Community Information Seeking

Information Seeking Situations and Information Providers:

Assessing the information needs of the general public in the community is a difficult process especially with those who are neither aware of library services in the locality nor know about the sources to satisfy their information needs. The identification of this need and the nature and behaviour of its potential users are considered as the two basic aspects of community information. Thus the information need of a community is that information needed by the members of the community to make the best use of the resources available to them within the community that helps them directly or indirectly in solving their day-to-day problems. In other words, it related to the identification of information needs of the people with probable information-seeking situations and the most probable course of action which they would take to solve these problems.

Information Seeking Situations:

Problems of community residents are numerous and every aspect of their daily lives whether it is economical, social or political poses problems which they solve by seeking information from different sources. Often they contact other persons in the community for information to solve these problems. This brings a constant interaction between two or more persons in the community. Such a situation where a person meets another person or source in the community to seek information for solving a particular problem can be identified as an information-seeking situation and the person or source which provides the information can be considered as a potential information provider for that situation. In fact, most of us come across such situations in our daily lives which either we solve the problems if, we are aware of their solutions or seek information, from others or approach different persons or sources for solutions in Which case the later become the information providers to these problems.

One consistent problem is that it is difficult to design studies that will reliably measure peoples’ information needs. In some instances, their information needs may be easy to identify e.g. the lack of a fact or statistical details. At other tier es, the information need is less definable for example, in the expressions like ‘I don’t know. what I want, but I will know it when I see it’. This has been defined by Brookes et. al. (1979) as an Anomalous State of Knowledge (ASK). It is frequently impossible for people to articulate what their ASK is. In these circumstances, a method of surveying information needs that does not ask the user explicit questions of what his or her needs required*. Observing information-seeking behaviour is a well-established technique. Such a method can reveal information needs and the subsequent actions taken to satisfy those needs. Unsatisfied needs can be seen when the appropriate information is not found (Eager & Oppenhiem, 1996).

Direct and Indirect Information Providers:

Every information seeking situation involves a potential ‘ information provider who provides information to the seeker to solve that particular problem (Beal: 1979). The information provider which provides the exact information for solving the particular situation is considered as the direct information provider. For example, a doctor or a health inspector/visitor is a direct information provider to problems related to health and disease. On the other hand, the information provider who instead of providing the exact source helps to locate or identify and direct the seeker towards the exact source of information in solving a particular situation is considered as the indirect information provider. This type of provider are not capable of providing the exact information but helps to acquire such information within the community. For example, a neighbor becomes the indirect information provider when he or she helps in locating the whereabouts of a doctor for solving a particular problem related to health and disease. However, the nature of information providers may vary depending on the various characteristics of the information seekers, such as sex, age, marital status, occupational and socioeconomic status, and their living environments.

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