Toward a Theory of Library and Information Science

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  • The present inquiry addresses the problem of an adequate definition of the domain of library and information science. Such a definition must be formulated according to the rigor of logic, for it is patent that mapping out a scholarly domain is more than an act of self-evident discovery. Discourse about a domain does not arrange itself in social reality; it must be rendered explicit. Concepts must be expressed as a system of linguistic terms. Such a terminological system is a necessary condition for the development among a community of researchers and practitioners of a consensus on the fundamental problems posed in their inquiry and service activities. Without this consensus in the community, progress in conceptualization is impeded, and so knowledge cannot advance. The present research applies logical and conceptual analysis to the task of defining the domain of library and information science. First, extant definitions are examined from the literature (in English, to 1981) and their diverse usage of terms is set forth. Basic concepts are identified and for each basic concept the synonymous terms are brought together. In this way a typology of generic definitions is developed. Then, the logical adequacy of each generic definition is considered. The analysis reveals a profound depth of confusion, disagreement, contradiction, and inconsistency over the past 100 years about the proper characterization of the domain. More than 1,500 definitions of it are documented here, and they contain over 340 synonymous, quasi-synonymous, and pseudo-synonymOus terms purporting to capture its essence. Nowhere are the flawed claims more apparent than in the efforts to tease apart a domain of information science (itself only one among many fuzzy terms) from that of library science. The dissertation then introduces the S1GGS metatheory, an extension of general system theory, as a way of enhancing domain conceptualization. In this enhancement, library and information science is taken to be a system of human social practice in which one person facilitates access to selected cultural objects on behalf of another person who is seeking access to them. The practice so characterized is the 'symbolic culture accessing system'. The present work argues that this conception provides a more adequate and more powerful description of the domain than those definitions so far posited. As such, it constitutes a rudimentary descriptive theory of library and information science and so holds some promise of focusing the community's long-awaited consensus.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International