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Going Fishing: Serendipity in Library and Information Science

by Watson, Elizabeth A.

Abstract (Summary)
This research examined the concept of serendipity within the context of library and information science. Serendipity was defined as a happy accident in which an information seeker unexpectedly stumbled across relevant information. This research addressed the following questions: What information seeking strategies do experienced searchers employ in order to provide opportunities for the serendipitous discovery of information? The purpose of this research was to study the experiences and ideas of experienced information seekers in order to better understand and provide opportunities for serendipitous discoveries. To address this research question and purpose, I conducted qualitative interviews with five faculty members of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and six public librarians. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed. The major findings of this study were that experienced searchers defined serendipity as an instance that is both unplanned and useful, and that the participants overwhelmingly did not attach a stigma to serendipity. The participants identified many sources of serendipity, including shelf-browsing and co-workers, made suggestions for improving serendipity in the physical library, particularly increasing displays and facing books out, and they also made suggestions for improving serendipity in information retrieval systems, particularly attaching some type of recommender system to the library catalog.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr. Gary Marchionini

School:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Location:USA - North Carolina

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:serendipity experienced searchers public libraries library school faculty information retrieval systems interviews

ISBN:

Date of Publication:04/04/2008

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