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Conceptions of “information poverty” in LIS: a discourse analysis

Jutta Haider (Department of Information Science, City University London, London, UK)
David Bawden (Department of Information Science, City University London, London, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 31 July 2007




To provide an analysis of the notion of “information poverty” in library and information science (LIS) by investigating concepts, interests and strategies leading to its construction and thus to examine its role as a constitutive element of the professional discourse.


Starting from a Foucauldian notion of discourse, “information poverty” is examined as a statement in its relation to other statements in order to highlight assumptions and factors contributing to its construction. The analysis is based on repeated and close reading of 35 English language articles published in LIS journals between 1995 and 2005.


Four especially productive discursive procedures are identified: economic determinism, technological determinism and the “information society”, historicising the “information poor”, and the library profession's moral obligation and responsibility.

Research limitations/implications

The material selection is linguistically and geographically biased. Most of the included articles originate in English‐speaking countries. Therefore, results and findings are fully applicable only in an English language context.


The focus on overlapping and at times conflicting discursive procedures, i.e. the results of alliances and connections between statements, highlights how the “information poor” emerge as a category in LIS as the product of institutionally contingent, professional discourse. By challenging often unquestioned underlying assumptions, this article is intended to contribute to a critical examination of LIS discourse, as well as to the analysis of the discourses of information, which dominate contemporary society. It is furthermore seen to add to the development of discourse analytical approaches in LIS research.



Haider, J. and Bawden, D. (2007), "Conceptions of “information poverty” in LIS: a discourse analysis", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 No. 4, pp. 534-557.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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