Library and information science (LIS)

by Birger Hjørland

Table of contents:
1.0 Introduction
2.0 Brief history: 2.1 Library science; 2.2 Information science (2.2.1 Is the term information science a homonym?); 2.3 Documentation
3.0 Paradigms and theoretical developments in LIS: 3.1 Is there an atheoretical paradigm in LIS?; 3.2 Information theory; 3.3 The Cranfield tradition (3.3.1 The bibliographic paradigm); 3.4 The cognitive view; 3.5 Floridi’s philosophy of information; 3.6 Social, culturally and content-informed views
4.0 Content and structure of LIS: 4.1 Educational programs in SLIS (4.1.1 Textbooks on LIS); 4.2 Faculty composition of SLIS departments; 4.3. Content analysis of LIS publications; 4.4 Bibliometric studies of LIS (4.4.1 Import and export studies: Import studies, Export studies); 4.5. Facet-analytical classifications of LIS; 4.6. Domain-analytical studies of LIS; 4.7 Conclusions of Section 4
5.0 Relationships between LIS and other disciplines
6.0 Relationships between LIS, libraries and mediating practices
7.0 Conclusion

This article outlines the history of library and information science (LIS), from its roots in library science, information science and documentation. It considers various conceptions or “paradigms” in the field and discusses the topical content of LIS as well as the relationships between LIS and other disciplines. The main argument of the article is that answers to all such questions concerning LIS are related to conceptions of LIS. It is argued that an updated version of social epistemology (SE), which was founded by Egan and Shera in 1952, may in hindsight provide the most fruitful theoretical frame for LIS. SE is related to the domain-analytic approach, which was suggested by Hjørland and Albrechtsen in 1995.

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1.0 Introduction

This article considers library and information science (LIS) as a field of study (a discipline or an inter-discipline). It is written from the viewpoint that it is important to focus not only on the specific problems of a domain, but also on its identity and organization. Researchers in fields such as LIS and → knowledge organization (KO) must consider whether they fall under the aegis of computer science or of humanities and social sciences [1]; a neglect of this issue may lead to a fragmented field which does not contribute to either aspect. A discipline (or inter-discipline) is an organization which supports cooperation in achieving common goals and sharing disciplinary journals, conferences and institutions, among other things. As this article will show, questions such as “What is LIS?”, “What are the topical content areas of LIS?” and “What are the related disciplines?” are rather complicated, as described by Hjørland (2017c, 1797):

The overall situation in information science [/LIS] today is a chaos of theoretical contributions, each paying no or much too little interest in the existing ones, what Åström (2006, p. 20) after Whitley (1984) called a ‘fragmented adhocracy’, a field with a low level of coordination around a diffuse set of goals.

It is important, however, that we intend to shape an identity, and therefore are concerned with the field in which we are working. The topic of the article is complicated and even controversial, and although the attempt is made to present many different voices, it is not possible to present all different views, much less to be completely neutral. The article is intended, however, to present a broad view of the field, that may be useful for further studies and debate.

There have been voices from within KO claiming that KO is not a part of LIS, but is an independent discipline. However, the present article is written from the viewpoint that KO is a subfield of LIS, and that the history and theoretical issues of LIS are therefore important for researchers in KO to consider.

2.0 Brief history

Library and information science is, as the name implies, a combination of two fields: (i) library science; and (ii) information science. The joint term is associated with schools of library and information science (SLIS). The first use of this combined term was in the School of Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh, which added information science to its name in 1964 (cf. Galvin 1977). Thereafter followed other American library schools, and by the 1990s almost all former library schools had added information science to their names. A similar development has taken place in many other parts of the world [2], although not all institutions have made the same choice [3]. This shift in naming has generally been motivated by a growing emphasis on the application of new electronic and computer technologies.

Sometimes the plural term library and information sciences is used to underline the fact that more research areas are involved. This is, for example, the case in the Dewey Decimal Classification and in Bates and Maack, eds. (2010) Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences [4]. These authors list (xiii) the following disciplines as being covered by the LIS disciplines and by their encyclopedia [5]:

  • Archival Science
  • Bibliography
  • Document and Genre Theory
  • Informatics
  • Information Systems
  • Knowledge Management
  • Library and Information Science
  • Museum Studies
  • Records Management
  • Social Studies of Information

Another variation is to speak of library and information studies, in order to emphasize that the field is not necessarily scientific in its strictest sense. A new tendency in the twenty-first century is to drop the word library and to use only the terms information school, i-school or iSchool. This is not, however, solely a new name for LIS, but represents a new interdisciplinary merging of various fields including LIS [6]. Whether such a merging is considered fruitful or not depends among other things on the theoretical perspective (cf. Section 5). For those who primarily consider LIS to be related to computer science, it seems to be clearly a productive solution; however, for those who consider LIS to be more related to the knowledge fields (such as philosophy, social epistemology (SE) and sociology of science) it may perhaps seem less successful. For more details on iSchools, see Lopatovska and Ransom (2016) and Section 4.2 of this work.

In practice, the term LIS is sometimes used for an area that is not science (or research, a scholarship or an academic discipline); by implication, the term library and information science research may be used to make the research focus explicit [7] (e.g. Stielow 1994). Some studies of the field distinguish between professional publications and research articles, such as that of Tuomaala et al. (2014, 1451):

In total, the study sample for 2005 comprises 1,024 articles, of which 70% were research articles and 30% professional articles. In the following subsections, only research articles are analyzed.

Even if studies are limited to research articles, it has been questioned whether the literature qualifies as research. Turcios et al. (2014), for example, found that only 16% of the literature published in LIS research journals qualified as research.

The status of LIS as a science has been discussed for many years. Librarian and researcher Carl S. Petersen (1915) wrote:

Library technique is a common term for the methods used for organizing, cataloging, use, and administration etc. of a library. Particularly in Germany the term ’library science’ is often used for both library technique as for other related disciplines (book history, bibliography, library history and library statistics); however, this term is not well chosen, because library management is not a science, even though scientific knowledge and qualifications are necessary (translated BH; italics added).

Despite various trends towards merging the two fields, some consider library science and information science to be separate fields or disciplines, for example Miksa (1992) and Saracevic (1992). Moreover, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global (2017) still uses two different classifications: 0399 Library Science and 0723 Information Science [8]. Huang and Chang (2012, 790) wrote:

Although the discipline of IS has been incorporated into LIS, numerous recent studies still focused on IS issues but not LIS ones […]. This implies that some researchers regard IS as an independent discipline. In addition, some subfields, including library service activities, cataloging, and publishing are traditionally regarded as belonging to LS (Järvelin and Vakkari 1993), while some other have closer ties with IS, such as bibliometrics, information retrieval, scientific communication, webmetrics, and patent analysis.

In general, however, the tendency today is to use the terms information science and library and information science as synonyms [9].

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2.1 Library science [10]

Gabriel Naudé’s (1627/1950) Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque (Advice on Establishing a Library) was an influential work; it is probably the first modern treatise on library management, and put forward modern rules of librarianship. However, in order to speak of library science as an organized activity, we must go further forward in history.

The term Bibliothek-Wissenschaft was used for the first time in the title of a German textbook (Schrettinger 1829), the first issue of which was published in 1808. Martin Schrettinger (1772–1851), Friedrich Adolf Ebert (1791–1834) and Karl Dziatzko (1842–1903) were the founders of library science in Germany. The first journal in the field was Serapeum: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswissenshaft, Handschriftenkunde und ältere Litteratur (Journal of Library Science, Manuscript Information and Older Literature), published in Leipzig by T.O. Weigel in the period 1840–1870.

Schrettinger (1829) held that library science encompasses “all precepts necessary to the practical organization of a library, provided that they are based on sound principles and reducible to one supreme principle [namely, that] a library must be arranged in such a way as to render speedily accessible whatever books are required to fill every literary need” (translated definition cited from Schrader 1983, 36). Schrettinger’s book is a systematic treatise on the principles of librarianship.

In the USA, Melvil Dewey (1851–1931) founded the first School of Library Economy [11] in 1887, and received the title of professor. Although this particular school ran into difficulties, possibly because women were thereby allowed access to academia, Dewey was able to transfer the school to the New York State Library in Albany in 1889; since then, many library schools have been founded in the United States and Canada and around the world. Richardson (2017) describes aspects of the early history of library science in the United States.

For both the European and the American schools, it has been discussed whether the term science is misplaced. Vakkari (1994) writes that the scientific nature of Schrettinger’s book is, to say the least, debatable (if the term science is understood as a systematic body of knowledge formed by the scientific method, consisting mainly of theories), and that it was “professional literature, not science” [12]. Miksa (1988, 249) found, however:

Early library education, including Melvil Dewey's School of Library Economy at Columbia College, has traditionally been thought to have emphasized vocational-technical skills rather than substantive intellectual issues. New evidence for the first two lecture sessions of Dewey's school raises questions about that view. The schedule of the school, its faculty (including regular Columbia College professors), and the way the school's topical content of library economy and bibliography was approached strongly suggest an educational venture with unexpected intellectual substance. More evidence is needed before extrapolating these findings to early library education in general.

However, the following quote from Stielow (1994, 338) is probably more representative of the view of library research:

The remaining questions on library services were deemed too practical and obvious to merit a scholarly distinction. Even advanced skills in cataloging and classification were not acknowledged as a potential research base. The service and applied nature of librarianship simply did not coincide with the definers or their definition of a true ‘scientific’ discipline. In truth, the general climate of opinion and practical needs of the library pioneers may have blinded them to the full measure of Naude's vision. They may not have seen scientific research in librarianship as a mark of a profession. One can also hypothesize that the growing identification of library work with women further reinforced the male-dominated academy's denigration of any research potential for librarianship.

The term library science was also used by Lee Pierce Butler (1884–1953), a prominent educator at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Library Science, which was the first doctorate-granting library school in the United States. Butler authored a programmatic essay entitled An Introduction to Library Science (1933). Cronin (2004) considers the historic and contemporary import of Butler’s book, characterizes the content of each chapter, and critically analyses the central theses. He relates Butler’s positivistic premises, assumptions, and conclusions to the congeries of competing epistemological and ideological standpoints that define current thinking in LIS research, and concludes, contrary to Butler’s conceptualization of the field, that “There is, and can be no such thing as ‘library science’” (Cronin 2004: 187), thus denying the possibility of a discipline of that name [13]. Wersig (1992, p. 2002), also rejected the term:

There is little proof that specific kinds of organizations provide a sound basis for a scientific or academic discipline. As long as there are no disciplines like 'hospital science' or 'jailhouse science' in existence, something like 'library science' is not very convincing [14].

Reitz’s (2004) online dictionary defines library science as:

The professional knowledge and skill with which recorded information is selected, acquired, organized, stored, maintained, retrieved, and disseminated to meet the needs of a specific clientele, usually taught at a professional library school qualified to grant the postbaccalaureate degree of M.L.S. or M.L.I.S. The term is used synonymously in the United States with librarianship. Compare with information science. [15]

Note that library science and librarianship are here considered synonyms, again indicating that we are not necessarily speaking about a science or a field of research.

In schools of librarianship, the processes that librarians were supposed to master (each of these subfields has its own huge subject literature) were taught, in particular:

  • Material selection
  • Collection building and collection management
  • Cataloging and classification of documents
  • Reference work, bibliography and documentation
  • Subject literature of specific domains: humanities, social sciences, science and technology
  • Fiction
  • Literature for children and other special groups

Other important subfields include:

  • Library history
  • The social function of libraries [16]

For some subfields, such as library history, library architecture and library administration, the term library science is meaningful. However, the knowledge needed to organize document collections and search for documents and information is not specific to libraries. The term documentation (and, later, information science) therefore became influential in the field [17].

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2.2 Information science

The term information science has been traced back to Jason Farradane (1906–1989) in an article (Farradane 1955) about the education of information scientists, a term introduced by Farradane (1953), which he considered a synonym for documentalists [18]. Fields such as library science, the science of bibliography, scientific information and documentation were predecessors of information science, as pointed out by Kline (2004, 19):

Called bibliography, documentation, and scientific information during the first five decades of the twentieth century, the field became known as information science in the early 1960s.

One of the most important indicators of the relationship between documentation and information science is the change in name of the American Documentation Institute (founded in 1937) in 1968 to the American Society for Information Science [19].

What then, if anything, was new in information science? Proffitt (2010) noted about the Oxford English Dictionary’s coverage of the word ‘information’:

The Supplement’s editors identified and included many of the earliest compounds evoking the sense of information as data, something to be stored, processed, or distributed electronically: information processing, information retrieval, information storage (all three dated from 1950). In quick succession came terms relating to the academic study of the phenomenon, appearing in a neatly logical sequence: first the idea (information theory, 1950), next its budding adherents (information scientist, 1953), then the established field of study (information science, 1955).

According to Proffitt [20], Shannon’s (1948) so-called information theory [21] was the reason for establishing information science about seven years later. There is little doubt that (i) Shannon’ theory was extremely influential in an interdisciplinary sense in the 1950s; (ii) many people in fields related to library science and documentation hoped at that time that the field had finally found a fruitful theoretical basis in Shannon’s theory; and (iii) later on, most of these hopes that Shannon’s theory could fulfill this role in information science were greatly frustrated. In hindsight, Shannon’s theory stands out as one of the least influential paradigms in the field, one that has often been described as a blind alley, although an extremely important theory in computer science, due to which Shannon has been called the father of the digital age (cf. Aftab et al. 2001).

In the years following 1955, there was much talk of the information explosion [22] and the need to apply information technology to manage this explosion. The term information storage and retrieval (ISR) was common (cf. Hjørland 2015b) and is probably derived directly from Shannon’s (1948) idea that messages need to be coded, communicated and then decoded in an information system. This is, of course, true for digital communication: the content is coded into a digital format and later decoded back. This coding is, however, a computer science issue rather than an information science issue. Similarly, however, in information science, the idea became common that documents had to be classified or indexed (using an indexing language) and later retrieved by the user by the same indexing language (e.g. classification system, thesaurus or whatever had been used in the storage process). Following Shannon’s (1948) information theory, it became common to consider libraries, journals, reference books and the whole scientific information system as ISR systems. For example, The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Sills, 1968, Vol. 7) contains an entry entitled ‘Information Storage and Retrieval’ (301–331) that is subdivided into five subsections: (i) the field; (ii) information services; (iii) libraries; (iv) reference materials and books; and (v) bibliographic issues in the behavioral sciences. This is a fine demonstration that, at that time, the fields of librarianship, information services and bibliography were perceived as belonging to information storage and retrieval/information science. The entry concerning libraries was written by Shera (1968), who later wrote (Shera 1983, 383):

Twenty years ago, I thought of what is now called information science as providing the intellectual and theoretical foundations of librarianship, but I am now convinced that I was wrong. [On pp. 383 and 386, Shera identifies information science with Shannon’s information theory] [23].

