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.
The Exhilarating Challenge
of Matching the Wand to the Wizard
Section 1 of 4:
An Introduction to What Competency J Means to Me and to Library and Information Science
Information Behavior: “the many ways in which human beings interact with information, in particular, the ways in which people seek and utilise information” (Bates, 2010, p. 2381).
Information Communities: “a group of entities that blurs the boundaries between information seekers, users, and providers, recognizing that a single person or institution can embody multiple segments of the information life cycle” (Fisher & Bishop, 2015, p. 22).
Prominent Theories of Information Seeking Behaviors:
Anders Hektor's model of information behavior is grounded in everyday activities and brings that same groundedness to its application in serious leisure. Hektor’s model allows for detailed specificity in its analysis of information behavior within the eight information activities it sets forth (Hartel et al., 2016).
Marcia Bates’s model of information seeking behavior incorporates information seeking and searching, as well as an integration of social and cultural elements, into biological and physical components of the human experience in regards to information seeking and searching (Bates, 2002).
Why Competency J is Important to Me as a Professional:
I find Competency J to be exciting and fascinating. That there are so many unique, interesting, and useful resources for any number of niche information groups. I am an information professional (and a person) who has an absolutely rabid curiosity about almost everything I encounter. Having a career that allows me to understand, explore, and discover cool and nuanced information resources for specific people is basically like letting a dog loose in a dog park full of new smells and new friends and new things to play with: very exciting and enjoyable.
Over my many years of working in small bookshops, big bookstores, and libraries, I have always likened myself to the fictional character of Ollivander the wandmaker in the Harry Potter series. (As a side note: I am struggling with and evolving my relationship to the Harry Potter universe in light of the author’s recent attacks on the transgender community. I grew up loving the Harry Potter books, but now I shy away from them and focus my energy on finding ways to support trans lives and the trans community). Anyway, back to my analogy: Ollivander’s mantra throughout the series was “the wand chooses the wizard” (Rowling, 1998, p.71), and the more difficult it was for him to find a wand that was perfectly suited to the witch or wizard in question, the more delighted and excited Ollivander became. He would enthusiastically bombard his massive collection of wands until he found the one that fit the individual needs and nature of the person in question. I have always felt that way when helping people find books and resources. I love understanding what a person needs and bombarding my collections of books and resources until I find the best fit for their information needs.
Why Competency J is Important to the Profession as a Whole:
Understanding the information needs and behaviors of specific groups is crucial in order for information professionals to provide accurate, relevant, and timely information to group members. Understanding information needs, seekers, and behaviors is also important for information professionals so that they can make information available within the arenas that specific groups will find and utilize it in. The ability of information professionals to connect information seekers with incredibly relevant, interesting, and useful information makes our profession a leader in furthering peoples’ empowerment through knowledge.
What Excellence in Competency J Looks Like to Me:
When I think of what excellence in Competency J looks like, I think of librarians having regular conversations with their patrons about what type of information they need. I think of those librarians then creating collections, services, and programs that meet those information needs. This could look like community members expressing concern to librarians about a lack of available lunches for children in the community when schools are out for the summer. Those librarians could then partner with programs like the USDA’s summer meals effort, and have the library act as a meal distribution site. I think of professional researchers who make sure they have a very clear understanding of the specific research needs of their clients. This could look like a template that the researcher creates, containing designated places for the client to describe all of the specifics the researcher needs from them for that project. I think of content developers who do detailed studies of their audience, of effective ways to present information to that audience, and in what content their audience needs and responds well to. This could look like an employee of Buzzfeed tailoring an article on ways to relieve anxiety to users of social media in a succinct list formatting that includes helpful visuals and working links to resources. I think of consultant professionals who understand the information needs of individual clients and of their own employer. This could look like a consultant evaluating a library system for issues of inclusivity and accessibility and presenting their findings in two separate reports: one for the library system, which uses supportive, solution-focused, language that does not place blame or come across as judgmental, and one for their consulting agency that describes problems in a more direct and analytical manner.
Section 2 of 4:
The Discussion of My Evidence
I wrote a research paper, The Information Needs and Behaviors of Hikers.
How and Why I Created Evidence A:
In my “Information 200: Information Communities” course, I was tasked with writing a graduate-level research paper in which I identified an information community, critically evaluated the scholarly and professional literature related to that community’s information-seeking behaviors and needs, gathered additional data about their information practices and preferences from community-based resources, and examined these elements in academic and professional discussion.
The Process of Creating Evidence A:
When deciding on an information community whose information seeking behaviors I wanted to explore, I chose to pick a group to which I belong: solo-womxn-hikers. I chose this group because, due to the nature of the activity (hiking in isolated areas alone), my exposure to the hiking-related perspectives, resources, and information of other people was more limited than I would like. With this paper, I recognized an opportunity to further my own knowledge of an activity that I enjoyed, as well as a chance to explore and shed light on important issues faced by solo-womxn-hikers.
