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Information Needs

1. Introduction: Information needs is an individual or group's desire to locate and obtain information to satisfy a conscious or unconscious need. The concept of information needs was coined by an American information gernalist Robert S. Taylor in his article “The Process of Asking Questions” published in American Documentation (Now is Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology).
People in different situations require information on a subject in different forms and with different emphasis and different depth of explanation. Even the same person seeks information in different ways and forms on various occasions depending on his/her knowledge of the subject and the reasons for wanting the information.

2. Definition: Information need is seen as a subjective, relative concept existing only in the mind of the experiencing individual.
The Librarian’s Thesaurus defined information need as “that need which library science and material are intended to satisfy”.
Maurice B. Line has defined information need as “what an individual ought to have for his works, his research, his education, his recreation, etc”.
According to Brenda Dervin, “an information need is an impediment preventing an individual from moving forward in cognitive time and space. The person is faced with a gap that must be brought by “asking question, creating ideas and for obtaining resources. Such gaps do not occur in the abstract but arise out of a particular critical event and situation”.
Faibisoff and Ely (1976) viewed information need as either shaped by activity such as problem solving or decision making or manifest through a passive reception of information which is stored as knowledge.
Krikelas (1983) has defined it as the “recognition of the existence of uncertainty”. While, N. Ford in 1983 defined it as “recognition of the existence of uncertainty and described it as something which prevents an individual from making progress in a difficult situation”.

3. Factors Effecting Information Need: Information needs are effected by a varity of facts, which are as under
i) The background, motivation and professional’s orientation and other individual characteristics of the user.
ii) The social, political & economic systems surrounding the user.
iii) The uses to which information will be put to use.
iv) The range of information service available.

4. Types of Information Needs: Information is a power and so it is needed in virtually every field of human thought and action and by everyone for some purpose or the other. According to Carol C. Kuhlthou (1991) in the process of information searching, initially a person first becomes aware of knowledge or understanding, feeling of uncertainty and apprehension. This is the stage showing the need for information. Information need generally varies from individual to individual, according to their working condition, the discipline in which they are working, the time, etc.
Tague has presented the following types of information needs
i) Social or Pragmative Information Need: Required to cope with day to day life;
ii) Recreational information need;
iii) Professional information need;
iv) Educational information need.
Krikelas on the basis of information seeking behaviour, categorized information need as
i) Immediate Need;
ii) Deferred Need.
David Bawden (1986) identifies four kinds of information in particular for aiding the creative process. They are
i) Interdisciplinary information;
ii) Peripheral information;
iii) Exceptions and inconsistencies.
Melvin J. Voigt’s (1961) study revealed that the same person could interact with the information system in different ways at different times depending upon his purpose in relation to his works, stage of his works, general interest, amount of information already available to him and so on. According to him, a scientist’s use of information arises from three different needs. These are -
i) Current Approach: The need to know what other scientists have recently done or are doing. It keeps up to date with the current progress of a scientist’s field.
ii) Everyday Approach: The needs that come to the scientist in course of his work for some specific piece of information. This need is directly connected with the research work or the problem at hand.
iii) Exhaustive Approach: The need to find and check through all the relevant information existing on a given subject.
Later a fourth type of information need was added to the Voigt’s types of information need by other workers in the same field.
iv) Catching up or Brushing up Approach: A worker may at times need to have a brief but a complete picture of the recent development of a related subject in which he was not very much interested or which did not come within the area of his main interest. In such cases he needs a catching up approach.
The need of the scientist at different levels makes him adopt different approaches to gather the requited information.
Information needs also can be categorised as follows:
i) Information for its Own Sake: Information for its own sake is to live in this world in order to know the world and our surrounding environment. Therefore, no action is necessarily taken on this type of information.
ii) Professional Need: Information is needed to meet the professional need, to cope up and compete with other professionals in the subject. Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, librarians and others need information to pursue their vocations. They cannot afford to ignore new development in their respective fields. Their ignorance about the latest development in the field would affect their performance. Engineers, technologists, business executives need information for solving the problems related to their respective profession.

5. Conclusion: The information and need in information need are an inseparable interconnection. Needs and interests call forth information. The information needs; demands and wants have been used interchangeably, although they may not be identical. Information need involves a cognitive process which may operate on different levels of consciousness and, hence, may not be clear even to the inquirer himself / herself.

How to Cite this Article?
APA Citation, 7th Ed.:  Barman, B. (2020). A comprehensive book on Library and Information Science. New Publications.
Chicago 16th Ed.:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. Guwahati: New Publications, 2020.
MLA Citation 8th Ed:  Barman, Badan. A Comprehensive Book on Library and Information Science. New Publications, 2020.

Badan BarmanDr. Badan Barman at present working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, Gauhati University, Guwahati-781014, Assam, India. He is the creator of the LIS Links ( - India’s most popular social networking website for Library and Information Science professionals. He also created the Open Access Journals Search Engine (OAJSE) (, UGC NET Guide (, Assam Archive ( and LIS Study ( website.

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