If Shera is right, the influence of Shannon on information science may be considered a misunderstanding; a misunderstanding that, according to Spang-Hanssen (2001), was probably fueled by the wish of those in the field of library science/documentation to gain prestige by being associated with this field.

Eugene Eli Garfield (1925–2017) was an important information scientist. Garfield’s (1962-1993) Essays of an Information Scientist shows what information science was all about for one of its greatest pioneers: multiple aspects of scientific and scholarly communication with an emphasis on information retrieval and knowledge organization. The focus is not primarily on libraries but on journals, citation patterns and the whole scholarly communication system, its actors, systems, institutions, processes and products. Garfield was also much engaged in providing practical solutions for problems in scientific communication (and is one of the few people in the field who has been economically successful by creating innovative solutions). On the other hand, Garfield’s essays show a fragmented field without a theoretical frame to define it. In 2000, Garfield was president of the American Society for Information Science and took the decision to change its name to the American Society for Information Science and Technology. This change seems confusing from a theoretical point of view [24], and adds to the picture of fragmentation in Garfield’s understanding of the field.

We return to the discussion of these theoretical developments in Section 3.

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2.2.1 Is the term information science a homonym?

Are there more information sciences? Do people use this term for different fields? Is the term a homonym? Many researchers seem to confirm that this is the case, for example Fairthorne (1975), Yuexiao (1998) and Wersig (2003, 312):

At the beginning of the 1970s, when information science started to establish itself, it was faced with the problem that while nearly everybody used the term information, nearly everybody meant something different by it [25]. The problem was complicated by the fact that most of the users of the term thought that everybody else would understand and therefore they very often did not define which kind of meaning they had in mind.

Daniel and Mills (1975, 5) wrote, in relation to the classification of LIS:

In particular, ‘information science’ is a typical ambiguous term. We take it to stand for the systematic and scientific study of the problems of information dissemination and retrieval. Taken as it stands, ‘information science’ could be constructed in a manner which, for the purpose of this scheme, would be impossibly wide, embracing an enormous range of studies, from Epistemology to Psychology, from Palaeography to Computer Science, from Public Administration to Linguistic Analysis and Information theory. Here, the field is restricted to those parts of it which contribute directly to those activities indicated above. Certain specialized topics within the vast Communication field are still given some prominence, e.g. Publishing and Bookselling which reflect the still dominant position of bookforms in information exchange.

Rayward (1996, 5-6) discusses library and information science, on the one hand, and computer and information science, on the other. It is not clear, however, whether he sees these as two different information sciences.

In a former publication, Hjørland (2013b, 223-4) wrote:

In 2002, two different international conferences about the foundations of information science took place. One was the Fourth Conference on Conceptions of Library and Information Science (CoLIS 4) in Seattle, USA, the other was the International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science (FIS) [26]. Were these conferences discussing two different fields, each of which claimed to be “information science”, or were they two different scholarly meetings in the same field? Perhaps they are both forums for multidisciplinary approaches using different disciplinary outlets? Whether they represent one, two, or more kinds of information sciences can only be uncovered by theoretical analysis of the core assumptions expressed in the respective conferences and their proceedings. Inasmuch as FIS is founded on cybernetics and CoLIS is founded on something more related to social and epistemological studies of knowledge production and dissemination, different information sciences may well be at play. [27]

An encyclopedia entry on information science (Bøgh Andersen and Ingwersen 1997) reflects two different “lines”, one related to the library field, and the other connected with the humanities and social sciences. Another example is the Journal of Information Science and Technology (ISSN 1906-9553), which appears to be somewhat different from other journals about information science. But when does a journal belong to a given field, and when not? To consider a given journal, such as the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), to be representative of a field is also problematic, because, as demonstrated by Chua and Yang (2008):

Top authors [in JASIST] have grown in diversity from those being affiliated predominantly with library/information-related departments to include those from information systems management, information technology, business, and the humanities.

Bibliometric maps based on JASIST therefore cannot simply be taken to represent the library/information field without further examination.

A study by Schneider (2010) may also illuminate the nature of information science [28]. Schneider says that information science is an “arbitrary construct”, and whether or not a given journal is considered a part of the domain has important consequences for bibliometric mappings. This view of information science was formulated very sharply by Machlup and Mansfield (1983, 22), who suggested that:

In the broad sense information science is a rather shapeless assemblage of chunks picked from a variety of disciplines that happen to talk about information in one of its many meanings.

We may therefore conclude that information science is an unclear label (a floating signifier) and that there is a great need for clarification and for improved terminological hygiene.

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2.3 Documentation

The field of documentation [29] is associated with the movement founded by Paul Otlet (1868–1944) and Henri Lafontaine (1854–1943). As Otlet’s foremost biographer (Rayward 1994, 238) noted:

The term “documentation” is a neologism invented by [Paul] Otlet to designate what today we tend to call Information Storage and Retrieval. In fact, it is not too much to claim the Traite [de documentation, 1934] as one of the first information science textbooks.

The relationship between librarianship and documentation has been described in the following way (Meadows 1990, 59):

The main differences [between library science and documentation] were identified as lying in the areas of bibliography and what came to be called “documentation”. Exactly what the differences between these new “documentalists” and traditional librarians were was not altogether well defined. However, there was general agreement that documentalists were concerned not only with the physical handling of documents, but, to a much greater extent than traditional librarians, with the exploitation of the information contained in the documents. This practical thread generated some of its own theory, a noticeable example being Bradford’s law of scattering.

British librarian and documentalist Samuel C. Bradford (1878–1948) wrote the first British textbook on documentation (Bradford 1948; 1953), and the Journal of Documentation (1945–) was and perhaps still is the leading British journal [30]. An American account was Shera (1966). The field of documentation concerned subject literature, abstracting journals, special libraries, archives, classification, the application of new technologies in scientific communication (at that time, in particular, microfilm technology), the study of bibliometrics (e.g. Bradford’s law of scattering), standardization and related issues. Otlet was even concerned with developing a new kind of encyclopedia (The Encyclopedia Universalis Mundaneum), and saw this as being closely linked to his bibliographical project. Documentation was thus a broad field. It was debated at the time whether documentation was a part of librarianship or vice versa (cf. Meadows 2002) but one could say, using an analogy taken from Ørom (2000), that documentation represented, at least potentially, a Copernican information universe, whereas librarianship represented a Ptolemaic universe. In the Copernican universe, traditional libraries are but planets, while knowledge production and dissemination, centralized information systems and the scientific literature form the central star. The content area of documentation was thus not very different from that mentioned in Section 2.2, where the content of information science was exemplified by Garfield’s broad spectrum of Essays by an Information Scientist, although of course, technological development has provided a changed environment and thereby new kinds of research questions.

When electronic databases became common in the 1960s and 1970s, searching was done by intermediaries referred to as (research) librarians, documentalists or information specialists. Online intermediation was the last common job function involving documentation in relation to information work: Danish research libraries, for example, had documentation departments until about 1990. However, with the arrival of end-user searching, this function was downgraded in most places (cf. Hjørland 2000b), and the use of the term documentation disappeared almost entirely [31].

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2.3.1 Why was the term documentation abandoned, and with what consequences?

Some researchers consider it unfortunate that information science replaced documentation (and that terms such as information retrieval, rather than document retrieval, became the standard). The reason for this has never [32] been defended theoretically. Why was the term abandoned? Farradane (1955, 76) said simply “The term ‘documentalist’ has, for various reasons, not met with favour in Britain”. Lilley and Trice (1989, 1) wrote: “The architects of information science in the United States wanted to be sure that [the field] would no longer be mistaken either for the microfilm-oriented discipline that documentation had become or for the document-oriented discipline that was library science”. [33] The (false) view that Shannon’s information theory was found to be a productive foundation for the field has undoubtedly also played an important role for the change in name.

Some benefits of the term documentation are that it is related (both historically and logically) to the term bibliography and that it emphasizes aspects of scientific and scholarly communication that are relatively distinct from the more technical aspects of computer science and information technology; it is thus both expressive of a unique focus for LIS and provides a perspective more connected to the history and aim of the discipline.

Some researchers in information science have called for the return of document as a basic term in LIS. Buckland (1991), Frohmann (2004a), Hjørland (2000a), Lund (2004), Ørom (2007) and others have for years argued that the concept of document is the most fruitful one to consider as the core concept in LIS. The concept of document is understood as “any concrete or symbolic indication, preserved or recorded, for reconstructing or for proving a phenomenon, whether physical or mental” (Briet 1951/2006, 7; here quoted from Buckland 1991). Rayward et al. (2004) suggested replacing the term LIS with LID, that is, library, information, and documentation studies.

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3.0 Paradigms and theoretical developments in LIS

The writings about theories, metatheories and paradigms in LIS include Åström (2006) [34], Åström (2007), Bates (2005) [35], Egan and Shera (1952) [36], Ellis (1992) [37], Frohmann (1990), Frohmann (2004a) [38], Fuchs (2011) [39], Leckie et al. (2010) [40], Olaisen (1985) [41], Ørom (2000) [42], Pickard (2013) [43], Talja et al. (2005) [44], Tredinnick (2006) [45], Wersig (2003) [46] and Wilson (1983) [47].

Some of these sources, for example, Ørom (2000) and Wersig (2003), attempt to provide historical outlines of the development of information science/LIS. Before the term information science was introduced in 1955, the field had various theoretical orientations. Ørom (2000) describes pre-war humanistic, historical and social conceptions, and mentions, among others, the Spanish philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, who analyzed the development of the library profession in a social and historical context and in the Belgian and French documentation tradition. Other early researchers with a social orientation include Charles Ammi Cutter, Margaret Egan and Jesse Shera, the first academics to use the term social epistemology [48]. There were of course many other theoretical orientations; these researchers are mentioned here because they represent a sociologically oriented view that today represents a growing theoretical trend in the field. However, before describing this, we will consider some of the most debated theoretical positions in LIS. First of all, however, let us consider some sources that seem to claim that there has been no overall theory or theoretical development in the field.

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3.1 Is there an atheoretical paradigm in LIS?

Perhaps an atheoretical attitude is (or has been) a dominant view in the field? Rafael Capurro has developed a theoretical position related to social epistemology, but wrote (Capurro 2016):

According to my [Rafael Capurro] experience, there was little interest in the LIS community in discussing fundamental issues in the seventies and eighties. The discipline was based on practices particularly concerning how the new technologies could and should be used (or not) in the library field. In fact, some librarians were sceptical about it. The use of computers and data bases, for instance, was considered as non-relevant for public libraries when I started teaching documentation at the School of Librarianship in Stuttgart. On the other hand, LIS was mainly conceived from the perspective of information retrieval, particularly at university level.

Supporting a skeptical view of an overall atheoretical position, Bawden (2016, 287-8) wrote:

it is unreasonable to expect there to be “a theory” of information science specifically, or of the information sciences more generally. Rather, there will be a range of theories, dealing with different aspects of the subject, and very probably deriving from theories in cognate disciplines. We may also expect theories at different levels of scale and specificity, dealing with emergent properties of information in different contexts.

Robertson (2000, 1) wrote:

I consider myself a theorist. That is, my inclination is to theoretical argument, to achieving theoretical understanding, in information retrieval as in other realms. To me, understanding is what theory is about; those other attributes of theory, prediction and application, are side-effects only, secondary to the main purpose. However, I have to admit that the field of information retrieval in which I have chosen to be a theorist is not a very theoretical one. This is true in two senses: in a negative sense, there are few strong theories in IR, and certainly no overall theory of IR, to which one might appeal to solve all difficulties. In a positive sense, the field is very strongly pragmatic: it is driven by practical problems and considerations and evaluated by practical criteria. (italics in original)

Small (2016, 49) wrote:

As someone trained in science and the history of science, the constructivist view did not ring true. Perhaps I was stuck in my story-book version of science. In any event, the bibliometrics community ignored the new sociology and remained largely empirical and atheoretical.

These four quotes all express that overall theoretical development in information science has been weak, and is difficult and perhaps impossible. Zwadlo (1997) even wrote a paper “We don’t Need a Philosophy of Library and Information Science: We’re Confused Enough Already”. Small’s sentence “the bibliometrics community … remained largely empirical and atheoretical”, in particular, raises the question of whether the atheoretical view has been the most important one in the short history of the field. Should we, along with other theoretical positions, also operate with an atheoretical or antitheoretical position (which, of course, is also a theoretical position that needs to be defended). We may label the view that science and knowledge develop independently of theoretical movements as positivism (although this label is ambiguous) [49].

The opposite view is that researchers’ theoretical and cultural backgrounds are important in the development of science and scholarship. This view relates to Thomas Kuhn’s (1962) theory of scientific paradigms, which claims that research is guided by sets of shared assumptions in scientific communities. In opposition to the positivist view, paradigm theory is a historically and socially oriented point of view related to hermeneutics. From this theoretical position, it becomes important to consider paradigms and research traditions.

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3.2 Information theory

Two seminal publications, Shannon (1948) and Shannon and Weaver (1949), developed statistical communication theory (also called the classical theory of communication or information theory), although this is often considered a misnomer for a theory of data transmission. The conceptual basis was provided by previous engineering studies of efficiency in the transmission of messages over electrical channels. This theory concerns the physical transmission of a message from a source to a receiver in an optimal way (reducing loss and noise during the transmission). Shannon’s famous model is shown in Figure 1.

A basic idea in information theory is that the harder it is to guess what has been received, the more information one has obtained. For example, specifying the outcome of a fair coin flip (two equally likely outcomes) provides less information than specifying the outcome from a roll of a dice (six equally likely outcomes). The theory involves concepts such as information, communication channels, bandwidth, noise, data transfer rate, storage capacity, signal-to-noise ratio, error rate, feedback and so on (see Figure 1). The core applications are issues such as data compression and the reliable storage and communication of data. It has broadened since its inception, finding applications in many other areas; however, as we shall see, the applications to which information theory is relevant are a controversial topic. Information theory makes it possible to code messages, text, sounds, pictures etc. in ways that makes it possible to transmit and store them as electronic signals, and then at the receiving point to reconstruct them as texts, sounds and pictures. In other words, information theory is the theory underlying digitalization (often involving making analog signals to discrete codes, of which the digital code is one among many possible). Information theory concerns the technical optimization of such transmission and storage processes.

A simple example is the text transmitted by teletypewriters: pressing a particular key on the sending machine causes a particular sequence of electrical signals to be sent to the receiving machine, which activates the corresponding type bar; the machine then prints out the character that corresponds to the key that was pressed. The number of keys used at the sending end (and the number of corresponding characters at the receiving end) determines how much information is involved by transmitting a given letter (or number, shift, linefeed etc.). If we assume that there is only one key, pressing this key would transmit one bit of information (corresponding to a 50% chance of guessing whether or not the key was pressed). An essential keyboard for transmitting a message of English text without punctuation and Arabic numbers needs 27 symbols (including a space). These 27 symbols correspond to about 4.75 binary digits; if each symbol is assigned to a five-digit binary number (e.g. 01101) then five of those numbers are not used. A typewriter with 50 keys, including shift, shift lock, carriage return and line advance, would need a six-bit code and so on.

