Information Seeking Behavior of Minorities and How They View the Library

Executive Summary

This paper discusses information seeking behaviours observed among the minorities of a given society. The main processes involved when seeking information from the library includes commencing the research, browsing through related literature, differentiating between the alternatives and extracting the required information. This paper uses the concepts that have been advanced in social sciences to assess the information seeking behaviours exhibited by the minorities. In this article, analysis of minority information- seeking behaviour will be done using previous researches that highlight how minorities search for information in libraries. Thus, this paper describes the methods employed by the minorities to access information. Moreover, the paper outlines the new methods that minorities use to gain information from libraries and the internet. Some of the new methods used by minorities to seek information include social networking and the use of online libraries. This article shall therefore provide a deeper understanding into how minorities seek for information in the current world.

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Introduction

Students, scholars and other users of the library employ various methods to obtain information. Information seeking habits are variable and will often differ from one individual to the other. Minority students, analysts and even researchers use their own unique methods to obtain information from different sources. Therefore, the information-seeking behaviour of most academicians irrespective of their social groups focus on inquiries within the library and readings from other sources (Lokman and Tibbo 570). Research on how the minority use the library is an intense process thus researchers focus on determining the manner which minorities use the library to seek information. Most researchers employ holistic approaches to analyze the information seeking behaviours that are exhibited by the minorities and other scholars (Fidel 220). This form of research is characterised by attempts to generate models that researchers can use to analyze information-seeking behaviours.

Currently, librarians seek information that will assist them in analyzing how the minority groups within the society use the library. This has led into deeper studies that seek to explain how different social groups access and seek information in the library (Lokman and Tibbo 570). The reason for seeking information based on the social grouping is to ensure that librarians can provide the best possible services to various groups of students who seek for information from the library. Most of the studies published in the recent times are of the opinion that researchers should conduct studies that will enhance special services to different groups of students within a specific community.

Discussion

Information seeking processes used by the minorities are variable in nature. However, most of the information seeking process begin with identifying a problem that requires an answer. Most of the minority students commence their research process by identifying the relevant books. Once they have the required books, they browse them to obtain the required information (Mengxiong 197). After browsing through the various information sources, students must make a decision with regards to the various alternatives. The students base their decisions on relevance of the sources that are available. Most students choose the most relevant sources to use in their research (Otis 59). After choosing the most relevant material, minority students have to extract the information from the relevant sources. The content extracted from books by the students is usually useful in solving the problem identified by the student. At this point, it should be noted that information seeking behaviours of the minorities is usually not different from that of other information seekers except in a few areas.

Some researchers observe the interaction between librarians and the minorities. Such researchers come up with solutions and ideas that librarians may utilize to solve the problems that minorities may have while utilizing the library. Over the years, the minorities’ use of libraries has changed greatly due to the progress made by libraries in creating culturally acceptable and diverse conditions for the minorities (Ronald 55). Research conducted in the early 1990s indicates that the libraries have allocated some of their resources in ensuring that the minorities are well catered for within their library programs.

Mengxiong and Bernice (1997) examined the information seeking behaviours of the minority students in the United States (349). From their research, Mengxiong and Bernice found out that minorities from developing countries had difficulties in assessing information especially in American libraries. It is clear that language is one of their greatest barriers in the information seeking process. Therefore, in American libraries, the students who are more proficient in English have fewer difficulties while assessing the library than students who were not proficient. Students from countries with the American influence had few complications while assessing information in the library in America. The most interesting finding in the research conducted by Mengxiong and Bernice (1997) was that despite the fact that minorities had trouble in assessing information, they still avoided asking for the references. The reason behind this behaviour was related to the difference in culture and ethnic background (Mengxiong and Bernice 353).

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Another research conducted by Ziming (1993) on the students’ information seeking behaviour found out that the students who took natural sciences did not experience a lot of hardships while assessing for information as compared to the students in the humanities than the students in faculty of humanities (27). Minorities who use the library frequently are usually more successful while accessing information from the library as compared to their counterparts. Other studies show that minorities who are comfortable with the library setting use the facility more than those who are unfamiliar with the library (Welch and Errol 189).

Additionally, cultural diversity is one of the factors that affect the information seeking habits in the society. Librarians, in the current world, are required to put extra efforts to ensure that the library users get the attention they deserve. Minorities exhibit a variety of information seeking behaviours that must be well understood in order to provide the required services. The librarians make efforts to study the misperceptions that minority groups have on the library. This is due to the fact that the diverse nature of information seeking behaviours among the minorities always creates a lot of controversy. Academic libraries are becoming active in their quest to develop a multi-cultural appearance. This will enhance the process of information seeking from all the quarters. According to Agot (2007), information seeking behaviours exhibited by the minorities has improved greatly due to the changes in the library approach (83).

Studies conducted on information seeking behaviours of women in Malaysia can be used to enhance the understanding of researcher on the question of information-seeking habits. According to the traditional setting of Malaysia, the role of womn within the society was to take care of their homes and raise children (Ahmad 1). However, with the changes in the global economic scene, women got involved in other tasks within the society. Rural women who do not hold full time jobs are now exposed to various fields of expertise. The exposure to the different fields requires these women to seek for information that will enable them to perform their economic tasks effectively and efficiently. Information seeking behaviours of rural women vary depending on the information they want to gain (Ahmad 1). As per the study that was conducted by Ahmad (2011), the information seeking behaviour exhibited by Malaysian women mainly relied on their needs. Most of the women in Malaysia sought information because it was important in enhancing their economic position. Therefore, the rural women in Malaysia exhibited a tendency to seek information that served their needs.

