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Recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use

Competency C

Librarians and information professionals serve all kinds of people, depending on the type of information work they do and the group of people they serve. It is important for information workers to understand the groups of people they serve and the possible information needs they might have. These needs can vary greatly depending on the social, cultural and economic situations of each group.

Librarians need to understand the social dimensions of the user group they serve in order to collect materials that these users will need. Librarians do user needs assessments and do demographic research in order to determine collection development policies and decisions. A determination that the community being served contains a large number of seniors may make a librarian collect more large print books. Large numbers of children might justify devoting a large portion of the budget to children’s books and materials. Understanding the social dimensions of information use can also address how certain groups approach their information needs. Seniors may not be as comfortable with technology, so they may prefer not to get information online, but rather in the physical space of the library itself where personal interaction is required.

Librarians serve communities with varying cultural backgrounds. The cultural backgrounds of library users can also affect the information use of patrons. Libraries can alter their collections based on the cultural makeup of the communities. Communities that have large minority populations are likely to want their information in their native languages. Therefore librarians must determine what kinds of information they are likely to use in order to determine which materials need to be acquired in which language(s).

The economic situation of users also effects their information use. Lower income groups are going to have different information needs than those of higher incomes. Lower income users may be more interested in information that helps them in their daily lives, such as how to books, job resources, and training materials. Also, higher income people have more resources available to them. “More affluent individuals are more likely to own computers or to attend schools where computers are common. Such individuals will likely find using libraries now and in the future easier and more satisfying" (Rubin, p. 33). Therefore libraries have to find ways to make library use available and satisfying for users of all economic backgrounds.


Coordinating School and Public Library Resources to Empower At-Risk Adolescent Girls - LIBR 204 - Spring 2005
This project for LIBR 204 in the Spring of 2005 focused on providing library services to at-risk adolescent girls. This group looked at studies about library usage by teenagers, as well as conducting its own survey with local teens. In this document, the group examined some of the social, cultural and economic conditions that teenagers deal with that prevent them from being library users, and how the library can create and environment that's welcoming to this user group.


Rubin, R. (2000). Foundations of library and information science. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

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