Shannon’s theory gave rise to a new understanding of the term information, as described in the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson 2010), sense 2c:

[2]c. As a mathematically defined quantity divorced from any concept of news or meaning [references omitted]; spec. one which represents the degree of choice exercised in the selection or formation of one particular symbol, message, etc., out of a number of possible ones, and which is defined logarithmically in terms of the statistical probabilities of occurrence of the symbol or the elements of the message. The latter sense (introduced by Shannon, quot. 1948, though foreshadowed earlier) is that used in information theory, where information is usually regarded as synonymous with entropy (entropy n. 2a).

Information theory is thus a mathematical theory about the technological issues involved whenever data is transmitted, stored or retrieved; this has turned out to be essential to the design of present-day communication and computational systems. “Without Shannon's information theory, there would have been no internet” (Jha 2014).

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3.2.1 Reception in information science

Zunde (1981, 341) wrote: "Information science is a young discipline and neither its empirical laws nor its theories are sufficiently well developed. To some, Shannon's Information Theory is the only theory in this subject field".

Wersig (2003, 213) called the period between 1948 and the 1970s “The Shannon and Weaver phase” and wrote:

One could call the developmental stage [of information science] from 1948 to the 1970s ‘the Shannon and Weaver phase', because most of the discussions and attempts to structure the concept of information relied on the reception of Shannon via Weaver.

This view is confirmed by Bawden (2016, 284):

In terms of theories of information, Shannon’s Mathematical Theory of Communication was the only game in town [about 1978]. Its limitations in application to the concerns of the less technical end of the information sciences were well recognized, but there was interest in how it might be applied more widely.

However, it is important to emphasize that in each year or period, the literature of LIS contains a mixture of many different topics and perspectives. It is not the case that in one period all or most papers are based on or reflect a certain paradigm of that period. In other words, most views seem to co-exist at a given point in time, and it is just the meta-discussions that are dominated by a certain theoretical view in each period.

An example of how information theory has been an interesting subject in relation to information science is the concept of redundancy. For example, Shannon (1951) measured the degree of redundancy in written English (e.g. how much of a text can be arbitrarily removed and the text still be understandable?). Similar experiments have been carried out with oral languages (removing part of electronic signals carrying oral speech). It has been shown that less redundancy is needed for native speakers (Miller 1951). This may at first seem surprising, since hearing a message is one thing, and understanding it is another; the quality of the physical signal should only concern the first issue. Another interesting example, which is related to the cognitive view and applied in human-computer interaction, is Miller’s (1956) finding that human beings have a limit to the information that can be processed in their short-term memory, and that the number of items that can be remembered is 7 ± 2.

Linguist and information scientist Henning Spang-Hanssen (2001, electronic source, no page) wrote:

‘Information theory’ is not concerned with documents, and not even primarily concerned with the content or meaning of documents or other symbolic representations, but concentrates on the efficient transmission of signals, which may – or may not – convey meaning. It is therefore unfortunate to confuse the term information theory with information as occurring in ‘information science’ and ‘information retrieval’.

Shannon’s theory gave rise to the measurement of information using the unit of the ‘bit’, which may be applied, for example, to the question of how information can be compressed and stored on a disk drive [50]. However, as pointed out by many, this measure is not particularly relevant to the field of library, information and documentation studies. Buckland (2005, 686), for example, wrote:

There is a valid and respectable field of formal information theory based on propositions, algorithms, uncertainty, truth statements, and the like, but its formal strengths are also its limits and make [it] inappropriate and inadequate for the concerns of LIS.

Spang-Hanssen (2001, electronic source, no page) explained why Shannon’s theory does not apply to information science:

The amount of information is here [in Shannon’s information theory] measured by the decrease of uncertainty resulting from the choice of a particular message among a set of possible messages. […] I shall only mention a few points to show the limitation of this measure to our conception of information.
  • In Shannon’s sense, the amount of information is proportional to the length of the message (in a given code). This obviously does not apply to the utilization of literature as information. Among other things, an abstract may be as informative as the complete paper.
  • Shannon’s amount of information presupposes a measure of the uncertainty on behalf of the receiver. By the utilization of literature as information no measurable uncertainty can be defined generally.
  • Shannon’s amount of information applies to some explicit coding and cannot in the case of normal writing (or speech) account for semantic relations that are not shown by similarities of expression. E.g. the synonyms ‘serials’ and ‘periodicals’ would be treated as different messages (or parts of messages) having different ‘amounts of information’.

As late as 2011, it was claimed that information science is based on information theory (Milojevic et al. 2011, 1933):

Miksa (1985, 1992) argues that the field has two distinct paradigms—librarianship, which is focused on libraries as institutions, and information science, which is focused on information and its communication. They are informed by different research traditions: librarianship from social science, and IS from mathematical communication theory.

Losee (2017) is a recent attempt to argue for "information theory" as the basis for information science and education within library and information science. However, there is no demonstration of how that theory may contribute to any research problem in the field, such as information retrieval, indexing, thesaurus construction, information seeking, bibliometrics etc. Also, the author totally ignores all debates and criticisms about information theory, as provided by, for example, Buckland (2005), Fugmann (2007; 2008), Spang-Hanssen (2001), Stock and Stock (2013) and many others.

The general view is, however, that Shannon’s information theory failed as a theoretical frame of reference for LIS, not just in the “soft” field, but also in information retrieval research in computer science. Stock and Stock (2013, 22), for example, wrote: “Shannon’s information theory is of historical interest for us but it has only little significance in information science”. Some authors go even further; Fugmann (2007; 2008) called it “the bluff of the century” that had caused a great deal of damage in information science. However, despite the overall view that it failed to fulfill expectations, there are still a few information scientists working on the basis of Shannon’s theory, e.g. Leydesdorff (2016) and Shubert (1996).

As we shall see below, the cognitive view is also partly based on Shannon’s theory, which thus also influenced another paradigm in information science.

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3.3 The Cranfield tradition

The Cranfield tradition is often described in the literature as “the systems-oriented view” (e.g. by Saracevic 1999) or as “the physical paradigm” [51] (e.g. by Ellis 1992) [52]. Experiments at the Cranfield Institute of Technology in the 1960s are often cited as the beginning of the modern area of testing and evaluation of computer-based information retrieval systems (Cleverdon et al. 1966). In the Cranfield studies, retrieval experiments were conducted on a variety of test databases in a controlled, laboratory-like setting. In the second series of experiments, known as Cranfield II, alternative indexing languages constituted the performance variable under investigation. The aim of the research was to find ways to improve the relative retrieval effectiveness of IR systems through better indexing languages and methods (Cleverdon 1970). The components of the Cranfield experiments were: a small test collection of documents; a set of test queries; and a set of relevance judgments, that is, a set of documents judged to be relevant to each query. For the purposes of performance comparison, it was necessary to select quantitative measures of relevant documents output by the system under various controlled conditions. The famous recall and precision measures (derivatives of the concept of relevance) were first used in the Cranfield II experiments.

Hjørland (2010, 220) formerly wrote:

Cleverdon (1970) reanalyzed some results from the Cranfield II experiments. The types of search questions discussed were both “realistic” or “real-life questions” and “prepared questions” (which is surprising, given the description of this view from the user-oriented community). Relevance assessments were made by people with different backgrounds, mostly scientists in the field. Each assessor evaluated each document (in full text) on a five-point scale and made qualitative notes about the assessment. Most important is that relevance was evaluated in relation to its possible function for the user because this is directly opposed to how the systems view is mostly being described. The paper further discussed how relevance assessments vary greatly among different assessors. Appendix 1 in Cleverdon (1970) lists the test-questions and the real documents used in the test. This seems important because it makes interpretations of the relevance-assessments possible. This procedure seems different from how it is described by the user-oriented researchers.

Table 1 shows some results of the relative recall of four different indexing languages. It was a shock to the LIS community that a high-quality classification system like the UDC (which demands highly qualified indexers) seems to be less effective than the low-tech Uniterm system (a system mainly based on uncontrolled, single words extracted from the text of a document). Despite criticism, these results have since influenced the attitude of main-stream information retrieval researchers, not just in relation to UDC, but to all kinds of controlled vocabularies.

 Table 1
 Aslib Cranfield Research Project
 (Warburton and Cleverdon 1961; after Vickery 1966, 86-87)
   Original test  Supplementary test
 Facet  73.8 ± 2.5 %  83 %
 UDC  75.6 ± 2.5 %  -
 Alphabetical  81.5 ± 2.5 %  -
 Uniterm  82.0 ± 2.5 %  -

Among the criticisms raised against this tradition are that human searchers, their interaction with the system, their interpretation of the query, and their process-formed relevance judgments were factors excluded from these experiments. Ørom (2000, 16) wrote about this approach:

The physical paradigm represents a nomothetic type of research and it is based on a realistic view of science. According to the realistic model scientific knowledge is absolute true knowledge. That means that scientific knowledge is considered to have a privileged position, it is universal and neutral, and it is not influenced by social and cognitive processes.

It is likely that Ørom’s criticism can be understood as a just criticism of the positivist view underlying the Cranfield tradition. Parts of Cleverson’s research seem strongly positivist, for example the claimed “law of the inverse relation between recall and precision” (which has been rejected most clearly by Fugmann 1994). The Cranfield tradition has not raised the question of whether different indexing languages best serve different kinds of communities or interests (as did Ørom 2003). That said, there seems to be much misplaced criticism of this tradition (and by implication a misplaced trust in what has mainly been understood as its alternative: the cognitive view). Firstly, the very dichotomy between systems-based and user-based approaches is problematic because neither can be understood without the other (cf. Hjørland 2010; Talja and Nyce 2015, 61; Warner 2010).

Warner (2010, 4-5) found that the Cranfield tradition and the cognitive tradition share important characteristics and therefore “For the purposes of discussion… they can be considered as a single heterogeneous paradigm, linked but not united”. This paradigm has not always been explicit about its own values, nor have its own basic assumptions always been examined. In Warner’s analysis, the basic assumption in this tradition may broadly be termed query transformation, which implies that a user’s verbal query, formulated before the start of the search, is transformed by an information system into a set of documents or bibliographical records. According to Warner, these records have been evaluated according to their relevance (using measures such as recall and precision) in relation to the query. Warner (2010) finds that the underlying methodology tends to reify the concept of relevance and that the underlying indexing philosophy in the searched material is neglected and taken as given. Finally, he finds that this approach contains an implicit teleology aimed at the construction of a perfect system. Contrary to the dominant paradigm of the computer/information-oriented tradition, Warner presents a tradition that is based more on library science and the practice of indexing. This tradition is far older, but less influential today. In his opinion, there are two especially valuable elements in this tradition. The first is the explicit priority of selection power, that is, the user’s ability to make relevant distinctions during a search; the second is the recognition of the need for human labor to create this selection power (see further in Hjørland 2015a).

The conclusion can be drawn that the Cranfield tradition remains strong in information science; it was continued by the Text REtrieval Conferences (TREC) and today still represents the most important contribution to the development of search engines and other IR systems (although it has mostly migrated from information science to computer science). In information science, it has been met with criticism. Although Warner’s criticism seems justified and important, much other criticism of it is problematic. An important characteristic of the Cranfield tradition is the view that subject expertise is needed in evaluating information retrieval and knowledge organization (and not just user satisfaction). However, at the time the tradition was established, Kuhn (1962) had not yet influenced the philosophy of science, and Ørom (2000) seems to be correct overall in his characterization of its epistemological assumptions.

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3.3.1 The bibliographic paradigm

Kuhlthau (2004, 1) described "the bibliographical paradigm" as follows:

Traditionally, library and information service have centered on sources and technology. Libraries have developed sophisticated systems for collecting, organizing, and retrieving texts and have applied advanced technology to provide access to vast sources of information. This bibliographic paradigm of collecting and classifying texts and devising search strategies for their retrieval has promoted a view of information use from the system's perspective. For the most part, library and information science has concentrated on the system's representation of texts rather than on users' texts, problems, and processes in information gathering.

We see that Kuhlthau here relates the bibliographical paradigm to the systems perspective, which needs, however, to be considered further. There has been a tradition in LIS to study the literatures of specific domains (e.g. children's literature — or broader music, theater, and other cultural manifestations, and in similar ways the documents of all other domains from music over religion to medicine and chemistry. The case is, that one cannot be professional in LIS without such knowledge (which may be more or less specialized according to job function: very general in small public libraries, very specific in libraries such as the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.).

There was a time when the study of the literatures and other documents of different domains flourished in LIS. They are still visible in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, fourth edition (McDonald and Levine-Clark 2017) (e.g. Arts Literatures and Their Users, Biological Information and Its Users, Business Literature: History, Children's Literature, Economics Literature: History, Engineering Literatures and Their Users, Genealogical Literature and Its Users, Geographical Literature: History, Humanities Literatures and Their Users and Law Literature and Its Users). It is characteristic, unfortunately, that those article are old reprints rather than reflecting current research.

Hjørland (2007) concluded:

It is important to reconsider "the bibliographical paradigm" in library and information science. Studies of literatures cannot be substituted by, for example, studies of users. Some of the criticisms raised against this view may be related to problematic philosophical premises. The bibliographical paradigm does not necessarily imply a positivist description of documents, but may imply a consideration of what documents can do, and how library and information science can support documents in doing important tasks, i.e. a critical and pragmatic perspective.

The bibliographic paradigm — or certain interpretations of it — point forward to Section 3.6: Socially, culturally and content-informed views.

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3.4 The cognitive view

To say that information processes and processors are cognitive in nature is a triviality that cannot be used to distinguish these from other approaches. Dahlberg (1992) is an editorial about the cognitive view in knowledge organization. She declared the term cognitive approaches a tautology, since all approaches to KO must, in one way or another, be concerned with conceptual and cognitive issues; according to Dahlberg, the term is thus not specifying anything new in knowledge organization. Since the cognitive view is often presented as one of several positions, its theoretical assumptions relative to other perspectives must be further examined. As Slife and Williams (1995, 71) wrote:

to truly evaluate and understand the ideas behind other ideas, we must have a point of comparison. We must have some contrast with implicit ideas or they will not look like ideas. They will look like common sense or truth of axiom rather than the points of view that they really are.

The cognitive view came to information science from an interdisciplinary movement known as cognitive science or the cognitive revolution, which again was influenced by Shannon’s information theory. For example, Human Information Processing (Lindsay and Norman 1977) influenced LIS and was in some places used as a text in information science around 1990.

