ERIC Number: EJ845529
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 44
Relevant Repositories of Public Knowledge? Libraries, Museums and Archives in "The Information Age"
Usherwood, Bob; Wilson, Kerry; Bryson, Jared
Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, v37 n2 p89-98 2005
In a project funded by the AHRB, researchers at the University of Sheffield used a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods to examine the perceived contemporary relevance of archives, libraries and museums. The research sought to discern how far the British people value access to these established repositories of public knowledge (RPKs) in what some have called the "information age". A telephone survey was used to establish how Britons perceive, value and use, archives, libraries and museums as sources of public knowledge when seeking information on, and trying to understand, contemporary social concerns. In addition, through a series of focus groups it investigated the perceptions and use of other possible sources of information and understanding, and asked about the perceived trustworthiness and authenticity of these different sources. The data have revealed a number of overlapping themes that help illuminate the role and value of RPKs as understood by a sample of the public, and by the professionals engaged in their day-to-day operations. They also demonstrate how factors such as access and speed of delivery, the depth of complexity of the issues, and the volume of information available can affect the use of libraries, archives and museums. The issue of trust is shown to play a significant part in the public's information-seeking behaviour, although the data reveal a discrepancy between the information sources that are the most used and those highly trusted. Public libraries are the most trusted sources, and tabloid papers the least. The extent to which the public feel "empowered" or "apathetic" towards the issues of the day is discussed together with the implications of this for RPKs. The research also shows that lifestyle and life stages are significant factors when assessing the value of RPKs, and examining patterns of use. On the basis of the evidence the authors argue that museums, libraries and archives are still regarded as relevant positories of public knowledge. Further they suggest that they are some of only a relatively small number of true information organizations. RPKs are not necessarily relevant to all people, all of the time, but the data strongly suggest that most consider archives, libraries and museums to be important institutions even if they do not use them on a regular basis. That is to say, people believe that it is essential for society to maintain and sustain the established repositories of public knowledge. (Contains 3 figures.)
Descriptors: Public Libraries, Museums, Archives, Public Opinion, Value Judgment, Qualitative Research, Focus Groups, Telephone Surveys, Information Storage
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
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