We Are Not Consumers – LIS Practice

This project was for LIS 651, Theories of Information. A research paper combining information theory, philosophy, and LIS practice to argues against the cognitive viewpoint in LIS theory and in favor of a non-consumer based view of libraries based on the transformative possibilities of information-sharing spaces. The paper fulfills the LIS Practice requirement.

The paper is available here: Dean_William_Research_Paper_LIS65103

Through the paper, I advocate a position of not viewing information as a commodity and libraries as institutions that provide access to a commodity in the similar sense that a shoe store offers access to the newest shoe designs. I argue instead for a view of libraries where transformative learning, creating and organizing can take place. To illustrate these issues I review and critique current LIS scholarship about the cognitive view point and the commodification of information.

Advocates of the cognitive view point have tried to show how library patrons use information by quantifying their information consumption. Using this viewpoint, they argue in favor of tailoring library services to maximize the consumption of information of by library patrons.

While I am not advocating against expanding library services, I feel that focusing solely on the amount of information a patron can consume can lead to a reduction of the use of the library for critical information use and contributes to the idea of people as passive consumers of information rather than engaged and active individuals in the world. The view of people as passive consumers can lead to the informational landscape being dominated by powerful interests to the detriment of social goals like democracy, creativity, and individual engagement. TO argue in favor of an engaged and critical use of information, I cite well-known articles from within the LIS world and the world of philosophy to argue in favor of libraries being sites of active social activity and organizing for social justice.

As an alternative to the information consumer view, I present the use of zines in libraries as one way to both offer information access and foster a space for patron creative expression, social and political engagement and critical thinking. Zines are small books that are created using a variety of tools outside the mainstream publishing industry. They exist in a number of subcultures in the United States and the world and are often used to communicate information and views that are difficult to find in mainstream media. I present both zine collections held by libraries and the use of library space to create zines as a way to help make libraries the kind of space that can help people become more engaged in their world, both politically and creatively.