Gärdenfors (1999) wrote about the origin of cognitive science:

There are good reasons for saying that cognitive science was born in 1956. That year a number of events in various disciplines marked the beginning of a new era. A conference where the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was used for the first time was held at Dartmouth College. At this conference, Alan Newell and Herbert Simon demonstrated the first computer programme that could construct logical proofs from a given set of premises. They called the programme the Logical Theorist. This event has been interpreted as the first example of a machine that performed a cognitive task.
Then in linguistics, later the same year, Noam Chomsky presented his new views on transformational grammar, which were to be published in his book Syntactic Structures in 1957. This book caused a revolution in linguistics and Chomsky's views on language are still dominant in large parts of the academic world. What is less known is that Chomsky in his doctoral thesis from 1956 worked out a mapping between various kinds of rule-based languages and different types of automata […].
Also in 1956, the psychologist George Miller published an article with the title The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information that has become a classic within cognitive science. Miller argued that there are clear limits to our cognitive capacities: we can actively process only about seven units of information. This article is noteworthy in two ways. First, it directly applies Shannon's information theory to human thinking. Second, it explicitly talks about cognitive processes, something which had been considered to be very bad manners in the wards of the behaviourists that were sterile of anything but stimuli and responses. However, with the advent of computers and information theory, Miller now had a mechanism that could be put in the black box of the brain: computers have a limited processing memory and so do humans.
Another key event in psychology in 1956 was the publication of the book A Study of Thinking, written by Jerome Bruner, Jacqueline Goodnow and George Austin, who had studied how people group examples into categories. They reported a series of experiments where the subjects' task was to determine which of a set of cards with different geometrical forms belong to a particular category […]. Bruner, Goodnow and Austin focused on logical combinations of primitive concepts, again following the underlying tradition that human thinking is based on logical rules.

One of the main figures in the cognitive view in information science is Nicholas Belkin, who claimed (1990, 11):

It is shown, by example, that considering problems of information science from this point of view has led to significant advances in a variety of areas of information science, including bibliometrics [53], user studies, the reference interview and information retrieval. This variety of applications suggests that the cognitive viewpoint may be a powerful framework for the general theoretical and practical development of information science.

Such a broad influence is what should be expected from a paradigm or framework theory in information science. Belkin’s view has been questioned, and one of the aims of the present article is to explore its claim further [54].

The cognitive view in information science, at least in its original form (as connected with Lindsay and Norman 1977), was based on the view that the study of how humans search and index/classify information is based on universal rules inherent in the human mind (and connected to human neurobiology). In other words, the principles of information science can be uncovered by the study of the human mental system, considered to be universal (as opposed to a culturally and socially shaped mind).

Ørom (2000, 16) characterized the cognitive view in the following way:

During the last three decades [i.e. the 1970s to 2000] the cognitive school or approach has developed and increasingly dominated the study of information behaviour. Even though it is not generally accepted, it has most impact [Vakkari 1996, 204–218]. The development of the cognitive perspective has meant a broadening of both the scope and spectrum of foci of information science. It is a broadening of the scope in the sense that all kinds of information are included in the concept, and it is a broadening of the focus in the way that it includes human information (retrieval) behavior in general, and in relation to information retrieval and IR systems. The approach concentrates on the qualitative aspects of information retrieval interaction. The cognitive viewpoint [Ingwersen 1992] is based on a relativistic model of knowledge, which means that knowledge is relative in that it is altered by cognitive (and social) processes.

However, one may ask whether Ørom’s description is correct. For example, is it correct that the cognitive view is based on a relativistic model of knowledge, altered by cognitive and social processes? Brasseur (2003, 1), for example, wrote that “cognitive-based theory […] privileges the idea of a universal viewer, whose needs can best be met by designing technical visuals that respond well to the innate perceptual abilities of readers”. Gärdenfors (1999) also described cognitive science as being based on the rationalist view that there are underlying universal mechanisms in human cognition that can be uncovered by cognitive scientists. The relativist and social view of knowledge associated with, for example social constructivism, pragmatism and critical theory (including Ørom’s own view) is very different from cognitive science and the cognitive view in information science. Sampson (1981) argued that cognitivism, by virtue of the primacy it gives to the individual knower [55], to subjective determinants of behavior, and to formal cognitive operations, represents a set of values and interests that reproduce and reaffirm the existing nature of the social order, and thus must be understood as an ideology.

In information science, Frohmann (1990) criticized the cognitive understanding of indexing. Based on the philosophy of the late Wittgenstein, Frohmann argued that principles of indexing cannot be rules inherent in a universal mind. If information specialists are going to index a text, we may assume that the principles of this indexing have been learned, for example during their education in LIS. Such principles may have been discussed in the literature and developed historically (based on research which is informed by epistemological theories, which themselves are developed historically). In other words, LIS is supposed to develop sound principles of indexing, rather than to uncover them by studying abstract minds. The minds of the indexers are supposed to reflect what they have learned (and thus are socially/culturally formed). Because of this simple reasoning, basic assumptions in the cognitive view are based on what has been called “the psychologist's fallacy” [56].

Another important example is provided by Kwon (2016, ii):

If “information” is a central concept for library and information science, then “questions” are fundamental, for information “informs” relative to the question. But research focusing on questions as a central theoretical concept has been stymied by the paradox of the question, which observes that in order to ask one must know enough to know what one does not know (Flammer, 1981). This dissertation proposes that this paradox results from the limitations of the cognitive approach to questions as indications of individual information need, and that the paradox can be resolved by reframing questions as social epistemological tools of inquiry within knowledge domains.

Talja (1997) wrote:

It is widely recognized that both individual information needs and institutional information access are socially conditioned. However, conducting information seeking research on a macro-sociological level has turned out to be difficult within the cognitive viewpoint, since it is basically a theory of how individuals process information. The cognitive viewpoint offers no concrete and obvious solutions to the question of how to conceptualize and study the socio-cultural context of information processes.

There have been “turns” in the development of the cognitive view in information science. Ingwersen (1992, 18) differentiates cognitivism from the cognitive view, and Ingwersen and Järvelin (2005, 29) term their new view the holistic cognitive view, claiming that it has accommodated the socially oriented criticism [57].

Talja et al. (2005, 81) claim that the cognitive view is a misnomer:

In IS [information science], constructivist ideas are commonly labelled under “the cognitive viewpoint”. The cognitive viewpoint in IS, as initially formulated by Brookes (1980), Belkin and colleagues (Belkin, 1984, 1990; Belkin et al. 1982) and Ingwersen (1982, 1992), does not represent cognitivism, however. Cognitivism is an approach that significantly informed artificial intelligence in drawing straightforward analogies between human information processing and computing (Ingwersen, 1992, pp. 19-25, 227). The cognitive viewpoint in IS differs from cognitivism by laying major emphasis on the way in which knowledge is actively built up by the cognising subject, that is, by the individual mind to serve the organisation of internal and external reality.

Talja et al.’s point of view may be more correct in some cases than in others. We should remember the connection between the cognitive view in information science and that of Lindsay and Norman (1977), which indicates that the cognitive view in information science is related to cognitive science. It may be, however, that the authors in the cognitive tradition are not themselves loyal to their metatheoretical commitments. Konrad (2007, 23) found that “[t]he ‘cognitive viewpoint’ literature [in information science] is sparse in its use of, and even reference to, any of these [cognitive science postulates], preferring to originate its own postulates in these areas.‘

Ellis (1992, 53) found that it is “difficult to identify … that there is any concrete scientific achievement which can be said to serve as the exemplar for the cognitive approach, and which would qualify as a paradigm for that approach […] unlike the physical paradigm there may be no equivalent of the Cranfield tests to serve as a paradigm for those adopting the cognitive approach in this field” [58]. The clearest characteristic of the cognitive view is the aim of modeling and representing the user’s cognitive structures and processes. However, for those researchers who consider knowledge and information as fundamentally social in nature, this task seems condemned from the beginning [59].

As we saw above, Warner (2010, 4-5) found that the cognitive and the physical paradigms shared a set of problematic assumptions and therefore should be considered as “a single heterogeneous paradigm, linked but not united”. In his view, the cognitive tradition is also based on the query transformation assumption rather than on the idea of selection power.

Despite the unclarified issues in the cognitive approach and the serious arguments that have been raised against it, there is a today a large body of interdisciplinary literature informed by that view [60]. Cognitive science has also developed new perspectives and approaches that are much more fruitful than the classicist/cognitivist research program, including:

  • embodied cognition (cognition as actively constructed from select environmental features)
  • enculturated cognition (the co-evolution of cognition and culture)
  • distributed cognition (cognition stretching across systems of humans and artifacts)
  • situated cognition (cognition located in and arising from interactions within situations)
  • the cognitive-historical approach (reconstructing conceptual changes in the history of science; see Nersessian 2008; Andersen, Barker and Chen 2006)

In this way, cognitive science may come closer to the views introduced in Section 3.6. The cognitive-historical approach, in particular, seems fruitful for knowledge organization (cf., Hjørland 2017a, → Section 4.1, 103-5).

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3.5 Floridi’s philosophy of information

Philosopher Luciano Floridi (born 1964) has developed a philosophy of information which he labels the philosophy of information (PI) or the philosophy of computing and information (PCI). In Floridi (2002), he explicitly considers PI’s relation to LIS and to social epistemology (SE) as a foundation for LIS. Floridi argues that SE cannot serve as a proper foundation for LIS, but should be considered a sibling, and that both siblings (LIS and SE) must be founded in PI. In other words, Floridi claims that LIS must be understood as applied PI. He rightly points out (Floridi 2002, 39) that:

The library is a place where educational and communication needs and values are implemented, defended and fostered, where contents are assessed and selected for the public, and where practices like cataloguing, for example, are far from being neutral, evaluation-free activities [note omitted]. This normative stance makes LIS lean towards ESK [Epistemology of Social Knowledge] [61].

However, Floridi then argues that “SE and LIS do not make a happy marriage because LIS works at a more fundamental level than epistemology. Its object is not knowledge itself but the information sources that make it possible, even if only indirectly” [62]. This argumentation is somewhat confusing [63]; an example can be considered as follows.

Information specialists index documents in databases such as MEDLINE in order to make it possible to produce systematic reviews reflecting which medical treatments have the best effects in relation to a certain disease. Here, documents are primarily indexed serving information retrieval, or rather document retrieval. What is considered proper information is here the same as what is considered proper knowledge. Documents have different epistemic status, and in evidence-based medicine the highest status is given to documents reporting randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Therefore, there are epistemic norms governing which documents should be retrieved. Such norms are not developed within LIS, but LIS must be aware of them in order to do its job properly. Such norms are never decided once and for all, and should not be considered too mechanically. In all domains, there tend to be different views connected to different epistemological norms, and information professionals are therefore involved in epistemic problems whether they like it or not. Floridi’s sentence: “This normative stance makes LIS lean towards ESK [Epistemology of Social Knowledge]” therefore seems correct, and his attempt to replace it with his PI is unconvincing.

Floridi’s theory was discussed in a special issue of Library Trends in 2004. Here, Cornelius (2004, 386) provided his evaluation and concluded:

In summary, I want to say that Floridi’s PI, as it stands, is innocent of the social character of a field like LIS and the way it constructs itself. His view of information needs some easing away from a simple message transfer system, and the unexamined concerns expressed about the position of the informee in OPPI [Open Problems in the Philosophy of Information, Floridi 2004b] (Proposition 16) need to be accommodated within the understanding of information. Finally, his PI would be more widely applicable in LIS if it could take into account individual information behavior.

In the afterword to the same issue, Floridi (2004a, 658) stated:

Library information science (LIS) should develop its foundation in terms of a philosophy of information (PI). This seems a rather harmless suggestion. Where else could information science look for its conceptual foundations if not in PI?

Although this statement may seem obvious, it is problematic. It should be remembered that the name of the discipline (LIS) is itself an issue and that theoreticians have problematized it. Furner’s contribution in the same issue was Information Studies without Information (Furner 2004, 443), in which he stated:

We have now seen, through an analysis of the categories to which the term "information" is variously applied in IS, how those categories are well understood in fields such as philosophy of language, communication studies, and semiotics, and how labels other than "information" have been used to effectively distinguish among those categories in those fields.

Frohmann’s (2004b, 387) article in the same issue claimed:

A philosophy of information is grounded in a philosophy of documentation [… and] the informativeness of a document depends on certain kinds of practices with it, and because information emerges as an effect of such practices, documentary practices are ontologically primary to information. The informativeness of documents therefore refers us to the properties of documentary practices [64].

Mai (2013, 677-9) also provides a discussion of Floridi’s view. He finds that Floridi (2010, 22) constitutes information as “meaningful independent of an informee” and as such establishes a notion of information that does not rely on a knowing subject. Floridi’s view is in this respect similar to the view of information scientist Bertram C. Brookes (1910–1991) and philosopher Fred Dretske (1932–2013), although it is opposed to the views put forward by David C. Blair, Jonathan Furner, Birger Hjørland, Lars Qvortrup and Jens-Erik Mai himself, who wrote (Mai 2013, 679):

[T]hese scholars view information as a vehicle used in the production and exchange of meaning. They base their understanding of information and communication in the semiotics school, and as such establish foundations for both the philosophy of information and information studies that focus on the interpretive nature of the production, organization, retrieval, and use of information.

Therefore, Floridi’s statement that “[l]ibrary information science (LIS) should develop its foundation in terms of a philosophy of information (PI)” is not a harmless suggestion, but a highly problematic one, and it is somewhat frustrating when philosophers make claims about other fields in this way. Biologists, for example, do not need philosophers to construct a philosophy of life in order to develop biology (although a certain cooperation between philosophers and domain experts is desirable). In information science, many theoretical arguments have been put forward and considered, and we cannot expect philosophy to provide a basis for LIS as far as these arguments have not been addressed by the philosophers. Buckland (2005, 686) wrote:

The most disappointing paper [in a thematic journal issue debating the philosophy of information] is the last, a ‘Reappraisal’ of LIS as applied philosophy of information, by Floridi, a professor of logic and epistemology. It is entirely self-referential, citing only his own writings, and with no indication that he has read any of the preceding 15 papers.

However, a recent, positive and relatively developed evaluation of Floridi's PI is Bawden and Robinson (2018).

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3.6 Socially, culturally and content-informed views

In the 1970s and 1980s, two paradigms dominated in the theoretical discourses on LIS: the physical approach and the cognitive view. Around 1990, other voices began to be influential (and in the 2000s, as we saw, Floridi’s PI, among other views). In other words, information science became more pluralistic. The new approaches were often related to social, cultural and philosophical perspectives. Examples from the international scene were Frohmann (1990) and Blair (1990), along with views which had been formerly expressed, such as those of Wilson (1983) and Winograd and Flores (1986) [65]. In Scandinavia, such socially oriented views were also put forward. Ørom (2000, 18) wrote:

In the nineties a number of alternative theories, perspectives or proposals for metatheories have been introduced, discussed or developed. In a Nordic context Hjørland [1996; 1997], Albrechtsen and Hjørland [1997], Wikgren [1998], Ginman [1995] and Brier [1996; 1997] are among the most prolific. Others could be added. Though there is no common denominator of these researchers they do have, to a certain degree, some similarities in their perspectives. One is that they study, analyse or conceptualise information processes and communication of knowledge at a macro level, i.e. in a socio-cultural context. Their theoretical viewpoints do have affinities as well, but not much more than that. They understand the subject area of information science from a sociology of science, hermeneutic, semiotic or discourse analytic point of view.

