I’ve been fairly confident in my choice of information community since before this semester began. Informed by my place of employment, and my interest in indigenous libraries, for the remainder of the course, I will be investigating the information needs and behavior of Native North American groups. Although at first glance this may not seem to to be the best match for Fisher & Durrance’s (2003) definition and characteristics of information communities, I was emboldened by the list of information communities presented in week three’s materials, and I believe that I can make an argument for the alignment of this information community with the characteristics given.
Fisher & Durrance (2003) state that “Information communities form mainly around people’s needs to use information from distributed information resources.” While individual tribes and bands themselves were formed well before the advent of libraries on this continent, we are now in a time period where Tribal communities are forming their own cultural institutions (schools, museums, libraries, archives, etc.) based on their information needs.
Fisher & Durrance (2003) state that information communities “exploit the informationsharing qualities of technology and yield multiplier effects for stakeholders.” Broadly defined, technology includes traditional library collections as well as information sources from the internet, and emerging technologies. Many Tribal communities are now exploiting a variety of technologies to promote language, culture, and other issues important to Tribal members. Some tribes utilize Rosetta Stone and other language software to document and share Tribal languages among members, others utilize email discussion lists to communicate regarding Tribal issues, tribes are publishing their own books of history and culture, and Tribal members utilize social networking platforms like Facebook to share news, personal information, or even to buy, sell, or barter items.
Information communities “emphasize collaboration among diverse groups that provide information and may share joint responsibility and resources” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). Tribal information communities involve a number of diverse information providers. These may include traditional public libraries; Tribal community libraries; book publishers; Tribal education, language, history, and culture programs; Tribal museums, etc. Tribal elders are also an invaluable source of information. Some Tribal knowledge (such as the locations of important medicine or food plants) is often managed outside of traditional information management institutions, and the community members may share responsibility for protecting this knowledge.
Information communities “anticipate and often form around people’s needs to access and use information in ways that people perceive as helpful” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). This is true of Tribal libraries. If Tribal members find that their information needs are not being met by existing institutions, whether due to issues of access, collection issues, or issues of sovereignty, a Tribal library may form.
Information communities “remove barriers to information about acquiring needed services and participating in civic life” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). In a Tribal information community, Tribal libraries, government offices, and sources consulted during ELIS can help individuals with information about services as well as participation in civic life both internally and within the larger national community.
Lastly, information communities “foster social connectedness within the larger community” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). Both the wider Tribal community as well as its specific institutions such as Tribal governments and libraries, can help contribute to the sense of connectedness by providing information about culture, language, events, and other common interests of the community.
I look forward to exploring various facets of Tribal information communities throughout this course, including both specifically Tribal institutions, and services to Tribal members in the context of public and other libraries. I’m excited to see where the topic goes as I examine various sources in the literature.
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://knowledge.sagepub.com/view/community/n248.xml (Links to an external site.)