Dissertation Information for Julia A. Hersberger
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Everyday information needs and information sources of homeless parents: A study of poverty and perseverance
Abstract: This study investigated the everyday information needs and information sources of a group of information users ignored in the literature of Library and Information Science (LIS). The library literature on the homeless has focused on this group as problem library patrons instead of information users. Because the homeless are not a homogeneous population, homeless parents are the sub-population the study focuses on. The study is based on the assumption that people in their everyday lives are assessing their information needs in order to maintain or improve their living situations (Dervin, 1976 and Savolainen, 1996). Homeless parents are dealing with complex problems in their everyday lives and their resultant needs and information needs reflect this complexity. Extended periods of participant observation led to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of homelessness and the development of the interview guide. Twenty-eight residents in the six family shelters in Indianapolis, Indiana, were interviewed to gather data concerning their perceived problems, needs, information needs and information sources. The interview transcripts were content-analyzed using Dervin's (1976) scheme of "Everyday Information Needs of Average Citizens." Of Dervin's 19 original categories of problem areas, 16 were articulated by the informants in this study. Specific needs/information needs areas from 145 of the original 157 codes were found. Information needs ranged from vague, process based questions to the specific and this specificity is tied to prior experience with homelessness. A major finding of the study is that the complex nature of problems leads to interconnected needs that must be dealt with in certain sequences in order for the primary problem to be resolved. Homeless parents rely on information networking rather than formal information systems which will be studied more closely in future research.
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