As stated in Section 3, socially oriented perspectives on LIS also existed at an earlier time. We focus here on Egan and Shera’s social epistemology, which in hindsight (and with methodological updates) may represent the most important perspective for LIS. Firstly, Shera’s social epistemology represents a sociological approach [66] (Shera 1970; 1971). A sociological approach means that the focus is on knowledge/information/document production, mediation and utilization, understood through social and cultural perspectives. This perspective includes the analysis of the roles of all actors, institutions, systems, media and documents. It also means that explanations for empirically observed phenomena are sought in social conditions rather than in universal cognitive processes. Secondly, Shera’s social epistemology implies the importance of subject knowledge for LIS, and therefore also a perspective of the theory of knowledge (epistemology). Shera’s (1951, 82) relating classification with the prevailing epistemology and the denial of a “fundamental order of nature” is an important theoretical position. Since Shera (1951) and Egan and Shera (1952) introduced the term social epistemology, there has been much interdisciplinary controversy about epistemological issues. Kuhn (1962) introduced the influential concepts of paradigm and the paradigm shift just as social constructivism, post-modernism etc. became trends along with other currents. One understanding presented by, among others, Hjørland (2017a) is that different paradigms [67], related to different interests always compete in all fields of knowledge. Different information systems and knowledge organization systems are influenced by certain paradigms, and tend to support certain tasks and interests at the expense of other interests. Ørom (2003) offers a model by demonstrating how different library classification systems reflect different views on art. This example also illuminates the content-oriented view: that the mediation of information, knowledge and documents cannot escape issues concerning the content of what is mediated.

The shift in perspective from the cognitive to the social is very clearly expressed by Gärdenfors (1999), and is exemplified in linguistics:

The role of culture and society in cognition was marginalised in early cognitive science. These were regarded as problem areas to be addressed when an understanding of individual cognition had been achieved. This neglect shows up especially clearly in the treatment of language within cognitive science. For Chomsky and his followers, individuals are Turing machines that process syntactic structures according to some, partly innate, recursive system of grammatical rules. Questions concerning the meaning of the words, let alone problems related to the use of language in communication, were seen as not properly belonging to a cognitive theory of linguistics.
However, when the focus of cognitive theories shifted away from symbolic representations, semantic and pragmatic research reappeared on the agenda. Broadly speaking, one can find two conflicting views on the role of pragmatics in the study of language. On the one hand, in mainstream contemporary linguistics (dominated by the Chomskian school), syntax is viewed as the primary study object of linguistics; semantics is added when grammar is not enough; and pragmatics is what is left over (context, deixis, etc).
On the other hand, a second tradition turns the study programme upside-down: actions are seen as the most basic entities; pragmatics consists of the rules for linguistic actions; semantics is conventionalised pragmatics; and finally, syntax adds grammatical markers to help disambiguate when the context does not suffice to do so. This tradition connects with several other research areas like anthropology, psychology, and situated cognition.

The shift from a cognitive, individual perspective to a social and cultural perspective is important for LIS, and, as we saw above, for epistemology and linguistics.

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4.0 Content and structure of LIS

There are many studies of the content and structure of LIS. Some approaches towards studying this have been:

  1. To study the educational programs at schools of library and information science (SLIS).
       1.1 To study LIS-textbooks.
  2. To study the disciplinary composition of researchers and teachers at SLIS.
  3. To carry out a content analysis of a representative set of publications from LIS.
  4. To carry out bibliometric studies of publications in LIS or in other disciplines.
  5. To create facet-analytic classifications of LIS.
  6. To carry out domain-analytic studies of LIS.

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4.1 Educational programs in SLIS

Borup Larsen (2005) contains a study of the curricula at SLIS in Europe and finds the following distribution of core subject areas taught:

 Table 2
 LIS themes ranked as core subject areas in LIS school curricula (from Borup Larsen 2005, 235)
 Library management and promotion  81%
 Knowledge organization
 Information seeking and information retrieval 100%
 Knowledge management  49%
 Information literacy and learning  45%
 The information society: barriers to free access to information  45%
 Library and society in a historical perspective  38%
 Cultural heritage and digitalization of cultural heritage  19%
 The library in the multi-cultural information society: international and intercultural communication  13%
 Mediation of culture in a specific European context    6%

We shall not consider methodological problems in this study; however, we will point out that the labels used for content areas often cover very different content, and that the assumptions behind the content may reflect very different views of what kind of knowledge is needed in the future. The literature about SLIS education is rather extensive, and includes Davis (1994), Bonnici et al. (2009) and Varlejs (2010).

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4.1.1 Textbooks on LIS

Most studies of LIS focus on the research literature (cf. Section 4.3 Content analysis of LIS publications). Although this is a very popular research field, there is almost no research on LIS textbooks, one exception being a Russian study reviewed by Foskett (1975). In a way, this is understandable, since studies of the scholarly literature of LIS represent firsthand knowledge whereas studies of textbooks present the field through the interpretation of their authors, and therefore represent second-hand knowledge about the content and structure of LIS. However, textbooks (and related genres such as readings, handbooks and bibliographic guides [68]) provide the kinds of syntheses which may provide additional relevant perspectives.

We do not have much knowledge of which texts are generally used in LIS education. It is likely that specialized texts on, for example, knowledge organization (e.g. Rowley and Farrow 2017; Taylor and Joudrey 2009 or Glushko 2013), information seeking (e.g. Case and Given 2016) or bibliometrics (e.g. Bellis 2009) are much used, whereas general texts on LIS are less often used, since these are more difficult to integrate into educational programs consisting of various subdisciplines [69].

In terms of texts on LIS as a whole, Stock and Stock (2013) stands out as the most ambitious work, entitled Handbook of Information Science and containing 901 pages. Handbooks are normally anthologies written by experts in the different topics; however, here we have the view of two researchers of the field. The main structure of the book is as follows:

A. Introduction to Information Science
Information Retrieval
B. Propaedeutics of Information Retrieval
C. Natural Language Processing
D. Boolean Retrieval Systems
E. Classical Retrieval Models
F. Web Information Retrieval
G. Special Problems of Information Retrieval
H. Empirical Investigations on Information Retrieval
Knowledge Representation
J. Metadata
K. Folksonomies
L. Knowledge Organization Systems
M. Text-Oriented Knowledge Organization Methods
N. Indexing
O. Summarization
P. Empirical Investigations on Knowledge Representation

Davis and Shaw (2011) is a textbook that was written by a team of authors; this started as a Wiki-project and therefore has a somewhat mingled perspective. It contains the following chapters:

1. Our World of Information
2. Foundations of Information Science and Technology
3. Information Needs, Seeking, and Use
4. Representation of Information
5. Organization of Information
6. Computers and Networks
7. Structured Information Systems
8. Information System Applications
9. Evaluation of Information Systems
10. Information Management
11. Publication and Information Technologies
12. Information Policy
13. The Information Professions
14. Information Theory

Rubin (2016) is a well-received text, which includes coverage of:

  • the history and mission of libraries, from past to present;
  • digital devices, social networking and other technologies;
  • the impact of digital publishing on the publishing industry and the effects of eBooks on libraries
  • the values and ethics of the profession;
  • how library services have evolved in the areas of virtual reference, embedded librarianship, digital access and repositories, digital preservation and civic engagement;
  • new and ongoing efforts to organize knowledge, such as FRBR, RDA (Resource Description And Access), BIBFRAME, the Semantic Web, and the Next Generation Catalog (Catalog 2.0);
  • the significance of the digital divide and policy issues related to broadband access and network neutrality;
  • the concept of intellectual freedom, and how it plays out in the real world;
  • legal developments such as new interpretations of copyright related to the mass digitization of books (Google Books) and scholarly articles;
  • the continuing tensions in LIS education between information science and library science; and
  • initiatives to integrate libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs).

However, one might say that this is not quite what the title promises in terms of Foundations of Library and Information Science. Again (cf. Section 2.0), it conflates the content area of LIS and the science of LIS. For example, it contains a chapter about the history of libraries; however, this is not an introduction to the historiography of libraries, nor is it about the science or study of libraries, nor theory or research, but is simply some information about the history of libraries (Connaway and Radford 2016, in contrast, is about the methodology of LIS).

Bawden and Robinson (2012) contains the following chapters:

1. What is information science? Disciplines and professions
2. History of information: the story of documents
3. Philosophies and paradigms of information science
4. Basic concepts of information science
5. Domain analysis
6. Information organization
7. Information technologies: creation, dissemination and retrieval
8. Informetrics
9. Information behaviour
10. Communicating information: changing contexts
11. Information society
12. Information management and policy
13. Digital literacy
14. Information science research: what and how?
15. The future of the information sciences

Among the fine qualities of this book are its coverage of the philosophies and paradigms in LIS and the fact that it is written by well-known authors in the field. Perhaps, however, the book is more eclectic than it is based on a certain theoretical outlook. Many persons (including one of the reviewers of the present article) do not agree on the necessity of the emphasis on different paradigms [70]. However, it is a basic premise of this article that there is no such thing as LIS per se, and that one cannot write about it from “the view of nowhere” (Nagel 1986). The most important problem in LIS is related to theoretical and conceptual clarifications, and it is difficult to find textbooks based on a well-considered standpoint.

Examples of two very different theoretical perspectives are Luenberger (2006), which applies a technology-oriented perspective (it was the winner of the 2006 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Computer and Information Science), and Buckland (2017), which argues for also “insisting that the study of information be rooted in the process of informing, of becoming informed, of human knowing” (181).

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4.2 Faculty composition of SLIS departments

Another way of studying LIS is to focus on the teaching and research staff, their educational backgrounds and their research. One way to select SLIS in America is to focus on LIS schools accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). Studies of the research output of these schools show a much broader picture than the studies presented in Sections 4.3 and 4.4, which focus on LIS journals. Meho and Spurgin (2005), for example, found that no database provides comprehensive coverage of the literature produced by researchers employed in SLIS; researchers must therefore rely on a wide range of disciplinary and multidisciplinary databases for ranking and other research purposes. The explanation is probably that many professors at SLIS institutions do not (or do not primarily) publish in LIS journals but in journals devoted to other fields.

Wiggins and Sawyer (2012) found that there are great variations in the intellectual composition of different iSchools; this seems to be related to local logics that, over time, have guided hiring to meet the needs of individual schools. From this, the authors infer that these local arrangements are more important to hiring decisions than is any sense of shared community identity. In other words, iSchools (and with them SLIS) seem less to be an international (or just regional) community in which researchers compete for positions, and are more influenced by local priorities (see also Golub et al. 2017).

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4.3 Content analysis of LIS publications

Järvelin and Vakkari (1990; 1993) and Tuomaala et al. (2014) are a series of content-analytic investigations of LIS. In the first of these studies, a relatively detailed topic classification system was developed (reprinted in Tuomaala et al. 2014, 1461). The authors admit (1449) that this classification system is somewhat outdated, although it was also used in the latest study to be able to compare former periods. Its overall structure is:

010 The professions in library and information-service (LI) services
020 Library history
030 Publishing (including book history)
100 Education in LIS
200 Methodology
300 Analysis of LIS
400 Library and information-service (L&I) activities
500 Information storage and retrieval (ISR)
600 Information seeking
700 Scientific and professional communication
800 Other aspects of LIS

Tuomaala et al. (2014) found that the largest areas of LIS research in that year were, in decreasing order of prevalence:

  • information storage and retrieval (ISR)
  • scientific communication
  • library and information-service activities
  • information seeking

By considering changes over time, this series of studies were also able to illuminate trends; for example, between 1965 and 2005, a decreasing interest in library and information-service activities and the growth of research into information seeking and scientific communication was shown.

Among the methodological problems in this series of studies is that they cannot specify, for example, which studies of ISR should be considered computer science studies and which should be considered LIS studies. This is due to several factors: the migration of information retrieval from information science to computer science; the interdisciplinary nature of LIS journals (cf. Chua and Yang 2008); and finally the classical epistemological problem: to select something, you must already know what that something is. Since LIS is ill-defined, any empirical analysis of LIS depends of the researchers’ preunderstanding of LIS.

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4.4 Bibliometric studies of LIS

There have been many bibliometric studies of the intellectual structure of LIS [71]. Liu et al. (2015, 758) wrote about these studies:

Over the past 20 years, many researchers (Milojevic et al. 2011; Åström 2007; Moya-Anégon et al. 2006; Janssens et al. 2006; White and McCain 1998; Zhao and Strotmann 2008b) [72] have examined the intellectual structure of LIS. However, the results attained by the researchers are different from each other, and the number of the main themes range from 3 to 16. It is probably due to several factors, e.g., the data collected for analysis covered different core LIS journals, different time period, or the methods frequently used have relatively strong subjective judgments.

 We may therefore concur with Parrochia (2017), who wrote about empirical classifications: “However, all these classifications remain, for technical and epistemological reasons […] very unstable ones“.

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4.4.1 Import and export studies

Import-export studies are investigations based on citation analysis to describe the exchange of ideas between disciplines or scholarly communities. This economic metaphor was introduced in the seminal work by Cronin and Pearson (1990). An import study for a field (e.g. LIS) demonstrates from which disciplines references in LIS publications have been imported. Export studies, on the other hand demonstrate which disciplines a given discipline is cited by, representing a kind of reception studies. It is a common premise in science studies that interdisciplinarity is a positive thing and that isolated disciplines (disciplines not cited in other disciplines) is an indicator of a crisis [73] (although some disciplines such as mathematics are exceptions from this rule).

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Import studies of LIS may reveal from which fields of knowledge LIS has mostly drawn, and to which it is therefore most closely related. There have been several empirical examinations of the relationship between LIS and other fields, and selected studies only are mentioned here. Small (1981, 49) examined the relationship of information science to the social sciences. He found that information science, as represented by his data from the Social Sciences Citation Index 1975–77, “appears poised somewhere between psychology and sociology, with a very strong link to sociology via the sociology of science, and a more tenuous link to psychology through a cluster called ‘creativity and achievement’. At the same time, information science, at least in the context of the social and behavioral sciences, appears somewhat isolated. It certainly is not the central discipline, with strong linkages to many diverse fields, that many would like it to be.

Warner (1991) examined the impact of linguistic theory on information science and showed that the examined portion of the information science literature cited linguistic theory very seldom. Further data analysis showed that a small number of citing and cited authors accounted for most of the activity, and that syntax and semantics gained more attention from information scientists than other branches of linguistic theory.

Borgman and Rice (1992) examined the relationship between information science and communication studies; Ellis et al. (1999) studied the relationship between information science and information systems research. However, all such empirical studies can only identify which in the past have been the most related cognate fields (based on which paradigms have been dominant).