Information seeking behaviour in the minorities has considerably evolved with the technological advances. Minorities may be uncomfortable with the library setting. Therefore, networking has become the newest method of information seeking and sharing. Minorities who find it difficult to access information in the library have a tendency of using the internet to search for the same information. In cases where they are not using the internet, they can request the information from other users who are comfortable with the library setting. Networking among minorities is a common practice that has ensured they can get information without actually accessing the library. Networking trends are becoming common among many scholars and analyst. Information can now be sought directly from the authors rather than reading the whole book. Therefore, the process of seeking information is slowly changing with the changing times.

The availability of internet networks has clearly changed the manner that the minorities use the library. Most minorities, who are uncomfortable with the physical setting of the library, have resorted to using internet library. Students are using technology and networking as the newest means of assessing information. Minorities have found solace in the new technology as a method of seeking information. The use of search engines is slowly replacing the librarians in the current world. Today, most books are available online in a digital format at the request of the user. The once tedious task of seeking hardcopy material is ending due to technological advances. Technology is breaking the barriers that once existed when the minorities used the library. Barriers such as difference language that once made it difficult for the minorities to use the library have now been eliminated and therefore, most library users prefer using technological libraries rather than physical libraries.

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Subject-based research shows that the internet has become a buzz of activity. Minority use of Internet library gained momentum around 1996 when electronic guide research became prominent in the world of research. The switch from the physical library to the electronic library is a trend that most students are adopting. Students and researchers are finding it easier to work in the comfort of their homes. Therefore, the use of electronic libraries is not a trend among the minorities only but also a trend that is catching up with the rest of the society.

Emergence of social networks and video chatting has encouraged networking. Minorities who cannot access information from the library no longer require inquiring from the librarians. Instead, such student can use social networks to inquire about a given topic from friends or any other library user find comfortable to use. Moreover, with the emergence of video chatting, the students can discuss details via the internet without actually accessing the library. Technology has made it hard to monitor the minorities’ view of the library. Moreover, technology has changed the whole scope of information seeking.

Conclusion

Students, scholars, and other users of the library employ various methods to obtain information from different sources. Information seeking habits are very variable and will often differ from one individual to the next. Therefore, the information seeking behaviours of all academics, irrespective of their social groups, focuses on inquiries. Information-seeking processes used by the minorities are very variable. Information-seeking process begins with identifying a problem that requires an answer. Most of the minority students commence the research by identifying the relevant books and perusing through the book to obtain the required information.

Minority student who use the library frequently are usually more successful in accessing information from the library. Previous research shows that the minorities who are comfortable with the library setting use the facility more than those who are unfamiliar with the library. Cultural diversity is one of the factors that affect the information seeking habits of the society. Librarians in the current world are required to put extra efforts to ensure that the library users get the attention they deserve.

Information seeking behaviour in the minorities has considerably evolved with technological advances. Since most minorities are uncomfortable with the library setting, networking has become the new method of information seeking and sharing. Minorities seek information based on their understanding of the library. Minorities who find it difficult to access information in the library have a tendency of using the internet to access this information. In cases when the minorities are not using the internet, they can request the information from other users who are more comfortable with the library setting Therefore, the information seeking behaviour of the minorities will depend on how well he or she understands the library.

Works Cited

Agot, Berger. “Recent Trends In Library Services For Ethnic Minorities: The Danish Experience.” Library Management 23.2 (2002): 79-87. Print.

Ahmad, Bakeri. “Information Seeking Behaviours of Rural Women in Malaysia.” Library Philosophy and Practice 10.1 (2011): 10-23. Print.

Fidel, Raymond. “Qualitative methods in Information Retrieval Research.” Library & Information Science Research, 15.3, 219–247. Print.

Lokman, Meho and Tibbo Helen. “Modelling the Information-Seeking Behaviour of SocialScientists: Ellis’s Study Revisited.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 54.6 (2003): 570–587. Print.

Mengxiong, Liu. “Library Services for Ethnolinguistic Students.” Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences 32.2 (1995): 129-246. Print.

Mengxiong, Liu and Bernice Redfern. “Information-Seeking Behavior of Multicultural Students: A Case Study at San Jose State University.” College & Research Libraries 50.7 (1997): 348-354. Print.

Otis, Chadley. “Addressing Cultural Diversity in Academic and Research Libraries.” College and Research Libraries 53.3 (1992): 14-206. Print.

Ronald, Powell. Basic Research Methods for Librarians. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex, 1991. Print.

Welch, Janet and Errol Lam. “The Library and the Pluralistic Campus in the Year 2000: Implications for Administrators.” Library Administration and Management 5.1 (1991): 212-16. Print.

Ziming, Liu. “Difficulties and Characteristics of Students from Developing Countries in Using American Libraries.” College and Research Libraries 54.1 (1993): 25-3. Print.

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