The information professional of the future must be multifaceted with a variety of skills. My military, information technology, and public library experience has guided me through the University of Tennessee MSIS program. I will combine this experience and education with three core concepts of library science. I also have a Bachelor of Science in Management and a Master of Business Administration degree. This skill set will hopefully allow me to achieve administration and management positions in the public library.
Information Seeking Process is an important theory created by Carol Kuhlthau. The theory is based on the uncertainty principle where there is a process of trying to determine what information is desired. This process is sometimes known as the reference interview (Rutgers, 2013). The importance of this theory became relevant to me when I began working as a librarian. There are many ways to retrieve information and the various ways can impact the quality of service. When retrieving information for an information-seeking individual, you usually have two options. You can find the information as fast as possible by performing a Google web search. There is a high probability that information retrieved by this method is limited in content. Performing a Google search for the 38th President of the United States will identify Gerald Ford as the subject. There may also be a few links including Wikipedia and Whitehouse.gov that will provide some information. A librarian may use a source such as Facts About The Presidents to find the 38th President of the United States. This source will have extensive information including the fact that President Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. Using a source dedicated to a specific subject can result in retrieving and delivering thorough data that the information-seeker can use more efficiently. The two examples I presented not only indicate the importance of information retrieval but also provide the difference between information retrieved from an information seeker and information retrieved from an information professional. The Boolean search is a method that is not often used in a reference interview but it can be effective. This advance search method requires the use of key words to combine subjects. This will result in a search that can provide more content (Cusick, 1943). An information professional should be able to indicate from the reference interview the best source to use for information retrieval.
The Principle of Least Effort Theory by George Kingsley Zipf demonstrates how information seekers will choose the easiest way to find information in the least amount of effort (Zipf, 1949). Libraries play an important role in this theory. In the past, finding information through a public library website was not always easy. Users would need to spend a considerable amount of time searching through various links and databases before finding the desired content. This task has now been streamlined as most libraries have revamped their websites to make them more user friendly. You can usually find links to popular topics on the front page. Public libraries are also inquiring users to discover what their needs are. Topics and databases for these immediate needs are placed on the website strategically to be easily identified by viewers. It is also noticeable that public libraries are making conscience investments in the databases they provide. The goal is to ensure that the information offered via database, wiki, etc. is easy to access and use with minimal time needed to learn how to navigate through the information. There are many examples of information seekers using the Principle of Least Effort Theory. One example is how it’s not necessary to type a full description or complete word when using the Google search engine. If the intention is to search for a 2015 Honda Accord, this can be accomplished in Google by typing “15′ Accord”. Once an information seeker understands this search strategy, it can become an easier and quicker procedure. This demonstrates the advantage of the Least Effort Theory. Information provided that is difficult to access or navigate through will often turn users away. This is not what information providers want. So an emphasis should always be placed on making this information as user friendly as possible.
Information (Computer) Literacy is a specialty skill set that demonstrates the ability to utilize computers, software and related technology for the purpose of information research and retrieval. This includes the knowledge of databases, wikis, and computer software programs that assist in this theory. When used correctly, computer literacy expands the capability of seeking information due to the critical thinking that’s needed to understand technology in general. As your fluency in technology grows, the way you search for information and also evaluate that information will increase in complexity. One example would be an on campus student in comparison to a distance education student. An on campus student has physical access to local resources such as library catalogs and material. A distance education student by default will be forced to look for alternative ways to find information. This includes searching through various online databases and wikis that an on campus student may never need to access (ALA, 2015). There has been an emphasis in public libraries to provide and promote computer literacy. Most public libraries offer classes that teach basic computer skills. Once these basic computer skills have been learned, the user can effectively use these skills to search for and access information. This skill set is so pivotal to every day life that other entities including community and senior centers are also teaching basic computer skills to promote computer literacy.
American Library Association. (2015). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency
Cusick. T., Cryptographic Boolean Functions and Applications. Amsterdam; Boston: Academic Press/Elsevier
Rutgers. (2013). Carol Collier Kuhlthau – Information Search Process. Retrieved from https://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/information_search_process.htm
Zipf, G. Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort; an Introduction to Human Ecology. Cambridge, Mass: 1949