Huang and Chang (2011) investigated the interdisciplinary changes in information sciences over the period 1978 to 2007, and found that information science researchers have most frequently cited publications in LIS. The co-authors of information science articles are also primarily from the discipline of LIS, although the percentage of LIS references is much higher. This indicates that information science researchers mainly rely on publications in LIS, and that they often produce scientific papers with researchers from LIS. The degree of interdisciplinarity in information science has shown growth, particularly in terms of co-authoring.

In LIS, many theoretical points of view are imported from other fields. Almost all well-known theorists from, for example, the social sciences have been used in LIS. Leckie et al. (2010), for example, present 26 critical theorists for LIS; this is only a small sample of the total number of theorists cited in LIS. However, such theorists are seldom used to establish a broad theoretical frame for issues in LIS, such as bibliometrics, classification, information retrieval, information seeking etc.

[top of entry] Export studies

There are many export studies in LIS, and a few are briefly introduced here. Cronin and Pearson (1990) discussed the journals citing the work of six leading LIS researchers: Bertram Brookes, Cyril Cleverdon, Robert Fairthorne, Jason Farradane, Maurice Line and Brian Vickery. They found that the discipline, as represented by the work of these six grandees, exported little to other disciplines. Tang (2004) studied citations of 150 LIS publications drawn randomly from six years in the period 1975 and 2000, and showed that LIS involves a wide spectrum of interests from across the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities. Cronin and Meho (2008) is a large-scale study which found that LIS exported significantly to computer science, engineering and management during the years 1977–2006 (and also imported much from the same disciplines). Odell and Gabbard (2008) is a follow-up of the study by Meyer and Spencer (1996); these authors also found large increases in LIS exports to computer science, business and management. Hessey and Willett (2013) is a methodologically important study that questions some of the former results concerning LIS exports. Using the subject categories in the Web of Science is popular in such studies; however, some journals are classified in more than one subject field, and this may provide a highly over-optimistic view of the extent to which LIS knowledge is being exported to the wider academic community. Among the findings in this study was that LIS research published in non-LIS journals has a much larger interdisciplinary influence compared to LIS research published in LIS journals. Another interesting finding was that just 11 distinct articles from the Sheffield Chemoinformatics Group absolutely dominated the export from LIS. The authors wrote: “In view of this degree of specificity, it could be argued that the best export performance for the discipline as a whole is exemplified by journals that draw more widely on LIS research”. One strength of the study was that it considered the relative value of different kinds of exports.

Import-export studies concerning LIS are relevant to the relationship between LIS and other disciplines, as discussed in Section 5 below.

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4.5 Facet-analytical classifications of LIS

The classification of subject fields is one of the classical activities of LIS professionals and researchers. Among the influential approaches to classification is → facet analysis (Hjørland 2013a). One of the major researchers in facet analytical classification was Jack Mills, who contributed to a classification of LIS (Daniel and Mills 1975). A newer knowledge organization system for LIS is the ASIS&T Thesaurus of Information Science, Technology, and Librarianship (Redmond-Neal and Hlava 2005).

It seems worthwhile to evaluate the facet analytic classification method in relation to the classification of LIS compared with other approaches, although this has never been done, and is outside the scope of this article. It should be said, however, that the logical structuring of the concepts of a field is a valuable, if not indispensable, activity. However, such a logical structuring cannot replace a concern with the theoretical issues in the field classified, and cannot provide a neutral classification.

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4.6. Domain-analytical studies of LIS

Domain analysis is different from content analysis, bibliometric studies and facet analytical classification in its emphasis of the necessity of the historical and philosophical analysis of knowledge domains. This article is an attempt to provide background knowledge about LIS in order to illuminate the importance of different conceptualizations of the field.

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4.7 Conclusions of Section 4

The main conclusion is that there is today no consensus on what constitute the most important subfields of LIS. Empirical studies reveal a confusing picture, and passing fads (such as the H-index) may distort the picture; on the other hand, the picture may be influenced by researchers who routinely do the same kinds of studies, although these may be of limited value. Milojevic et al. (2011, 1933) found:

Conceptually, our analysis reveals that LIS consists of three main branches: the traditionally recognized library-related and information-related branches, plus an equally distinct bibliometrics/scientometrics branch. The three branches focus on: libraries, information, and science, respectively. In addition, our study identifies substructures within each branch. We also tentatively identify ‘information seeking behavior’ as a branch that is establishing itself separate from the three main branches.

However, the subfields identified in this study seem not to be theoretically coherent fields. In order to discuss the nature of LIS and its subfields, it is necessary to ask, as did Buckland (2012): “What Kind of Science Can Information Science Be?”

If the role of LIS is to facilitate users’ access to information, documents and knowledge, and if criteria for what counts as information and knowledge and thereby as valuable documents are established outside of LIS itself, then it follows that LIS must engage in such epistemological studies. Secondly, knowledge is not solely organized by → knowledge organization systems (KOS) developed within LIS, but is primarily organized using social and intellectual structures (such as disciplines, social networks, theories and conceptual structures) developed outside LIS. It follows that LIS must study those external KOSs in order to be able to construe its internal KOSs and help users navigate the information ecology.

The main subfields of LIS may therefore be the study of concepts, conceptual systems, genres and genre systems, where genres are understood as “typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations” (Miller 1984, 157). LIS institutions, systems and processes can be understood as second-order genres depending on a critical analysis and mediation of first-order genres. For example, in evidence-based medicine, the systematic review is a genre based on certain epistemological assumptions. LIS is about providing databases and search techniques for mediating medical knowledge, including support for the researchers writing systematic reviews. The criteria for what counts as evidence are not developed within LIS, but must be known by LIS professionals working in this domain.

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5.0 Relationships between LIS and other disciplines

Bradford (1948, 110; 1953, 148) wrote under the heading The Scattering of Articles on a Given Subject:

It is, therefore, necessary to examine the extent to which articles on a given subject actually occur in periodicals devoted to quite other subjects: as, for instance, a paper on the mechanism of the heart, contributed to the Proceedings of Physical Society, or one on genetics, occurring in an agricultural magazine. Investigation shows that this distribution follows a certain law, which can be deduced both theoretically from the principle of the unity of science and practically from examination of the references. According to this principle every scientific subject is related, more or less remotely, to every other scientific subject.

If Bradford was right, it follows that any subject, including LIS, is more or less remotely connected to every other subject. But what determines which subjects are closely related and which subjects are only peripherally related?

A rationalist philosophy may see the world as having a given structure and science as a representation of this given structure; it may expect a fixed relationship between disciplines. However, it seems obvious that the relationship, for example, between LIS and other disciplines is relative to the underlying conception of LIS. If LIS is considered from a logical perspective (as in facet analysis), LIS must be closely related to logic. If LIS is considered from a cognitive perspective, LIS should be closely related to the cognitive sciences [74], and so on; each theoretical position in LIS (as in other fields) has implications for the relationship between LIS and other fields, that is, for which subjects are closely related and which subjects are only peripherally related. In other words, it cannot be decided which fields are closely related to LIS until we have made up our minds on which theoretical position in LIS we consider the most fruitful.

As shown in Section 4.4.1, import-export studies are investigations based on citation analysis which describe the exchange of ideas between disciplines or scholarly communities and thus contribute to describing the relationships between LIS and other disciplines. However, such empirical studies simply reveal the relationship between disciplines based on what in the past have been the most influential paradigms.

According to the → domain-analytic view (e.g. Hjørland 2017b), LIS concerns the optimization of information infrastructures and knowledge utilizations in different domains, between domains and from these domains to the public. By implication, LIS must be understood as a metascience (cf. Hjørland 2016) [75]. Therefore, LIS is first and foremost related to the specific fields of scholarship, for example, chemistry, biology, art studies or literature studies. To create a classification or a thesaurus of, say, birds, primarily requires an up-to-date knowledge of ornithology. Mediation of medical knowledge requires knowledge about the medical criteria of evidence and the way evidence is provided in systematic reviews and presented in medical databases. In Scandinavian SLIS, cultural studies is an important part of the curriculum. In a way, culture (including literature, history, music, the arts etc.) can be seen as a domain considered from specific LIS perspectives (as in Ørom 2003), although this perspective is not always shared or made explicit (and cultural theory is also relevant in other ways).

Among the metascientific perspectives, the philosophical and the sociological are most important (cf. Section 3.6). Therefore, next to the specific disciplines, the philosophy and sociology of knowledge/science are the most important cognate disciplines.

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6.0 Relationships between LIS, libraries and mediating practices

LIS has generally been greatly influenced by the institutional purposes of SLIS, which traditionally have been dominated by the education of librarians, mostly for public libraries. In marked contrast to computer science, which developed from mathematical, scientific and technological research and shaped its own market, LIS, to a much larger degree, has taken shape from the need to educate people for already existing institutions, systems and processes. Central questions are therefore:

  1. What are the perspectives on the future of physical libraries?
  2. Should we count on the future of physical libraries, or should we concentrate our efforts on developing information systems and services that are independent of physical libraries (i.e. should we count on a future for LIS professionals which is independent of physical institutions)?

Concerning 1, there are many statistics and studies regarding trends in the use of libraries; the details are not communicated here. A valuable but generally neglected study is Huymans and Hillebrink (2008). Central tendencies in the use of libraries seem to be:

  • Libraries operate in a society which has changed from a limited supply of and access to information to an abundant supply and wide access;
  • There are tendencies towards a decline in support for public libraries and research libraries;
  • Loans of physical books in public libraries are decreasing. Loans of e-books are increasing, but their future is dependent on negotiations with the publishers, who want to have their own commercial market for e-books;
  • Loans of music and film in public libraries are dramatically reduced, and other services such as Spotify, HBO, Netflix and other streaming services have increased;
  • Library reference services seem challenged (Shachaf 2009);
  • The use of library catalogs as finding aids seems to have increased, although this is not the user’s first choice (Gardner and Inger 2016);
  • Public libraries are increasingly used as physical places and are increasingly being integrated with other kinds of cultural institutions; they are thereby undergoing a relative loss of identity as libraries;
  • The electronic downloading of electronic resources from research libraries is markedly increasing.
  • There is an increasing market for information specialists within bibliometrics and research evaluation.

Traditionally, the physical delivery of documents has been overwhelmingly the most important function for libraries. An important question is whether the library can develop new services which are more concerned with the intellectual communication of documents, information, knowledge and culture. As pointed out by Huymans and Hillebrink (2008, 163), it should also be considered that the use of cultural activities, such as exhibitions, probably

depends greatly on developments in other areas which, to use a modern term, ‘generate traffic’. Many visits to cultural activities probably result from the fact that someone goes to the library for a fiction or non-fiction book and takes in the cultural activity present ‘en passant’.

Regarding 2, in Section 2.1 we saw this definition: “Library science: The professional knowledge and skill with which recorded information is selected, acquired, organized, stored, maintained, retrieved, and disseminated to meet the needs of a specific clientele…” This definition mentions skills and qualifications which may not depend on physical libraries. At the same time, it is characteristic of the definition that the listed functions almost all depend on domain knowledge, and that high-quality information services therefore demand specialized subject knowledge, e.g. in the cultural domain. LIS-educated persons are meeting with increasing competition from people educated in other domains. It is probably not a good idea for LIS to neglect its own core and instead to focus too much on knowledge from other disciplines, thereby becoming ‘a rather shapeless assemblage of chunks picked from a variety of disciplines.’ It seems strategically important to develop respected courses in information literacy, which is strongly related to and dependent on document retrieval and knowledge organization.

It is important to understand that the development of practice should be led by research, and not vice versa. LIS professionals depend on their knowledge base, and that knowledge base is closely related to LIS research.

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7.0 Conclusion

One definition of LIS was provided by the Swedish Council for Planning and Co-Ordination of Research (FRN):

The discipline [LIS] takes its point of departure in problems related to the mediation of information or culture, stored in some form of document. The objects of study are processes such as information provision or the mediation of culture, as well as libraries and other institutions with similar functions, involved in this process. The discipline has connections to a range of other disciplines within the social sciences, the humanities and technologies. (FRN 1989, 85; here cited from the translation in Hjørland 2017b).

A related understanding of LIS was formulated by Andersen (2011) [76]:

Library and information science (LIS) is the study of knowledge production as it is materialized in documents, and of through which channels this knowledge is communicated and how one can make access to this knowledge in terms of organization and representation of documents. In this way, the study of knowledge organization plays a crucial role in LIS. The study of knowledge organization has a long tradition in LIS. However, this tradition has been characterized by searching for techniques for knowledge organization rather than having arrived at a profound understanding of the nature and function of knowledge organization in society. Therefore, it is important to connect the study of knowledge organization and its problems with analyses of society’s production of knowledge. In order to arrive at an understanding [of] the production of knowledge in society, philosophical, historical, sociology of science and knowledge, cultural, literary, and social aspects of knowledge production need to be recognized. Knowledge should not be conceived of as scientific knowledge only, but also as artistic, technical, and ‘everyday life’ knowledge; that is a basic pragmatic view on knowledge. A practical consequence of this conception must be to contribute to an understanding of why it is important to ‘keep the valuable from oblivion’ (Patrick Wilson 1968, p. 1)

Perhaps this quote underestimated LIS’s traditional concerns for techniques for information searching and knowledge organization. What seems important is that such techniques are evaluated by criteria which presuppose the kind of knowledge derived from studies of “society’s production of knowledge in society, philosophical, historical, sociology of science and knowledge, cultural, literary, and social aspects of knowledge production”.

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The author would like to thank Maja Žumer, who served as the editor for this article, the two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable feedback that increased the value of this article, and Steve Fuller for valuable points of view regarding LIS and social epistemology.

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1. It has been claimed that LIS and KO have provided the basis for the modern information structure: “In the contemporary digital information society almost all communication and interaction is shaped and guided by structures designed and constructed information professionals trained in knowledge organization” (Andersen 2015, slide 4). However, Google, for example, was not developed using the application of knowledge developed in LIS or KO, and the quote is therefore wrong. LIS and KO have played a much more modest role. What Andersen probably intended to write was that LIS and KO have potential for developing important new perspectives on those infrastructures.

2. For example, in 1997 the Royal School of Librarianship in Copenhagen changed the English version of its name to the Royal School of Library and Information Science, RSLIS.

3. Exceptions include Tromsø, Norway, where the term documentation science is the preferred name of the field; France, where information science and communication studies form one interdiscipline (Mucchielli 2000); and Uppsala, Sweden, where the fields of archival science, library science and museology have been integrated as archival, library and museum studies.

4. The plural form is also used for information science alone, e.g. in Sonnenwald, ed. (2016) Theory Development in the Information Sciences. This also goes for the tendency to replace science with studies, as Duke University began in 2001 a program called Information Science and Studies.

