Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors.

Component 1: Statement of Competency

Information seeking behavior studies how users come to needing or wanting information. This process looks at how users desire to seek or gather information to satisfy their needs and wants. “The more we understand the person, the better we can determine what to provide for that individual” (Rubin, 2010, p276). A reference interview is, conducted effectively, will provide this to us through asking the right questions. However, we, information professionals, must understand the concepts of these information-seeking behaviors so that we can ask the right questions. Information seeking behaviors can be understood by asking how, what, where, and why questions.

“Seeking and gathering information is a highly complex process that requires considerable explanation and refinement” (Rubin, 2010, p275). Fundamental concepts to information seeking is the knowledge of how our users are looking for information. What is the drive for the information? Are they looking for information to satisfy an immediate need or are they looking for information to satisfy a deferred need? Rubin explains that the distinction between the two forms of searching “might profoundly affect how a library is used” (Rubin, 2010, p276). If a patron is seeking information they may go directly to the reference desk or circulation desk. If a patron is gathering information, they may browse the stacks noting of books they may want to read or topics they find interesting and not utilize the librarians at all.

I want to discuss now a couple of information seeking theories. First is Kuhlthau’s information search process (ISP). This theory claims that the search process for information takes place in six stages: initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection and presentation. In the first three stages (initiation, selection, exploration) the user is developing the purpose for needing information and focusing on what the topic of that purpose is. In these stages the user is in the gathering field where they are gathering information for a deferred need. In stage four, formulation, the user begins the transformation from gatherer to seeker; they have a clear focus and “the seeker begins to evaluate critically the information obtained…discarding what appears to be irrelevant” (Rubin, 2010, p278). In stage five, collection, the user is now seeking information to satisfy an immediate need. The use of a librarian is highest in this stage as the seeker can now clearly articulate the type of information they need. This is a dramatic help for the librarian as most of the guess work is eliminated. The final stage of Kuhlthau’s ISP is stage six, presentation. This is where the user then takes all of the information from stages 1-5 and reports on the information gathered.

The second theory I want to discuss is one I have seen most often working as a reference librarian in the academic field, the principle of least effort. “People seek the most convenient source to meet their needs, even when they know that this source might produce information of lower quality than other sources” (Rubin, 2010, p279). This theory is also one that I believe causes much fret and frustration to librarians, especially since we spend significant amounts of time developing collections of quality information. Search engines have become a go-to source for quick, easy and not always reliable source of information; we see this as the noun became a verb, just “google” it.

One thing to note is how users are searching digital resource repositories like search engines and databases. Acknowledging and understanding the complexity or simplicity of the search process the patrons are using will help us know how they seek or gather information. Search engines have impacted how user think of finding information. Search engines utilize natural language searching, the behavior of the user would be typing in a question, as they would ask a librarian, rather than breaking down the topic through controlled vocabulary. This is important to remember because when patrons come to us for help and say they cannot find any information on their topic, we need to ask where they searched, how they phrased their search and what they are looking for.

Component 2: Justification of Evidence and Evidence:

My first piece of evidence I have included to show my understanding of the competency is an [Exercise2finalwriteup] from Libr244. This piece breaks down my search process for a specific problem, the summary of my behavior in seeking the information I needed to solve the problem. It shows the complexity of my information seeking behavior. It also shows the process of what information seeking (versus information gathering) looks like. This piece of evidence is 51 pages long, however you only need to focus on pages 1-2 for the evidence.

My second piece of evidence I have included is [LIBR202 Project #4 & LIBR202 Project #4 Table] this project addresses a specific topic and analyzes the difference of searching in two different manners, searching the library catalog and searching a database. I included this piece to show how the searching strategy and behavior changes based on the resource used. I have included with this the excel table which shows all of the search terms I used when searching for my topic. The search terms show how even in two controlled vocabulary environments terms the searching behavior evolves very differently based on search results.

My third piece of evidence I have included is a discussion post from Libr210, [when have you provide sufficient information]. This post answers the question, how would you determine *when* you have provided sufficient information in answer to a given reference question. I chose to include this piece of evidence to show my understanding of how the information seeking behavior varies from user to user. Sometime a user only wants one answer, like who won the World Series in 1999.


Information seeking behavior varies, and with the growth of digital resources and web accessibility they will continue to vary widely. It is up to us to ask the questions to determine what the user is needing and wanting. “We are not supposed to be able to read their minds, we can watch and understand body language but we need to ask questions” (Watkins, Discussion post Libr210).


Rubin, R. E. (2010). The Values and Ethics of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

Watkins, W. (2012) When have you provided sufficient information? [Discussion Post]. SJSU-SLIS.


LIBR202 Project #4

LIBR202 Project #4 Table


when have you provide sufficient information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s