Our intention has been to develop a conceptual framework for considering library services. Nevertheless, it seems justified to try to extend this, or any similar framework, in two ways. The first sort of extension has to do with similarities between library services and other retrieval-based information services. If, instead of insisting that library services are entirely unique, we were to explore the notion that library services could be viewed as examples of information services based on retrieval, then perhaps the conceptual framework developed for library services might also serve as a conceptual framework for one or more other members of this familyor, indeed, for retrieval-based information services as a class. The second sort of extension is different in kind. How could this, or any other framework that might be developed, accommodate or mesh with other sorts of information services that are not retrieval based? These issues need detailed consideration well beyond the scope of this chapter, but we shall speculate briefly concerning these two sorts of extension in this chapter.
Retrieval-based information services generally
What if we had set out to write a similar but different book developing a conceptual framework for considering some other retrieval-based information service such as archives instead of libraries, with a title such as Archival Services in Theory and Context? The mere act of defining a class of activities by the two criteria that (1) they must be information services, and (2) they must involve retrieval already ensures a significant degree of commonality among the activities included in the class. To the extent that a conceptual framework is developed for one, a basis is provided for a conceptual framework for all"Retrieval-based information systems in theory and context."
We begin by noting a few candidates for inclusion in the class of retrieval-based information services.
Archives constitute an obvious choice even though the practices and traditions of archivists differ importantly from those of librarians. Archives are ordinarily the files of documents assembled in the conduct of the affairs of an organization and no longer in routine use. A difference from libraries is the choice of attribute by which documents are physically arranged: library collections are usually arranged by subject content; archival collections are arranged "by provenance," in the same series and chronological sequence that they were originally assembled. One might envisage subject and/or name indexes to them, but not their rearrangement by subject or author. In other words, the attribute by which they are arranged (administrative provenance) differs from the subject arrangement of library practice. Other characteristics are that each record is liable to be unique, that the juxtaposition of the records within each series is in itself likely to be meaningful, that the number of records tends to be very large indeed, and that the frequency of use of individual records tends to be very low. There has been a tendency to stress the differences between archives and libraries rather than the similarities. 1
Records management is concerned with maintaining an organization's systems of files, especially those records whose usage has not yet reached a frequency so low that they can be discarded or relegated to archives. 2 Although records managers are generally regarded as being concerned with paper records in folders, there is extensive use of microfilm and, increasingly, of records in machine-readable form. Even if this were not the case, it is not clear that the choice of text-bearing medium would be any more relevant for a conceptual framework for records management than it is for library services. It could be argued that current records management practice is primarily preoccupied with the logistical aspects of handling records, storage, microfilming, the preservation of vital records, and the destruction of others, rather than the content of the records. Yet there seems to be no reason why this should not be seen as an incomplete stage of development and why sophisticated techniques for intellectual access should not be developed as the trend to machine-readable records continue and as records management practice becomes more sophisticated. 3
Management Information Systems
Management Information Systems (MIS) are formal computer-based information services designed to help managers to make decisions. So far, there has been remarkably little interaction between librarians and those who develop and operate Management Information Systems. At least a partial explanation can be found in differences in the records used. Traditional MIS has been concerned primarily with numerical data derived from inside the organization whose managers are to be informed. Being internally derived, some control is possible over what data are collected and the form in which they are collected. The organization of these data is likely to be fairly well structured, and they are relatively easy to handle in a computer. Such data are relatively "tidy." There may well be problems in defining and documenting the data, but for the most part, formulating a search is not likely to involve significant difficulties of indexing and retrieval. The specification of the search is likely to tend to reduce to simple logic. Since the data are numerical there is plentiful scope for using mathematical models to predict possible future situations.