5. Note that Bates and Maack consider LIS in the singular, as one subdiscipline of LISs in the plural. The listed disciplines, except informatics, records management, and social studies of information, are covered by separate articles in the encyclopedia. In addition to those listed there is an article on "Information science" (Saracevic 2010, which is reprinted in the fourth edition, 2017, IV: 2216-31 — without indication that it is a reprint!). Related to social studies of information, there are articles about, for example, social epistemology and social informatics. LISs in the plural is also referred to as the information disciplines (xiv) and characterized in this way: “The information disciplines collect, organize, store, preserve, retrieve, transfer, display, and make available the cultural record in all its manifestations. These activities are essential for maintenance of and access to all kinds of cultural records, whether they are produced as a result of business, government, education, creative endeavors, or daily life”. What holds these disciplines together is, according to Bates and Maack (2010, xii), “[T]heir interest in recorded information and culturally meaningful artifacts and specimens”. Winter (2010, 4890) wrote about this classification of disciplines:

This entry draws attention to librarianship, archivistics, records management, bibliography and textual studies, document-type studies, social studies of information use, and museum studies, all sharing a broad, human-centered orientation, with quantitative methods making some inroads. The distinction between archivistics and records management is essential because, even though in North America the contrast between the two is not particularly sharp, it has for some time in Western Europe referred to two clearly distinguished fields [Ketelaar 2000]. To these we must add a newer, closely affiliated yet more quantitative and technical group: information science, information systems design, knowledge management, and informatics, where humanistic, historical, and interpretive approaches on the other hand are less prominent, though growing in importance. This rough classification follows Bates, who has also identified the more human-centered information fields as “disciplines of the cultural record” and the more scientific group as “sciences of information”; we also adopt that typification here [Bates 2007].

Note also that today there is an increasing tendency to combine some of these disciplines (archives, libraries, and museums studies (ALM)) into one educational program (cf., Urban et al. 2014). Absent in Bates’ and Maack’s list of disciplines are, for example, communication studies, computer science, human-computer interaction, management, cultural studies, language and literature studies, educational studies, media studies, science studies, and textual scholarship, which are often combined with LIS. These are probably better understood as adjacent fields or cognate disciplines (which may, however, also be the case with some of the disciplines included by Bates and Maack 2010, xiii). Other fields to consider are bibliometrics, research on databases and search engines, social media and internet studies, which are interdisciplinary fields with a strong LIS component. Fields such as medical informatics, legal informatics, geographical information science, digital humanities etc. can on the one hand be considered special subfields of information science, and on the other as subfields related to medicine, legal studies, geography and humanities.

6. Perhaps LIS itself should also be considered a merging or combination of different fields, but as such a more established combination. Tengström (1993, 12) expresses the view that social fields are dynamic and changing. LIS, for example, can be viewed as a field that started as a multidisciplinary field based on literature, children’s culture studies, psychology, sociology, management, computer science, etc., and which is developing towards a monodiscipline in its own right.

7. The term library and information science research seems to be a pleonasm since anything termed science should, by definition, be research. However, the journal Library and Information Science Research is focused on methodology in LIS, and in this case the term seems therefore adequate. Regarding the use of this pleonasm, see also the quote from Wilson (2015) below.

8. The editor of Information Research recommends the following use of the terms: “An additional point about LIS – this is much over-used and people are rarely writing about research directly related to libraries when they use it: if you are writing about research in libraries, use "library research", if you are writing about information research, use "information research" or "information science research". If you really intend both, use "research in librarianship and information science"”. (Wilson 2015; electronic source, no page).

9. In Readmond-Neal and Hlava (2005) LIS is considered synonymous with information science (68), whereas librarianship is considered a related term (150-1).

10. The term library research has two different meanings: (1) the study of libraries, their operation, history, social impact etc. (what we here have called library science); (2) research based on library collections (in a broad sense, including reference tools and online databases), and partly the opposite of laboratory research and field studies. See Abbott (2011) and Mann (2005) for this second meaning. Perhaps we could say that the ultimate goal of library research in the first sense is to facilitate library research in the second sense.

11. Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) used the term library economy for class 019 in its first edition from 1876. In the second edition (and all subsequent editions) it was moved to class 020. The term library economy was used until (and including) the 14th edition (1942). From the 15th edition (1951), class 020 was termed library science, which was used until (and including) the 17th edition (1965); it was then replaced by library and information sciences (LIS) from 18th ed. (1971) and forward.

12. Vakkari (1994) found, however, that the development of library science as a science in the strictest sense was under way by the time that Graesel (1902) published his handbook on librarianship.

13. Stock and Stock (2013, 15) wrote

The object of library science is the empirical and theoretical analysis of specific activities; among these are the collection, conservation, provision and evaluation of documents and the knowledge fixed therein. Its tools are elaborate systems for the formal and content-oriented processing of information. Topics like the creation of classification systems or information dissemination were common property of this discipline even before the term "information science" existed. This close link facilitates—especially in the United States—the development of approaches toward treating information science and library science as a single aggregate discipline, called "LIS" (Library and Information Science).
Stock and Stock are right in their claim that topics such as the creation of classification systems or information dissemination were common properties of this discipline even before the term information science existed. However, it is still the question when work about, for example, the creation of classification systems is a research-based activity. Melville Dewey’s creation of the DCC system in 1876 was not the result of a research project. Henry Bliss’ creation of the BC was based on comprehensive scholarly studies by one man. Real systematic research programs came with, for example, the Classification Research Group in the UK (about 1952-1992) and with the so-called Cranfield tradition (from the 1960s), the first mostly connected with library science, the last with information science (but with overlapping figures, e.g. Jack Mills). Still, we may ask whether Cronin’s (2004: 187) denial of the possibility of a discipline of the name library science is justified. The classification research of Bliss and the Classification Research Group is not about libraries (although it was applied mainly in libraries). The term documentation seems to be a better choice.

14. Consider that we have today fields like archival science, museum studies and theatre studies.

15. This definition is almost identical with one quoted by Floridi (2002, 41) from the online ALA Glossary (the link to this source is no longer available): “[T]he professional knowledge and skill by which recorded information is selected, acquired, organized, and utilized in meeting the information demands and needs of a community of users”.

16. Shera (1983, 387) wrote: “Administration, management, architecture, and many other disciplines can contribute to the effectiveness of the library, but they are not librarianship..”.

17. It should also be said that the terms documentation and information science were not limited to libraries, but included the study of archives, museums, databases and other memory institutions. However, when LIS was taught, the focus has often been on library cataloging rules and classification systems at the expense of, for example, archives and museums. In a way, the term LIS has therefore not lived up to its name.

18. Even if the term information science only goes back to 1955, the field may be older; it may be retrospectively constructed in the minds of some people. For example, Lilley and Trice (1989) has the title A History of Information Science, 1945-1985. This book considers five individuals to be the visionaries who formed information science: Vannevar Bush (1890-1974), Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), Claude E. Shannon (1916-2001), S.C. Bradford (1978-1948) and Arthur C. Clarke (1917–2008). However, to claim that these people formed information science as a discipline is problematic. Busch is much cited in information science today for his Memex, but whether this idea laid the ground for a research field is another issue (just as the analogy between Memex and the internet is probably a retrograde construction). Wiener is known as the father of cybernetics, but he (or cybernetics) has had no direct influence on the development of information science. Shannon is the father of the so-called information theory, which many in the beginning saw as probably the theoretical foundation for information science, but which in hindsight turned out not to be. Bradford was an important documentalist, and it is well known that documentation changed its name to information science. Finally, Clarke was mainly a science fiction writer, best known for the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was also a science writer, and Lilley and Trice (1989) attribute to him the idea of communication satellites in space around the world to facilitate radio and television transmission. Although this turned out to be an important technology for information science, it is not a contribution to information science, and is neither a theoretical contribution nor a contribution to information science as an organized community. Other examples of talking about information science before 1955 include Rayward (1994, p. 238), who considered the first information science textbook to be Otlet’s (1934) Traité de documentation; Stockwell’s (2000) A History of Information Storage and Retrieval considers such things as the history of encyclopedias to belong to the history of information storage and retrieval (ISR). From this perspective, information science and ISR are retronyms (new words for things formerly known under other names).

19. The American Society for Information Science again changed its name in 2000 to the American Society for Information Science and Technology, and in 2013 to the Association for Information Science & Technology, ASIS&T.

20. It is questionable whether Proffitt (2010) is right. The way information has been understood in information science seems to go further back in time (cf. Capurro and Hjørland 2003). Fugmann (2007, 449) wrote: “’[T]he scope of the theory was soon extended and it was postulated that it was valid for the entire communication process. This was done by renaming the theory as "information theory", despite various objections from the information profession”, indicating that “the information profession” was based on an understanding of information that preceded Shannon’s information theory.

21. Shannon’s (1948) theory was originally called A Mathematical Theory of Communication and is a theory of the optimization of physical data transmission, but has been known as ‘the information theory’, which is a misnomer. Spang-Hanssen (2001) wrote about this: “Information theory is an unfortunate–but since 20 years well established–designation for the statistical theory of communication developed in the teleengineering field by Nyquist, Shannon a.o. This field is not concerned with documents, and not even primarily concerned with the content or meaning of documents or other symbolic representations, but concentrates on the efficient transmission of signals, which may–or may not–convey meaning. It is therefore unfortunate to confuse the term information theory with information as occurring in information science and information retrieval”. Since Shannon’s theory turned out to be an unfruitful theory for LIS, we may be dealing with a double misnomer if Proffitt (2010) is right.

22. According to Spang-Hanssen (2001), information explosion is a problematic term. He wrote: “What is called the information explosion can in the first place be termed only the publication explosion, or even the paper explosion: the number of printed pages in professional journals and books is increasing at a rate that can be described by an exponential function, like explosions. This, however, does not form an explosion of information, unless the number of printed pages is proportional to the amount of information resulting from the production and the distribution of these pages. In other words, when using the expression "the information explosion" we tacitly assume that professional papers contain information to a constant degree, regardless of their number, and regardless of their being utilized by informee(s).
The underlying conception of information is not particularly useful. It might be, e.g. that the users are able only to utilize a limited amount of literature, regardless of how much literature is produced; in that case the total outcome of information processes cannot exceed the limit set by the informees, and no information explosion can take place. One might even imagine that an explosion-like growth of produced literature would have a lowering effect on the total utilization of the literature, i.e. would tend to decrease the total outcome of information processes: people could react as if they were being choked.

23. In Shera (1983) there are some points of view with which I believe we have to disagree. He writes, for example (1983, 387): “In summary, we who are librarians must constantly remind ourselves that information science is an area of inquiry, of research. It is not, as is librarianship, a service or a practice”. However, many kinds of research and service are based on research (e.g. medicine, social work and pedagogics). Whether it is labeled as library science, LIS, information science or whatever, it is about construing a relevant research field aimed at supporting library and information service and practices. Shera’s own theoretical frame of social epistemology must serve the same purpose. It is strange that Shera claims that librarianship should not be based on research. Another point, as already indicated, is that Shera conflates information science with information theory (although information theory was influential at the beginning). Also, Shera (1983, 386) concludes, that "[I]nformation science", insofar as it rests purely on technological foundations, "cannot qualify as a theoretical base for librarianship, and calling it bibliometrics or informatics does not alter the situation”. However, bibliometrics is not based on Shannon’s theory, and while Shera is right that a purely technological understanding of bibliometrics is problematic, what is needed is a better theoretical understanding of that field. Again, social epistemology, in hindsight, may turn out to be the best theoretical frame also for that subfield.

24. Garfield’s field was citation indexing and bibliometrics. Theories of bibliometrics are about a scientist citing scientists, i.e. first of all about science, knowledge and the sociology of science. Information technology is about producing computer equipment. The inclusion of ‘and technology’ in the name of the field therefore seems to go in a wrong direction. Of course, information retrieval is also about producing search engines and algorithms, which are part of information technology. Firstly, it should be considered that the main part of research in information retrieval has migrated from information science to computer science. Secondly, criteria for calibrating search engines and algorithms must be based on a theory that cannot be technological. Again, in hindsight Shera’s idea of a social epistemology as the foundation of the field looks like the best solution.

25. Wersig’s claim is supported by Wellish’s (1972) study, where “[Thirty-nine] definitions of IS [information science] are compared in order to find the common concepts of this science and its central topic of investigation. The comparison shows that no consensus exists among the practitioners of IS about what it is or should do”.

26. “The first FIS conference was held in Madrid in 1994; the second in 1996 in Vienna” (Hofkirchner 1999), and an electronic conference was held in 2002; the third FIS conference was held in 2005 in Paris and the Fourth International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science was in Beijing in August 2010. The list of authors presenting at FIS 2010 may be found at the following URL: http://www.sciforum.net/conf/fis2010/authors. Interestingly, there appears to have been no overlap between this roster of authors and those who participated in CoLIS 7 in London in 2010.

27. Hofkirchner (1999) is the Proceedings of the Second FIS Conference, and this book displays a different kind of information science compared to, for example, the one represented by ASIS&T.

28. Schneider (2010, 257) wrote: “The highly specialized character of Scientometrics compared to the other journals in this set, i.e., a larger share of publications and the large number of unique authors that only publish in the journal, obviously exacerbates the influence of this journal to the arbitrary construct named IS. This raises some important questions on how fields ought to be delimited if at all and how publications should be selected for mapping purposes. It is first of all a sampling problem rather than a normalization problem. It is not a question of right or wrong. It is the simple fact stemming from the phenomena of skewed distributions. Very few mapping studies address this issue.”

29. Documentation may also be termed documentation science or documentation studies. Scientific documentation may be considered a subfield. The documentation movement is closely related to bibliography (cf. Shera and Egan 1953). Otlet thus published a paper on the science of bibliography (1903).

30. In opposition to American Documentation (1950-), which, in 1970, changed its name to Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Journal of Documentation has retained its original name.

31. Exceptions from the rule that information science replaced documentation as the name for the field is, in addition to Journal of Documentation, that international standards uses the term information and documentation, for example, ISO 5127:2017 Information and Documentation: Foundations and Vocabulary. It is described in this way: “ISO 5127:2017 provides a concept system and general vocabulary for the field of documentation within the whole information field. It has been created with a balanced representation of major work areas in mind: documentation, libraries, archives, media, museums, records management, conservation as well as legal aspects of documentation. The scope of the vocabulary provided in this document corresponds to that of ISO/TC 46: standardization of practices relating to libraries, documentation and information centres, publishing, archives, records management, museum documentation, indexing and abstracting services, and information science”. https://www.iso.org/standard/59743.html

32. With one exception: van Rijsbergen and Lalmas (1996, 386), who wrote:

In the early days of Information Retrieval (van Rijsbergen 1979), people used to qualify their statements about information retrieval (IR) by saying that really they were working on document retrieval. It was denied strenuously that information was being retrieved.
As Lancaster (1968) wrote, “An information retrieval system does not inform (i.e., change the knowledge of) the user on the subject of his inquiry. It merely informs on the existence (or non-existence) and whereabouts of documents relating to his request”.
The situation has changed. We believe that the purpose of an information retrieval system is to provide information about a request and that a request is a representation of an information need that an IR system attempts to satisfy. Hence, a fundamental problem is how to compute the information contained in one object (e.g. a document) about another (e.g., a query). Thus, if a user states a query then it behooves the IR system to find the objects that contain information about that query. Let us see how this was done in the past and what role information played, if any.
However, this argument is not convincing, and seems to be based on an individualistic epistemology. Scholars often, for example, search documents which cite a given document in order to evaluate its status within the scholarly community. Information retrieval should be termed document retrieval, because, as Spang-Hanssen (2001) wrote: “Information about some physical property of a material is actually incomplete without information about the precision of the data and about the conditions under which these data were obtained. Moreover, various investigations of a property have often led to different results that cannot be compared and evaluated apart from information about their background. An empirical fact always has a history and a perhaps not too certain future. This history and future can be known only through information from particular documents, i.e. by document retrieval.”

