Areas of Research

The major areas of research in GSLIS are history, economics, policy; information organization and knowledge representation; information resources, uses, and users; information systems; management and evaluation; social, community, and organizational informatics; and youth literature and services. Below are descriptions of each of these areas, along with the names of the faculty whose research primarily identifies them with that area.

History, economics, policy

The study of information in historical and political-economic contexts is as profoundly important as it is undeveloped. GSLIS has a fundamental commitment to this field, and believes its significance will be increasingly widely recognized. Subjects of particular interest include:

globalization and information technologies; social studies of finance and personal investing; social studies of mobile communication; history of libraries, information science and knowledge management; social history of telecommunications and information infrastructures; the political economy of global information; policy and strategic issues in electronic scholarly publishing.

Faculty working in this area

Black
Gant
Hoiem
Jenkins
Knox
La Barre
Mak
Tilley
Weech

Information organization and knowledge representation

Faculty working in this area

Diesner
Dubin
Efron
La Barre
McDonough
Renear
Twidale

Information resources, uses, and users

Advances in information delivery mechanisms have drastically changed the quantity of electronic information available for work and play. The goal of information use research is to reveal how people repurpose existing knowledge to advance knowledge, solve problems, aid in decision making, improve information literacy, and learn. Studies of information use span a wide spectrum in terms of the original source (including scientific literature, humanities texts, news coverage, family, friends, colleagues), form (including articles, books, video, audio, and tweets) access location (office, home, on the road) and medium (cell phones, personal digital assistants, and digital libraries).

Faculty working in this area

Blake
Cooke
Palmer
Smith

Information systems

Digital information forms an increasingly essential part of transactions in education, industry and government. Although librarians' and archivists' roles are independent of the form in which information is expressed, the nature of digital information both poses challenges for the design of the information environments that they manage and presents opportunities to expand the services that they can provide. Addressing these challenges and opportunities raises a wide range of research questions, bearing on various information genres, user communities, stages of the information life cycle, and architectural concerns for systems and services. Particular areas of focus for digital library research at the University of Illinois include:

Document modeling; knowledge representation systems; information retrieval; automatic text classification and mining; multimedia information management; human-computer interfaces; multi-agent systems; knowledge management systems; information quality; information use in scientific and scholarly work; interoperability efforts on the use of digital collections; healthcare informatics; biodiversity informatics; digital preservation.

Faculty working in this area

Blake
Downie
Efron

Management and evaluation

Faculty working in this area

Gant
Weech

Social, community, and organizational informatics

Social informatics as an area of research seeks to understand the way information and communication systems and technologies shape and are shaped by the social context of their creation and use. Studies explore what pre-existing practices in information and communication produce particular designs and uses of information systems, how invisible technical and social infrastructures facilitate or limit access to information resources, and how anticipated and unanticipated appropriations of technology lead to new uses and practices. A further aspect of the field is the exploitation of information technology as a tool to understand social relationships. Research includes both descriptive and analytic accounts of these relationships as well as studies of ethical and policy questions. Since information systems pre-date computing technology, the field considers historical and philosophical foundations as well.

Example questions include:

  • How do groups, organizations, and communities use information systems to address their problems?
  • How can we account for the complexity and diversity of distributed, collective practice?
  • What tools are needed to mediate work on concrete tasks within communities?
  • What is the most effective process for developing shared capacity in the form of knowledge, skills, & tools?
  • How can we best conceive the relationships among digital and other technologies, information, communication, and organizations?
  • How does talking through computer media change perceptions of others, and the bases of community?

Specific topic areas include: community informatics; distributed collective practice; collaboration systems for online work, learning, and knowledge distribution; e-learning in school, university, corporate, and lifelong learning settings; educational informatics; information technology applied to societal problems; social impacts of technologies; equitable access and social justice; new literacies; evaluation of emerging technologies; studies of appropriation and diffusion of technologies.

Faculty working in this area

Alkalimat
Cooke
Diesner
Gant
Gasser
Kendall
Williams

Youth literature and services

Youth services librarianship is a rich concentration involving the study of children's and young adult literature; the history of childhood and youth cultures; child play; storytelling and folklore in the oral tradition; young reader/writer interactions in multiple literacies; and librarianship in public and school settings. Questions that drive research in this area include the following:

  • How does knowledge in the form of oral, print, and electronic texts shape, reflect, and enrich the lives of children and young adults?
  • How do stories, books, visual media, and other forms of knowledge cross boundaries of age level, culture, history, time, place, medium, and meaning?
  • How do we understand and facilitate connections between young readers/writers and texts/information?
  • How is literacy affected in the transitions between traditional and electronic environments?
  • How have youth services librarians, both individually and as a community, acted as canon shapers and intellectual freedom advocates in the history of publishing for youth?
  • What can past transformations in reading practices and information technologies tell us about today's digital youth culture?
  • How do class, race, and gender politics inform our understanding of youth literature and our professional practice in schools and libraries?

Faculty working in this area

Hoiem
Jenkins
McDowell
Tilley