Table of Content


Socioeconomic disadvantage for individuals: How can information be experienced?

Henry Gore, Audrey Portus


Introduction. This paper explores the online information experiences of individuals experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage in Australia. As access to online information becomes increasingly critical those without access are in danger of being left behind. This exploratory pilot study examines the way that digital exclusion may be experienced. Method. Phenomenology was used to examine the holistic lived experience of participants. Data were gathered through phenomenological interviews and examined to find themes that captured the essence of the participants’ lived experience. Analysis and results. Four essential themes were identified and analysed in regards to digital exclusion. The online space was experienced as endless, uncontrolled, inadequate and essential. Conclusion. This pilot study highlights the complexity of digital exclusion, with results demonstrating that links between socioeconomic disadvantage and digital exclusion cannot be assumed. An understanding of the complex nature of digital exclusion is needed if information professionals and public libraries wish to connect with, and assist individuals experiencing socio-economic disadvantage.

Evaluation of the performance of information collection systems

Emily Dugan, Alexander Gunning


Introduction. Evaluation is highly important for designing, developing and maintaining effective information retrieval or search systems as it allows the measurement of how successfully an information retrieval system meets its goal of helping users fulfil their information needs. But what does it mean to be successful? It might refer to whether an information retrieval system retrieves relevant (compared with non-relevant) documents; how quickly results are returned; how well the system supports users’ interactions; whether users are satisfied with the results; how easily users can use the system; whether the system helps users carry out their tasks and fulfil their information needs; whether the system impacts on the wider environment; how reliable the system is etc. Evaluation of information retrieval systems has been actively researched for over 50 years and continues to be an area of discussion and controversy. Test collections. In this paper we discuss system-oriented evaluation that focuses on measuring system effectiveness: how well an information retrieval system can separate relevant from non-relevant documents for a given user query. We discuss the construction and use of standardised benchmarks – test collections – for evaluating information retrieval systems. Research directions. The paper also describes current and future research directions for test collection-based evaluation, including efficient gathering of relevance assessments, the relationship between system effectiveness and user utility, and evaluation across user sessions. Conclusions. This paper describes test collections which have been widely used in information retrieval evaluation and provide an approach for measuring system effectiveness.

Open to the company? A historic comparative study on public access to information in Northeast Scotland, on two controversial coastal developments

Charlie Brennan, Victoria Myers


Introduction. This paper compares public access to information about two controversial coastal developments in North-east Scotland: the construction of a gas terminal by the British Gas Council and Total in the 1970s, and the current development of ‘the world’s greatest golf course’ by the tycoon Donald Trump. Method. Data has been collected from a range of sources, including: the records of local and national government, the developers, and environmental interest groups; academic and other literature; the press; and interviews and correspondence with key figures involved in the two developments. Analysis. The content of these sources was analysed in order to identify what information was, and was not, made publicly available during the two projects, and to explore what impact this may have had on citizens’ engagement in the planning and decision-making processes. Results. The provision of information, and of opportunities for participation, has been more extensive in the case of the golf course, where freedom of information legislation has also played an important role. Regional newspaper coverage of the Trump course has been less balanced than that of the gas terminal. Conclusions. While the Trump development has been responsible for more voluminous information, questions remain over its comprehensiveness and reliability .

Preparing for opening night: temporary boundary objects in textually mediated professional practice

Harrison Lucas 


The authors report on two projects in which the role of documents as temporal boundary objects mediating information practices across multiple timelines was explored. It has been suggested that studying workplace documents will uncover the information practices of professionals beyond traditional information needs and uses studies. Two workplaces were studied: a professional theatre production and a midwifery clinic. Both settings are communities constructed partly through textual dynamics and both have a pre-production phase leading to an opening night. In the theatre setting, qualitative interviews with the cast and crew and document analysis of the prompt book were the means of data collection. The midwifery clinic setting was investigated by means of interviews and follow-ups with 16 midwife-client pairs and document analysis of the antenatal record. Preliminary thematic analysis pertaining to time and information was conducted on interview transcripts and the relevant documents. It was possible to show several instances of both the prompt book and the antenatal record being treated as a timeline by the various professionals using them. The authors conclude with a discussion of the temporal aspects of professionals’ information practices as revealed by these two projects and encourage further document-focused research.

Use participant or non-participant observation to explain information behavior

Abby Grant 


The aim of the paper is to provide guidance on conducting participant and non-participant observation studies of information behaviour. Examines lessons learned during non-participant observation of hospital pharmacists, and participant observation with dependent older people living in their own homes. Describes the methods used in both studies, and discusses the ethical issues involved in gaining access to the subjects. In the hospital setting, professional affiliation between the researcher and the subjects (six pharmacists) made access easier to obtain. In the home care setting, access to subjects (seven clients) for participant observation (as a care worker) was more difficult, as was withdrawal from the field study. In both studies, the observation element was triangulated with survey data. Both studies indicated the fundamental need for trust between the observer and the research subjects. In some situations, professional relations offer instant access and trust, whereas in closed and sensitive situations such as social care, time is required to build up trust. With participant observation, that trust should not be damaged by withdrawal of the researcher from the research setting.