Information Science

Information Science

Information Science

I INTRODUCTION

Information Science, an academic discipline that deals with the generation, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge. It is sometimes mistakenly used as a synonym for library science, but though related, it is a separate discipline.

Information Science
Amelia Hamlin

II LIBRARY SCIENCE AND INFORMATION SCIENCE

Library science, more accurately labelled “librarianship”, is a professional area of study; it is not a science, even though most library schools incorporate information science in the curriculum. Graduates of library schools are primarily concerned with such tasks as evaluating, processing, storing, and retrieving information, and with collection development and bibliographic processes and products. In the mid-1980s they still dealt mainly with written records such as books, journals, and musical scores, and with such discrete non-print items as phonograph records and videotapes. Increasingly, though, librarians are being called upon to learn audio-visual and computer technologies and applications, such as CD-ROM and the Internet. They also help library users with the materials and equipment available. The librarian is more concerned with the management of systems, the information scientist with their creation. The area as a whole brings together ideas and technologies from many other areas, including the social sciences, computer science, cybernetics, linguistics, management, neuroscience, and systems theory. Information scientists analyse the many and various phenomena that affect any aspect of information. They are interested in determining such things as the life cycle and utility of literature on a given subject (bibliometrics); patterns of authorship (co-citation analysis); and the impact of reading on groups and societies (social epistemology).

For the information scientist, therefore, the library is only one of several alternative sites for information storage and service; systems may be based on, for example, information banks, archives, or organizations such as schools and businesses, medical centres, computing companies, university research centres, and abstracting and indexing companies.

III HISTORY

The roots of information science are in the documentation, a field that emerged when digital computers were developed during the 1940s and early 1950s. During World War II the need arose to increase the precision and depth of bibliographic searches, resulting in efforts to change traditional kinds of classification into computer-compatible systems. Automated searching of files, coordinate indexing, and controlled vocabularies were introduced in response to the urgent need to create easy access to the contents of scientific journals. Automated abstracts, or summaries, of documents, were then developed to further simplify access to research findings.

In the 1960s massive collections of documents were transferred to databases or converted to non-print forms; various searches could then be done by computer. By 1980 information science had become a thoroughly interdisciplinary field, and in recent times areas such as artificial intelligence and information technology in education have become especially important.

Information Science
Amelia Hamlin