What about non-behavior?

If information seeking behavior is the generic term that we use to lump together all actions that result in information acquisition (Erdelez, 1999), then what about non-actions? What about those people who do nothing? Is that non-behavior? And is that non-behavior then really a behavior in itself?

Perhaps by now you can begin to see the path my mind has spiraled down as I consider the information needs and behaviors of socially anxious college students.

Considering the needs of these students seems fairly obvious. They have the same information needs as virtually every college student. They need access to information and research to support their studies, access to books, journals and databases and assistance finding and using these resources. They need access to new and popular items, media, and other leisure materials. Additionally, they need access to librarians, forums, and other support systems.

The challenge with this information community is in crossing the barriers built by anxiety – social anxiety and, specifically, library anxiety – so that the group can take advantage of available resources. Library anxiety refers to a unique phenomenon, specific to libraries, involving negative and uncomfortable feelings experienced when using or considering the use of the library. These can include feelings of uncertainty, confusion, frustration, doubt, embarrassment, nervousness, self-defeating thoughts, helplessness, and inadequacy. It is important  not only to understand that this is very real, but to identify sources of anxiety and those who are most susceptible to it, in order to attempt to reduce those barriers (Carlile, 2007).

Differences in the way that information is sought out have long been connected to both information need and motive, depending very much on context and task. Some research has also considered cognitive abilities and styles as well as feelings in relation to information seeking (Heinstrom, 2004).Studies have shown that “everyday life information needs and seeking are affected by a number of cognitive, emotional, cultural, and situational factors” (Savolainen, 2009).Personality can be an influential variable in information seeking behavior.Personality differences have even been acknowledged to influence the way that databases are searched. Both shyness and weak self-esteem can initially bear a negative impact on search outcomes (Heinstrom, 2004).

Students who face social and/or library anxiety may seek out information differently than other more confident, extroverted students. They may not initially seek information at all. This sort of non-behavior could, in fact, be an anticipated response of some students experiencing these feelings of anxiety. In an effort to meet the needs of this community of students, the academic library needs to seek to reduce barriers, be sensitive, and to reach out to this population. “The feelings a student has about the library can influence whether or not they ask for help, how they approach their search for information, and how they respond to any obstacles they encounter in the library environment” (Carlile, 2007).


Carlile, H. (2007). The implications of library anxiety for academic reference services:A review of the literature. Australian  Academic & Research Libraries, 38(2), pp. 129-147.

Erdelez, S. (1999). Information encountering: It’s more than just bumping into information. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science 25(3). Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bult.118

Heinstrom, J. (2004). Fast surfing, broad scanning, and deep diving: The influence of personality and study approach on students’ information seeking behavior. Journal of Documentation, 61(2), pp. 228-247. doi:10.1108/00220410510585205

Savolainen, R. (2009). Everyday life information seeking. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/E-ELIS3-120043920#.U2FyPVfcfro

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