Purls of wisdom: A collectivist study of human information behavior in a public library knitting group
Abstract:The researchers applied a collectivist theoretical framework to analyze human information behavior (HIB)* and the nontraditional role public libraries play in HIB through a knitting group held in an Ontario Public Library. This was achieved through naturalistic observation of five group sessions and semi-structured interviews with group members. Researchers found that both formal and informal information sharing occurred in the knitting group, and that through the activity of knitting, participants formed an environment of support and sense of community.
*Though the paper does not define human information behavior (HIB), T.D. Wilson defines HIB as “the totality of human behavior in relation to sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information seeking, and information use. Thus, it includes face to-face communication with others, as well as the passive reception of information” (Wilson, T.D. (2000). Human information behavior. Informing Science, 3(2): 49-55).
- The human information behavior taking place within the knitting circle became information practice, meaning that participants were able to learn and apply their information behavior in their every day lives.
- The context in which the knitting circles took place (e.g., public library, in a group) and group composition (i.e., gender) impacted social cohesion.
- Producing textile handwork in a group setting fostered shared social meaning.
- The production of hand-made goods provided participants with a sense of success at producing something of value.
- Collective crafting created a sense of connection with other crafters that fostered learning and mentoring.
The researchers concluded that the friendships made through membership in the group might be as important as the activity itself. Researchers also found that the library as an institution is what initially brought the participants together, though its role in the knitting groups was only to provide a space for group members to engage in their activities.