This is all quite different in appearance from what librarians do, yet it seems likely that there will be some convergence. One reason is that the sort of data that MIS can handle best tend to relate to internal, operational decisions. This is needed, but managers also need to take strategic decisions concerning their organizations' relationships with the environment with which they must deal. Becoming informed concerning the environment is likely to be based mainly on conversations, reports, and the scanning of data derived from outside the organization. These sorts of data are "messy" in the sense that they are mainly textual and commonly composed by people outside the organization who had quite other purposes in mind. If the data are numerical, the definitions are likely to be inconsistent. Even if these data were in machine-readable form, they would still be difficult to organize and to retrieve. Indexing is a serious problem for data to be used for strategic decision making. Handling them requires skills that librarians have developed over the years. Hence, extending the range of decisions to be supported by Management Information Systems from operational problems to include strategic problems can be expected to include greater attention to textual records and to techniques more closely resembling those of librarians. 4
Other plausible candidates for membership in the same family as library services are not difficult to find: museum documentation involves particularly difficult problems of classification and indexing; 5 litigation support systems use computer-based retrieval to help marshal evidence in law suits; 6 office information systems generate large, complex data bases of mostly textual records that need to be retrieved in various ways; data base management systems facilitate the creation of information storage and retrieval systems for all sorts of purposes. The contexts vary, the attributes used as a basis for retrieval vary, and those involved are likely to be more conscious of their differentness. Nevertheless, in each of these examples there appears to be a profound structural similarity to library services in the five types of processes that we have been using:
In each case inquiries arise. There would seem to be no reason to expect any change in the processes that generate inquiries, since these processes are external to the information system. Significant differences can be expected from one situation to another in the users' perceptions of the sorts of inquiries regarded appropriate to particular information services, but that is also the case among library services.
The scope for variation in the nature of retrieval-based information services would appear to be quite limited when considered at a theoretical rather than a technical level.
What is to be retrievable? If we are to deal with retrieval-based information services generally, then we must be able to consider anything that might be made retrievable with the expectation that subsequent perception of it would be informative. It is this restriction to things which could be informative that defines present interests within storage operations generally. We are interested in information services, not in stores of munitions, food, or other sorts of supplies. It is this restriction to those things that can be informative that enables us to use the term "signals" in a loose way to include such concrete but informative objects as books, statistical summaries, and museum objects.
What attributes are to be used as a basis for retrieval? Indexing or arranging books according to their bindings would be an extravagant waste of money for almost (but not quite) all library users. For the rare student of book-binding it would be very useful. The choice of attributes to be used for retrieval is largely a problem of prediction because one must necessarily deal with future inquiries. A good understanding of current inquiries should serve as a fairly reliable predictor for the near future. Beyond that, the uncertainty increases since the determinants of future interests are not knowable in any reliable way. Judgment concerning the choice of attributes needs to be based upon consideration of the sorts of inquiries that the providers of the service will handle and also the nature of the retrievable objects and/or the representations of those objects. Objects vary in their attributes: dinosaur bones do not have authors. Some attributes may be well worth using in theory, but technological and economic considerations inhibit their use in practice.
As an instructive example we can consider archives where retrieval is customarily based on the attribute of "provenance": the administrative source of documents or "fonds." Provenance is an attribute not ordinarily used in libraries and is different from the subject arrangement typical of library practice. Nevertheless, the power of provenance to convey information through context alone is significant and should be supplemented, not replaced by other attributes of descriptive cataloging and subject indexing. 7
There may be brief descriptions of the nature and contents of classes ("series") of documents and occasionally a brief description ("calendar") of individual documents within a series. Detailed indexes of the mention of specific names or topics within the archives, however, are rarely affordable luxuries. The expression of the inquiry in the language of the retrieval system is, in general, a matter of expressing the inquiry in terms of the series generated by a specific administrative body for a specific period of time, such as: "May I please see the correspondence of the Secretary of the Academic Senate for 1925-26?" The hope is that the array of documents defined in this way will contain the material desired. Within the conjunction of series and time span, one browses. Of course, detailed indexing with respect to a wide variety of attributes would permit the formulation of more explicitly detailed searches, but this would require an enormous investment of resources since archival holdings, unlike library holdings, tend to be individually unique as well as extremely numerous. 8 For detailed indexing of archives to become prevalent, there would have to be dramatic (and highly improbable) changes: a reduction in the costs of indexing; increased funding for archive administration; and/or a radical increase in the importance assigned to the value of indexing archives relative to the value of acquiring them.
Museum documentation provides an interesting challenge. Unlike books in libraries, museum objects generally lack such convenient attributes as author, title, publisher, and International Standard Book Number. It is, presumably, more difficult to catalog dinosaur bones than a book about dinosaur bonesnot to mention storing them and making them accessible. More than with library materials, the age, composition, cultural context, purpose, and mode of creation of museum objects may be difficult to establish even when they are not fakes. Future inquiries are hard to predict. A recent indexing system for museum collections of human artifacts takes the original, principal intended use of the object as the major attribute for retrieval. 9
Situations vary, then, with respect to the range of attributes that can be sensibly used for retrieval. In an airline seat reservation system, it can be confidently predicted what the sorts of questions will be. Also, in that case, the terms used in the search can easily be expressed in useful, unambiguous ways, in contrast to a query such as "What do you have on symptoms of stoicism in Western culture? " in which each of the principal terms is only vaguely definable. However, in library service there is also a wide range in the definability of inquiries, so we have a situation that parallels what is found in library services.
