Most people can say that they have heard of various forms of anxiety, including social anxiety. Most have felt the effects of some form of anxiety at one time or another, while others battle it every moment of every day.
Many college students suffer from varying forms and degrees of social anxiety. One specific type of social anxiety is library anxiety. Considering my interest in academic librarianship, I have chosen to look at socially anxious college students as an information community. “Information communities form primarily around people’s needs to get and use information” (Fisher & Bishop, 2015). I am interested to explore the information needs and behaviors of these college students and how academic libraries can better serve them while alleviating their library anxiety.
Fisher & Bishop (2015) quote Joan Durrance as defining information communities as “constituencies united by common interest in building and increasing access to a set of dynamic, linked, and varying information resources.” Durrance is further quoted as saying that such a group “blurs the boundaries between information seekers, users, and providers, recognizing that a single person or institution can embody multiple segments of the information cycle” (Fisher & Bishop, 2015). It is clear from my preliminary research that those who suffer from social anxiety could be referred to as such a group. In focusing on the academic setting, I have narrowed that group to those college students who find themselves facing social anxieties, specifically library anxiety. Through my research I will seek to determine just what library anxiety is, who faces it, and how it can be addressed.
It is my opinion that by emphasizing the key characteristics of any information community, academic libraries could seek to deter library anxiety by bringing students facing these social anxieties together. “Information communities form mainly around people’s needs to use information from distributed information resources” (Fisher & Durrance, 2003.) These are exactly the needs of any student. Making it easier for those students facing these challenges is my interest. Fisher & Durrance (2003) state that “Information communities “emphasize collaboration among diverse groups that provide information and may share joint responsibility and resources.” I hope to find out how these students may be doing this on their own and what the library can do to help. Fisher & Durrance (2003) also state that information communities “exploit the information sharing qualities of technology and yield multiplier effects for stakeholders.” Through scholarly research as well as surveys of college students, I hope to determine what, if any, technologies (i.e. blogs, forums, listservs, etc) may be used or could be established by and/or for these students. Information communities “anticipate and often form around people’s needs to access and use information in ways that people perceive as helpful” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). To that end, I seek to establish what is and would be most helpful in order to “remove barriers to information about acquiring needed services and participating in civic life” as well as to “foster social connectedness within the larger community” (Fisher & Durrance 2003). The ultimate goal is to establish that this s in fact an information community that the academic library should be seeking to better serve in order to support the success of individual students and the overall retention and graduation goals of the institution (i.e. university) it serves.
Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Fisher, K. & Bishop, A.P. Information communities: Defining the focus of information service. In S. Hirsh (Ed.) Information services today:An introduction (pp. 20 – 26).Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.