Monday, May 02, 2005

Last(ing) Thoughts about Human Information Behavior as a Science

Human information behavior is young and its curious newness has attracted those in education, information science, information technology, library science and the social sciences, some with great fervor. No voice has been more dominant in theorizing with some of its clever acronyms and its pseudo-scientific social observations.
Take a look at some of the diagrams and some of the charts and some of the measurements. This is definitely the softest of sciences and it uses the oldest of scientific instruments, human observation.
But human observation is at best, unreliable, so how can a “science” today be built on “human observation” as HIB continues to be?

Libraries today struggle with painting their walls and filling their shelves, except when it comes to videos and DVDs. We have become a more visual culture in the last 30 years. This coincides with a decline in reading skills. Are libraries still catering to a public that no longer exists, or are the functions of the library evolving to continue to meet the needs of their individual charters?

The library is at a crossroads between being a building and being a service. Human information behavior is studying the patterns that determine its institutional future.
If human information behavior is performing a vital function in understanding the ways people seek information and that activity is vital and constant, then the knowledge coming from the studies could be applied to schools and libraries policies. With an adequate budget, any information source can survive, if it understands its constituencies, and principles of marketing.

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