Retrieval systems have several aspects, notably the notation, the syndetic structure, the form of coordination of the indexing language, and the choice of equipment used (e.g., cards, book, microfilm, computer), but these are primarily technical details. They are important in practice but not at the theoretical level of this general framework. Retrieval in library services also has these variations and so does not appear to differ significantly from the other sorts of information retrieval.
There appears to be no reason to suppose that the processes by which people become informed differ in any significant way from one retrievalbased system to another. Therefore the discussion in chapter 9 above would appear to be as valid (or invalid) for archives, etc., as for library services.
In chapter 10 we analyzed the demand for library services as an economic process. In brief, we concluded that individual's goals derive from personal values: the satisfaction of curiosity, the quest for stimulation or reassurance, the pursuit of personal interests. A real price is involved in using retrieval services because there is "toil and trouble" in using it, though not usually a commercial charge. The real price can be viewed as including time, effort (physical and mental, including the effort involved in changing habits), discomfort, and, where applicable, monetary charges. There is also a price mechanism in the sense that demand is elastic and varies with pride. The individual constantly decides what to do, where to go, and what action (if any) to take to become informed. In cybernetic terms the individual is a "system" seeking not only to survive but to maintain an acceptable level of stability Whether or not a particular information service is used will depend on the relative price and each individual's perception of the probable real price (time, effort, discomfort, money) in relation not only to the perceived probable benefit of becoming informed but also to the probable real prices and benefits of alternative courses of action. In seeking to consider other retrieval-based information service in lieu of libraries, no change on the demand component of our theory appears to be necessary.
The allocation process as formulated with respect to libraries was seen as being essentially a political process based on sponsorship: Resources ordinarily come from public or other funding rather than from fees. The nature of this process was examined in chapter 11. However, in chapter 12, we broadened the discussion to include situations in which users pay fees. The same general characteristics appear to apply to retrieval-based information services as a class. They are commonly public services (archives, museums), and where they are not (MIS), they are often regarded as support services in large organizations. In both cases direct charges to the user are not the norm. There are also commercial retrieval-based information services that are strictly for profit as well as some that are subsidized. The first impression is that the extension of the discussion of allocation in chapters 11 and 12 remains appropriate.
In recent years there has been discussion of "Information Resources Management," which is generally described as including the planning, budgeting, organizing, directing, training, and control associated with an organization's information, and encompassing both the information itself and related resources such as personnel, equipment, funds, and technology. Information Resources Management has quite specific origins in the paperwork problems of the U.S. government and an emphasis on information as a resource to be managed. 10 Its relationship to existing information-handling activities is not yet clear.
For a comprehensive approach to providing information service in an organization it would seem logical to include in one coherent framework both internally derived information sources (as in archives, records management, and Management Information Systems) and externally derived sources (as in libraries). To be effective one would have to recognize not only the distinguishing characteristics of each of these retrieval-based information systems, but also the underlying similarities, the subordination of each to the mission of the organization, the unifying effects of trends in information technology, and, generally, the indifference of the individual user as to whence and how the information came. Even if a comprehensive approach were not implemented administratively, a detailed comparative analysis of different examples of retrieval-based information services can be expected to yield insights useful about each. 11
While this discussion cannot be regarded as more than touching upon the issues, the preliminary conclusion is that the conceptual framework developed for considering library services also shows promise for the consideration of the rest of the family of retrieval-based information services. 12
The flow of information in society
In this section we consider very briefly other sorts of information services that are not retrieval-based. These relate to the framework developed for library services in two ways:
- The process of becoming informed was depicted in chapter 9 as being affected by prior knowledge of any origin. Whatever has been learned in whatever way affects what else will be understood. The relationship between the effects of all other information sources on the use of library services is shown in the top right corner of figure 13.2. Libraries' support for literacy education and librarians' concern for intellectual freedom are two examples of concern for the broader environment.
- Library services are in competition with other sources of information in the sense that other sources of information will in some circumstances be preferable. It may often be more advantageous to buy a personal copy of a book, to consult a commercial data base, or to ask somebody else rather than use a library.
