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Multitasking information behavior and information task switching: an exploratory study

Amanda Spink (School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



Recent studies show that humans engage in multitasking information behaviors, often in libraries, as they seek and search for information on more than one information task. Multitasking information behaviors may consist of library search and use behaviors, or database or Web search sessions on multiple information tasks. However, few human information behavior models of seeking, searching or use, or library use models, include considerations of multitasking information behavior. This paper reports results from a case study exploring multitasking information behavior by an information seeker in a public library using diary, observation and interview data collection techniques. The information seeker sought information on four unrelated personal information tasks during two public library visits. Findings include a taxonomy of information behaviors; a sequential flowchart of the information seeker's complex and iterative processes, including multitasking information behavior, electronic searches, physical library searches, serendipitous browsing, and successive searches; and that the information seeker engaged in a process of 17 information task switches over two library visits. A model of information multitasking and information task switching is presented. Implications for library services and bibliographic instruction are also discussed.



Spink, A. (2004), "Multitasking information behavior and information task switching: an exploratory study", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 60 No. 4, pp. 336-351.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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