When creating Evidence I, I decided to structure it in the following way: Evidence A includes a professional abstract as well as a brief presentation of background knowledge regarding the models of information seeking behavior provided by Bates and Hektor. I then provide a literature review examining three prevalent themes in the scholarly and professional literature relating to the information seeking needs and behaviors of hikers. These themes are: 1) prevalent models and theories, 2) access and equity of information and resources, and 3) information professionals and hikers. I next provide a section of Evidence A explaining my methodology in conducting my research for Evidence A.
The discussion section of Evidence A is where my passion for and knowledge of the subject matter truly shines. I decided to organize my research and discussion through the following use of subheadings: 1) information needs and behaviors of hikers, 2) hikers using emerging technologies, 3) library services provided for hikers, and 4) issues faced by the hiking community worldwide. I conclude Evidence A with a summary of my findings (that the information needs and behaviors of hikers focus largely around safety), a call to action for information professionals to recognize the many benefits they can provide to the hiking community and to assist this information group, and a personal statement of what I would like to see in the future regarding information professionals and hikers.
When I was coming up with the subheadings for my discussion, I did not go into the project thinking that a large focus of “subheading 4: issues faced by the hiking community worldwide”, would be violence against womxn. Yet the more I explored the scholarly, professional, community-based, and news related resources, the more of this I saw until the articles were finally just piling up into a horrifying pile. I myself am a survivor of numerous physical attacks on my person and I do activism work as a guest speaker, resource creator, and consultant on issues of sexual and domestic violence awareness and prevention. Finding this staggering amount of information regarding attacks on solo-womxn-hikers worldwide was something I could not ignore and could not leave out of my research paper.
Why I Chose to Feature Evidence A and How Evidence A Shows Competency:
Though I didn’t go into the paper focusing on an information need of hikers being that of how to stay safe from human attack and murder, that is the information need I found. I address this in Evidence A with the most in-depth and lengthy part of the paper’s discussion. I end this discussion section with specific examples of how information professionals can help to meet this information need: Information professionals can highlight the information found on the dangers of patriarchal values and culture, they can become familiar with the resources available to womxn and People of Color such as free self-defense courses in the community. They can be aware of outdoor recreation areas that may have a habitual history of violence, or of groups of hikers that support each other with safety plans and strategies. Information professionals can be beacons of support for a safer and more equal community to enjoy the outdoors in.
I wrote Evidence A in 2020. As I sit here writing this Competency J statement in September of 2021, the news is full of headlines about the murder of Gabby Petito, who was on a roadtrip through National Parks with her fiance when she “disappeared” and was later found murdered in a National Forest. This comes in the wake of two newlywed womxn who were found murdered in a campsite in Utah just weeks before. The media is, once again, chastising itself for its fanatical coverage of the disappearances and murders of white womxn while having a complete blind spot for the disappearances and murders of countless Indegenous womxn, Womxn of Color, and trans womxn. Yet the media continues to make this same mistake time after time, even after recognizing that it's an issue. It has come to light that Lauren Cho, a Womxn of Color, went missing near the Ben Mar Trail in southern California on June 28th of this year and until recently the case has received little to no media coverage. Daniel Robinson, a Person of Color and a Geologist who was working in the remote wilderness areas of Arizona, went missing under mysterious circumstances just a week before Lauren Cho. His case has also received little to no media coverage until recently.
I feel that if information professionals decide to seriously inform themselves and work on ways to assist hikers, especially solo-womxn-hikers, we can maybe help to make a difference in these grim and constant headlines. Educating men about the perils that womxn face is also critically important. Men learning to recognize potentially threatening situations and acting to assist womxn could also help to cull these headlines. As information professionals, it is our duty to see an information need and work to address it. Violence against hikers is a very serious issue with dire information needs that we cannot turn a blind eye to.
Section 3 of 4:
How Creating the Evidence Helped Me Gain Expertise in Competency J
How Creating Evidence A Helped Me Gain Competency in the Area of J:
Doing the research for Evidence A and structuring my paper around the information needs that I found demonstrated to me the importance of a high level of flexibility in information professionals. We need to be able to adapt our queries and the direction of our research to changing circumstances, needs, and results. To me, making the choice to devote a significant amount of Evidence A’s content to the topic of violence against womxn hikers was necessary. I did not go looking for this information. I went looking for topics that popped up in the literature again and again regarding what information hikers were looking at and for. A shocking amount of attacks on womxn in wilderness areas was what I found. I adapted my paper to focus on helping information professionals become aware of this issue and on how we as a profession can work to meet this dire information need.
