finding an answer provided in face-to-face interactions so that, in effect, for every research question the user starts from scratch. Anytime access also requires the reference librarian’s constant attention to connectivity issues so critical to its success.
What are some suggestions for keeping up to date on reference sources, both as an individual and an institution?
There are many ways to stay up to date, both formal and interpersonal. Let us count the ways.
- Habitual reading of professional literature
- Attending conferences with exhibits by vendors
- Participating in webinars
- Routinely discussing information on new resources with colleagues
- Being alert to feedback from users
- Joining listervs that discuss reference materials
- Following pertinent blogs, twitter accounts, newsletters, websites
- Being an alert member of professional association.
Trustworthy, fact-based reference materials are more important than ever. How would you ethically handle a situation if you discovered that a library user was relying on sources that were questionable?
The use of questionable sources by users is something reference librarians face every day. It is, in fact, what makes reference librarianship so integral to good research! Reference librarians have always combated it by providing considered alternatives. Talking to users about the value of vetted resources and helping them understand the difference in authority and accuracy between a vetted resource and unfiltered Google results or social media discussions, is par for the course.
A more intractable challenge is the viral spread of misinformation in a hyper-networked world. Proactive measures to encourage digital literacy and critical thinking in users, such as those parsed so effectively in the Information Literacy poster available at ALA, is essential.
If you could give today’s LIS students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kay Ann Cassell: Always be sure the information you use online is accurate and up-to-date. That means that if it is the first time you are using a site, you must evaluate it.
Uma Hiremath: Reference librarianship is a way of life. You never stop learning and you never stop finding the next best referral for your users.
The fourth edition of Reference and Information Services: An introduction will be published in June by Facet Publishing.
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At Facet Publishing we endeavour to commission and publish high quality, authoritative content for the information scholar and practitioner worldwide. We are committed to advancing the profession and publishing material that will prepare and inform students and researchers to meet the challenges of the future.
We support scholars and researchers throughout the publishing process ensuring every book we publish is peer reviewed, available through green open access, optimized for discoverability, professionally designed, copyedited and printed at speed. Every title receives a worldwide, bespoke marketing push to maximise impact. Find out more about what we offer below.
Scholarly publications from leading researchers worldwide
For students, academics, early career and next generation researchers, we commission and publish scholarly research in monographs and edited collections from some of the leading scholars in the world. We aim to address the critical information issues of our time by commissioning current active research in established topics and adjacent fields, you can see some of our latest examples here.
All of our scholarly titles are peer reviewed by specifically selected scholars and we offer open/single blind/double-blind review depending on the wishes of our authors. For the iResearch series we have a bespoke editorial board. We also use our editorial advisory team, comprising thought leaders from around the world, in a variety of sectors as a sounding board for our list development ideas.
We know how important it is for our academics to upload their research to their institutional repository directly after publication in order to share their research/practice as widely as possible. In order to facilitate this, we have a green open access policy that supports an author’s right to voluntarily self-archive their work without embargo or payment. We are open and flexible with our authors and invite discussion of our policies.
We are committed to increasing the discoverability of our authors’ content. The full text of all our books is discoverable through Google scholar and library discovery services. We aid discovery by individually indexing our book chapters with DOIs, adding carefully selected keywords and expertly chosen book trade subject codes. Our books are available in print and digitally throughout the world.
We are expert, agile marketers and ensure our titles are offered for review in leading relevant journals around the world. In addition, we target scholarly communities through social media to ensure that scholars from Mumbai to Jakarta and from Syracuse to Durban are aware of new content relevant to them. We select the most appropriate conferences and seminars and ensure that our authors’ content is represented to its target readership.
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We pride ourselves on our attention to detail. As a small team we can be highly flexible and responsive. We are able to give our authors the care and attention they require from inception through to post publication. We work closely with our writers to develop their proposals, nurture them through the writing process and offer them the best editorial and production support that we can. We are quick to market, dynamic, and possess many years of combined experience across academic and professional publishing.
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Today Marcia Lei Zeng and Jian Qin are presenting a paper at iConference 2017 in Wuhan, China. We have made a sample chapter from their co-authored book, Metadata, freely available to view and download from the Facet website.
The chapter provides a context for metadata uses in our life and work and a brief history of the metadata movement. It reviews fundamental concepts, including metadata types, categories of metadata standards, and metadata principles. Finally, it presents additional examples of metadata descriptions.
The second edition of Zeng & Qin’s Metadata provides a solid grounding in the variety and interrelationships among different metadata types, offers a comprehensive look at the metadata schemas that exist in the world of library and information science and beyond, as well as the contexts in which they operate.
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Tomorrow sees the start of the iConference 2017 in Wuhan, China. To mark this, we are making some selected chapters from our information science textbooks freely available to view and download from the Facet Publishing website. The first is taken from David Bawden and Lyn Robinson’s seminal Introduction to Information Science.
The chapter, What is information science? Disciplines and professions, covers:
- The nature of information science
- What kind of discipline is information science?
- Constituents and core
- Other information disciplines
- The uniqueness of information science
- History of information science.
Introduction to Information Science has been described as “the best introduction to information science available at present” (Birger Hjorland, Royal School of Library and Information Science) and “one of the very best places for people to start to make a difference.” (Jonathan Furner, UCLA).
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Preserving our Heritage: Perspectives from antiquity to the digital age by Michele V Cloonan is the recipient of the 2016 Society of American Archivists’ Preservation Publication Award.
The book offers a unique compilation of key texts from a range of international contributors, charting the development of preservation from its origins to modern day practice and offers an overview of longevity, reversibility, enduring value and authenticity of information preservation.
The Awards Committee said “Preserving Our Heritage is undeniably a monumental achievement and a welcome contribution to the bookshelves of preservation professionals everywhere”.
Established in 1993, the SAA Preservation Publication Award recognises and acknowledges the author or editor of an outstanding published work related to archives preservation and, through this acknowledgement, encourages outstanding achievement by others.