Conceptualizing information work for health contexts in Library and Information Science

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Documentation, Volume 76, Number 1, p.96–108 (2020)


Purpose. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that a closer consideration of the notion of work and, more specifically, information work as a sensitizing concept in Library and Information Science (LIS) can offer a helpful way to differently consider how people interact and engage with information and can complement a parallel focus on practices, behaviours and activities.
Design/methodology/approach. Starting with the advent of the concept of information work in Corbin and Strauss work, the paper then summarizes how information work has evolved and taken shape in LIS research and discourse, both within and outside of health-related information contexts.
Findings. The paper argues that information work affords a lens that can acknowledge the multiple levels of effort and multiple processes (cognitive, physical or social-behavioural) related to information activities. This paper outlines six affordances that the use of information work within LIS scholarship imparts: acknowledges the conceptual, mental and affective; brings attention to the invisibility of particular information activities and their constituents; opens up and distinguishes the many different lines of work; destabilizes hierarchies between professionals and non-professionals; emphasizes goals relating to information activities and their underlying pursuits; and questions work/non-work dichotomies established in existing LIS models.
Originality/value. This paper is a first in bringing together the many iterations of information work research in LIS. In doing so, this paper serves as a prompt for other LIS scholars to take up, challenge the existing borders of, and thus advance the concept of information work.

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