In chapter 10 we examined the determinants of demand for library services. The assumption was made that inquiries would be directed to a particular library service if two conditions obtained: The perceived probable benefits exceeded the perceived probable price; and use of the library service was perceived as preferable to alternative sources of information. This is represented in figure 13.3. In previous chapters we were concerned only with the decision whether or not to use a given library service. This was a two-valued option: to use or not to use. To extend the framework to include other sources of information that are or could be used we need to expand this two-valued option into as many options as we care to include. This is indicated in the note "1. Other sources of information" in the representation of the environment in figure 13.3. To the extent to which we could model the choice between all available options, we should have a general model of decision making with respect to information-gathering behavior.
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1 Journal of Library Administration 7, nos. 2/3 (Summer/Fall 1986). Special issue: Archives and Library Administration.
2 See, for example. W. Benedon, Records Management (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1969. Available from Trident Bookstore, 5153 State University Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90032). W. 6. Maedke, M. F. Robek and G. F. Brown, Information and Records Management, 2nd ed. (Encinio, Cal.: Glencoe, 1981).
3 J. M. Pemberton, "Records Management Courses in Accredited Library Schools: A Rationale and a Survey," Records Management Quarterly 16, no. 3 (July 1982): 10-12, 14-16; M. K. Buckland, "Records Management in its Intellectual Context: Experience at Berkeley," Records Management Quarerly 16, no. 4 (October 1982): 26-8, 30.
4 See J. V. Hansen, L. J. McKell and L. E. Heitger, "Decision-oriented Frameworks for Management Information Systems Design," Information Processing and Management 13, no. 4 (1977): 215-225. For additional discussion of text processing in relation to MIS see M. J. CuInan, "Information Science and the Automated Office: Challenges and Opportunities," in American Society for Information Science. Proceedings of the 44th Annual Meeting, Washington, 1981 (White Plains, N.Y.: Knowledge Industries Publications, 1981): 139-42; and M. J. CuInan, "Document Processing in the Automated Office: Implications for MIS Research and Education," in First International Conference on Information Systems, Philadelphia, 1980. Proceedings (Chicago: Society for Management Information Systems, 1980): 165-73.
5 For fuller treatment of museum documentation, see E. Orna and C. Pettit, Information Handling in Museums (New York: Bingley, 1980); and D. A. Roberts and R. B. Light, "Museum Documentation," Journal of Documentation 36, no. 1 (March 1980): 42-84.
6 See, for example, Legal and Legislative Information Processing, edited by B. K. Eres (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980), chapters 9 and 12.
7 R. C. Berner, "Archival Management and Librarianship: An Exploration of Prospects for their Integration," Advances in Librarianship 14 (1986): 253-83.
8 R. H. Lytle compared the effectiveness of retrieval by provenance with retrieval by subject index in "Intellectual Access to Archives: 1. Provenance and Content Indexing Methods by Subject Retrieval," American Archivist 43, no. 1 (Winter 1980): 64-75; "Intellectual Access to Archives: 11. Report of an Experiment Comparing Provenance and Content Indexing Methods of Subject Retrieval," American Archivist 43, no. 2 (Spring 1980): 191-207. The two techniques gave comparable results but "The most salient finding of the study was the poor retrieval performance of both methods" (p. 193).
9 R. G. Chenhall, Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging: A System for Classifying Manmade Objects (Nashville, Tenn.: American Association for State and Local History, 1978).
10 K. B. Levitan, "Information Resource(s) ManagementIRM," Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 17 (1982): 227-66; R. H. Lytle, "Information Resource Management: 1981-1986," Annual Review of Information Science and Technology 21 (1986): 309-36.
11 See J. Rogalla. von Bieberstein, Archiv, Bibliothek und Museum als Dokumentationsbereiche: Einheit und gegenseitige Abgrenzung (Bibliothekspraxis, Bd 16) (Pullach bei Miinchen, F.R.G: Verlag Dokumentation, 1975).
12 Intellectual Foundations for Information Professionals, edited by H. K. Achleitner (Boulder, Colo.: Social Scierce Monographs, distributed by Columbia University Press, New York, 1987); A. M. Schrader, "In Search of a Name: Information Science and Its Conceptual Antecedents," Library and Information Science Research 6, no. 3 (JulySeptember 1984): 227-71.
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Copyright © 1988, 1999 Michael K. Buckland.
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