How Creating Evidence A Changed My Way of Thinking on Competency J:
Creating Evidence A helped me to think about the different ways information seeking needs and behaviors can be met by information professionals. I felt very strongly about including specific actions which information professionals could take to help meet the information needs of hikers in Evidence A. In creating Evidence A however, I realize that those actions I listed are only a jumping off point. I now know that it takes an information professional actively making the decision to do the research to find community and hiker-specific solutions and resources, as well as effective ways to get that information into the hands of the community that needs it.
Coursework That Has Prepared Me for Competency J:
In my “Information 200: Information Communities” course, I kept a blog chronicling my research and work into information communities. I also completed a context book review/reflective essay that examines The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon, which focuses on helping information professionals cultivate a deeper understanding of how to provide relevance to information seekers. I did an information sources survey, in which I identify and evaluate information sources to determine their appropriate users and applications. I also completed a literature review matrix which organized my research plan, incorporated different LIS databases, and helped me pursue my information community research.
In my “Information 275: Library Services for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Communities” course, I completed two critical article reviews about ascertaining specific information needs of specific information groups and catering specific services to meet those needs. I also conducted a virtual library visit to evaluate how the New York Public Library met the information needs of their community.
In my “Information 237: School Library Media Materials” course, I completed a qualitative rubric for text analysis that demonstrated my ability to cater information to a specific audience: teachers who wanted to present the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson to their class. I also created a cultural awareness and exploration text set that demonstrated my ability to ascertain an information need (examining representation in recreational media), cater information to a specific information group (teachers and high school age students), and present the information in a way that can be located by the information seekers in question (a publicly accessible Google Site). In my “Information 244: Online Searching” course, I created a LibGuide for the specific audience of civil rights activists and geared the LibGuides information and content to that audience.
How I Have Changed From the Person I Was Before These Courses, to the Person After, to the Person I Am Now:
Before I took these courses and completed these projects, I did not have as comprehensive an understanding of the critical importance of nuance when providing information. The more that I studied and explored information groups, learning styles, communication preferences, and information presentation, the deeper my understanding grew of how important it is for information professionals to cater their resources to the specific groups that need them. An information professional who recognizes a need (safety resources for womxn hikers), finds helpful information (a list of free self defense classes nearby), but delivers this information in a way that does not reach womxn hikers (by putting a stack of informative flyers inside a business that employees mostly men and is located in a downtown or heavily urbanized area) has not reached their information group. A more effective information delivery method would be to create a monthly programming event focusing on important safety issues for hikers, hosted at a rural library with a large outdoor community. My understanding of how to apply nuance to information so that it is best utilized has helped me to become a highly effective information professional.
What I Have Learned:
I have learned that achievable, concrete, actions are critical to provide in all aspects of information seeking. I have learned this through creating Evidence A and providing ways for information professionals to meet the information needs of hikers, as well as through writing critical article reviews of how other information professionals have done the same. An information professional needs to know what their client wants to do with the information results when the professional is beginning their research. I have learned this through creating text sets for teachers and students that contain information artifacts which support a central message or theme. An information professional needs to provide specific, actionable, items that information seekers can use. I have learned this by studying scholarly and community based information sources and evaluating what has been most helpful to information seekers in meeting their information needs. Information professionals need to take specific, actionable steps to provide information seekers with information that is relevant and accessible to them specifically. I have learned this by observing the effective and ineffective delivery methods information professionals have utilized in the literature, my own career history, and my own work and research.
Section 4 of 4:
How the Knowledge I Have Gained Will Influence Me in the Future, as an Information Professional
What I Bring to the Position, in Terms of Competency J:
I bring with me a comprehensive understanding of information seeking behaviors, needs, and how to explore and meet those needs as an information professional. I have a passion for providing accurate, accessible, and relevant information and I find the challenge of interpreting data to best suit the needs of the seeker to be an exciting and creative endeavor. I enjoy creating action-plans within my deliverable, and in providing research-based, measurable goals. I also excel at creating data presentations that are highly organized, customized to the audience, and visually appealing. My extensive knowledge of learning styles, communication preferences, available technology resources, and artistic principles means that I create impeccable information deliverables to my information seekers.
How My Learning in Competency J Will Contribute to My Professional Competence in the Future:
I am an excellent information professional because I can identify and assess the information needs of specific information groups, enthusiastically explore a plethora of potential ways to meet those information needs, and design my information delivery to be easily found, accessed, absorbed, and utilized by the information group in question. I have developed and honed these skills through years of working as an information provider in libraries, bookshops, and bookstores as well as through the additional advanced work I have completed in my MLIS program. Writing a graduate-level research paper on the information needs and behaviors of the hiking community (Evidence A) taught me that the resources information professionals can provide to niche groups are fascinating and countless. It also taught me that information professionals need to adapt their research strategies to the ever changing needs of information groups. My comprehensive understanding of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting seekers to accurate, relevant and appropriate information, including the strong focus I have on providing concrete, attainable, action plans in solution-based resources, make me a valuable asset to teams providing information services.
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