33. One gets the impression that different kinds of professionals related to librarianship and documentation with different backgrounds and different working context were often in conflict and chose different labels because they did not wish to be identified with each other. In order to solve this conflict, neutral terms have been suggested and used, for example Library, Information and Documentation, LID (Rayward et al. 2004).

34. Åström (2006, 20) wrote: "[I]n e.g. fields with strong connections to professional practices, disciplines do not necessarily develop out of research areas or scholarly interest groups, but out of professions or schools for professional practices. LIS is one example, but there are others as well. One is management research, described by Whitley (1984) as a 'fragmented adhocracy', a field with a low level of coordination around a diffuse set of goals and a non-specialized terminology; but with strong connections to the practice in the business sector".

35. Bates (2005) briefly presented the following approaches:

  • A historical approach
  • A constructivist approach
  • A constructionist or discourse-analytic approach
  • A philosophical-analytical approach
  • A critical theory approach
  • An ethnographic approach
  • A socio-cognitive approach
  • A cognitive approach
  • A bibliometric approach
  • A physical approach
  • An engineering approach
  • A user-centered design approach
  • An evolutionary approach

36. Egan and Shera (1952) introduced the term social epistemology which today has become important in, for example, philosophy and sociology. For a long time, this view had been neglected in LIS, but now seems to be undergoing a renaissance; in retrospect, an updated version of social epistemology may be the most important theoretical contribution to LIS.

37. Ellis (1992 and in other papers) analyzed the physical paradigm and the cognitive paradigm in information retrieval.

38. Frohmann’s work is mainly influenced by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, and contains many important implications for LIS, including indexing theory and the understanding of the concept of information.

39. Fuchs (2011, 81) is a book written from a Marxist perspective. He wrote: “If the turn from information theory towards cognitivism is characterized as the first turn in formation science and the turn from cognitivism towards society as the second turn in information science, then we can argue what is now needed is a third turn in information science from considering information in society towards considering the power structures of information in society.”

40. Leckie et al. (2010) present 26 critical theorists in 23 chapters and aim to illuminate their importance for LIS.

41. Olaisen (2003) is critical about the dominant paradigm in library science (functionalism, logical empiricism) and suggests more focus on criticism and constructivism. He found (130) that “The broadening of library research, or the wish to broaden it, can be seen clearly in the works of Buckland (1982), Wilson (1983), Swanson (1979) and others”.

42. Ørom (2000) discussed the following paradigms:

  • a pre-war paradigm viewing the library as a social institution;
  • the physical paradigm;
  • the cognitive view;
  • alternative perspectives in the Nineties representing a new tendency towards an integration of the social dimension of the discipline.

43. Pickard (2013) is a textbook on research methods in information studies. In Chapter One, it presents three major research paradigms: positivist research, postpositivism and interpretivism.

44. Talja et al. (2005) describe the basic premises of three metatheories that represent important or emerging perspectives on information seeking, retrieval and knowledge formation in information science: (1) constructivism, (2) collectivism, and (3) constructionism.

45. Tredinnick (2006) briefly introduces the physical paradigm and the cognitive shift in information science and then, in the following chapters:

4. Digital information and computer science
5. Digital information, language and representation
6. Digital information and semiotics
7. Digital information and post-structuralism
8. Digital information and post-modernism
9. Digital information and complexity

46. Wersig (2003) provided the following overall outline:

  • 1948-1970s: The Shannon and Weaver phase
  • 1970-: The cognitive view
  • 1980s-: New theoretical directions including constructivism, systems theory, action theory, modernization theory. “The common core is complexity” (316).

47. Patrick Wilson (1983) argues that social epistemology is important for LIS. He connects this view to skepticism (Pyrrhonian skepticism): "One might argue (this book [Wilson 1983] is in effect such an argument) that skepticism is a highly appropriate attitude toward the productions of the knowledge industry" (p. 195) and he concludes his book with the words: "Skeptic, world watcher, librarian: all take the same attitude toward the world of ideas" (196).

48. The term social epistemology (SE) originated in library science in an article about classification by library scientist Jesse Shera (1951, 82): “any attempt to organize knowledge is conditioned by the social epistemology of the age in which it was produced. … Here, then, is an implicit denial of Bliss’ faith in the existence of a ‘fundamental order of nature’, a rejection of the belief that there is a single, universal, logically divided classification of knowledge.”

49. Regarding positivism, see Hjørland (2016, 23-28).

50. Not to be confused with the number of binary digits that may be stored on a given drive, which are not ‘bits’ in Shannon’s sense. Only when optimally compressed may hardware digits carrying capacity approach Shannon information.

51. Ellis (1992, s. 174-175) terms it the physical paradigm and finds that its basic assumptions are:

  • "Mechanical,
  • Based on abstract generalizations about information retrieval languages,
  • Reductionist (‘...the assumption that index languages consisted of amalgams of index language devices meant that index language performance (in terms of the measures of recall and precision) could be directly explained by reference to the combination of use of the different index language device, just as the performance of a mechanical system can be explained with reference to the contributions of the different elements of the system’)."

52. Sometimes there is no clear differentiation between Shannon’s theory and the Cranfield tradition in the research literature, and both are sometimes subsumed under the label of the physical paradigm (e.g. Tredinnick 2006). Sometimes bibliometric studies and other kinds of studies of scientific literatures are also included in this label. Raber (2003, 67-90) included Shannon's theory, bibliometrics and the Cranfield experiments under the label "the physical metaphor". Other texts may just mention one of these two traditions. Ørom (2000), for example, only presents the Cranfield tradition, while Wersig (2003) only mentions Shannon’s theory. It seems as if many people see these traditions as related. However, there are, for example, no references to Shannon in the core texts of the Cranfield experiments.

53. In spite of the mentioning of bibliometrics in the quote, bibliometrics was not further presented by Belkin (1990).

54. The opposite claim seems true: the cognitive view did not lead to significant advances in a variety of areas of information science, and the present article argues that other views, in particular social epistemology, are in hindsight the most fruitful theoretical framework for LIS.

55. The cognitive approach is often said to be about the individual knower. In 1977, de Mey proposed a cognitive view for information science based on the view “that any processing of information, whether perceptual or symbolic, is mediated by a system of categories or concepts which, for the information processing device, are a model of his world” (xvi–xvii). This has often been quoted in information science, but in a confusing way. Semiotic theories, among other theories, are about how cognition is mediated by signs and how different interpreters associate different objects with different sciences. However, this is not the way the cognitive view works. If cognitive science is about the individual, one might expect biographical studies of individuals; however, such studies are again very different from the cognitive view.

56. Cultural psychologist Carl Ratner wrote about the psychological fallacy: “In 1910 Dewey wrote a statement that expresses a central tenet of cultural psychology. He said that the processes that animate and form consciousness lie outside it in social life. Therefore, the objective for psychologists is to use mental phenomena (e.g., perception, emotions) as clues for comprehending the life processes that they represent. […] ‘The supposition that these states [of consciousness] are somehow existent by themselves and in this existence provide the psychologist with ready-made material is just the supreme case of the ‘psychological fallacy’’’ (Ratner 2002, 3).

57. Although Peter Ingwersen is one of the leading representatives of the cognitive view of information science, much of his own research seems not to be cognitive. Serrano-López et al. (2017), for example, is a fine study of Wikipedia, but is not related to cognitive theory or the holistic cognitive view. As Andersen (2004, 139-144) wrote about cognitive theory: “It is, however, difficult to see what a cognitive approach to indexing offers and, if it offers something, what is cognitive about it”. In the same way, Serrano-López et al. (2017), does offer valuable knowledge, but it is difficult to see what is cognitive about it.

58. Hjørland (2013c, 16-18) suggests that Annelise Mark Pejtersen’s Book House probably is the best example of a system developed from the cognitive point of view.

59. Cognitivism was the theme of the 1989 Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook conference, in which was argued:

Steve Woolgar and Thomas Nickles offer contrasting views of the prospects for integrating cognitive psychology and the sociology of science […] not only is there a problem of linking the cognitive processes of scientists to the knowledge products of science, but even of determining the sense in which scientists ‘have’ certain cognitive processes. Woolgar observes that sociologists have been traditionally suspicious of the cognitivist approaches to science pursued by philosophers and psychologists, not so much because these approaches impute too much rationality to scientists, but more fundamentally because they portray scientific rationality as an inherent property of individual scientists (specifically, an emergent feature of their brains), rather than as a property socially attributed to individuals whenever they act in the relevant way in a relevant setting. Woolgar then argues that cognitivist and sociological approaches are irreconcilable precisely because the cognitivist requires that we take for granted an assumption about inherent personal properties that the sociologist aims to deconstruct (Fuller et al. 1989, xiii-xiv).

60. In literary studies, there is a now comprehensive literature, including Zunshine’s (2015) The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies. In film studies, Nannicelli’s (2014) Cognitive Media Theory is an example.

61. Floridi (2002, 39) defines “the Epistemology of Social Knowledge (ESK), that is the critical and conceptual study of the social (multiagents) dimensions of knowledge” (italic in original). Floridi does not, by the way, argue as to why only social knowledge is considered. As Wilson (1983, 202) wrote: “Epistemological questions are social questions, and social epistemology is the only epistemology. This view can be expected to be found unattractive by professional philosophers but very attractive by those of us interested in the social study of knowledge”.

62. Floridi’s idea that information science is more fundamental than (social) epistemology, because information is more fundamental than knowledge, is an expression of the much criticized DIK hierarchy (see Frické 2009).

63. Angere (2012) in his review of Floridi (2011) wrote: “Unfortunately, this kind of too-brief treatment of complex or deep problems appears again and again in the book”. This feeling is shared by the present author, and not just in relation to that particular book, but also for other texts by Floridi, including the 2002 article.

64. It is remarkable that Floridi (2004a) did not in the afterword to the issue consider the arguments raised in the issue, including the arguments provided by Cornelius (2004) and Frohmann (2004b). A corresponding neglect can be observed in his book The Philosophy of Information (Floridi 2011), which, for example, omits the authors discussed by Mai (2013): David C. Blair, Jonathan Furner, Birger Hjørland, Lars Qvortrup and Jens-Erik Mai himself.

65. Winograd and Flores (1986, p. 30) wrote: “What we understand is based on what we know, and what we already know comes from being able to understand”.

66. Wersig (1973) represents an early contribution to the sociological perspective of information science but was not influential, and even the author himself seems to have later related more to the cognitive view. Cronin (2008) is a recent recognition of the sociological perspective.

67. The concept of the paradigm is used differently from Kuhn (1962). By Kuhn, for example, there were no simultaneously competing paradigms.

68. Bemis (2014) is an example of a bibliographic guide to LIS.

69. The subfield “information retrieval” is more difficult to describe. Although this is undoubtedly a very important field within LIS, much research has migrated to computer science, and the most often used texts, such as Baeza-Yates and Ribeiro-Neto (2011) and Manning et al. (2009) are probably much less used in LIS compared to computer science. LIS has its special foci, including online searching and human oriented views in information retrieval, but today it is difficult to identify the central textbooks covering these aspects.

70. The referee wrote: “In my opinion, the text is a bit uneven in content, as it puts much emphasis on different paradigms and less emphasis on LIS itself”.

71. The Web of Science category (WC) termed Information Science & Library Science may be taken as a point of departure. This is however, a very heterogenous class, which is not limited to LIS as a discipline (or inter-discipline) (see also Leydesdorff and Bornmann 2016). Firstly, a single publication, Library Journal, dominates quantitatively. In a search carried out on June 10, 2017, 12,979 papers were assigned as WC=Information Science & Library Science; of these, 4,928 were from Library Journal (=38 %). Overall, this not a journal reporting research in LIS, but more like a general culturally oriented journal published by the American Library Association. Also, WC=Information Science & Library Science contains source titles from many other communities. It is of course difficult to say where one discipline or community starts and ends, but as Ellis et al. (1999) found, for example, Information science and information systems are “conjunct subjects but disjunct disciplines”. The same is the case with many other source titles (again, it is not easy to define a discipline, although a combination of educational institutions, scholarly conferences and journals will often reveal some separate disciplines).

72. Other bibliometric studies of LIS include Åström (2002), Chang et al. (2015), Figuerola et al. (2017), Lariviere et al. (2012), Sugimoto et al. (2010), Taylor and Willett (2017), Yang et al. (2016), Yang and Wang (2015) and Zhao and Srotmann (2008a; 2014).

73. Intra-disciplinary citations are also important as they indicate disciplinary independence and coherence. In this connection, uncitedness is an interesting indicator. Schwartz (1997), for example, found that 72% of articles in LIS journals did not receive a single citation within five years of publication. Although articles may serve other purposes, for example educational purposes, such a figure seems problematic.

74. However, we have seen above that the cognitive view in LIS seems not to be well informed by developments in cognitive science.

75. Ingetraut Dahlberg and Marcia Bates have also expressed the view that KO/LIS is part of the metasciences. Dahlberg (cited from Dodebei 2014) said: “I consider Knowledge Organization as a subdiscipline of Science of Science with application fields not only in the Information Sciences but also for all subject fields (domains) needing Taxonomies (classification systems of objects) and other fields like Statistics, Commodities, Utilities, Weapons, Patents, Museology etc. According to Science Theory, every domain has its own area of objects and of methods and processes, next to other relationships”.
The idea of Information science as metascience was also put forward by Bates (1999, 1044). “It is first of all important to recognize that information science, like education and journalism, among others, is a field that cuts across, or is orthogonal to, the conventional academic disciplines. All three of the above-named fields deal with distinct parts of the transmission of human knowledge—information science with the storage and retrieval of it in recorded form, education with the teaching and learning of it, and journalism with the discovery and transmission of news. Under these circumstances, such fields cut across all of what we might call ‘content’ disciplines. Art historians focus on the study of art; information scientists, on the other hand, take art information as but one slice of the full range of information content with which we deal. Likewise, art education is but one part of education, etc.”

76. Andersen’s definition of LIS resembles Egan and Shera’s (1952, 133-134) definition of social epistemology: “Thus the focus of attention for the new area of study here described as social epistemology is the analysis of the production, distribution, and utilization of intellectual products in much the same fashion as that in which the production, distribution, and utilization of material products have long been investigated. Graphic communication provides objective evidence of the process.”

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