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The information enfranchisement of the digital consumer

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Purpose ‐ Aiming to ensure that everyone obtains the rich rewards available in today's information-centred society, this paper sets out to explore how the curious problem of "information malnutrition" in an era of plenty might be overcome to bring about the true information enfranchisement of today's enthusiastic digital consumer. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Based on the insights gained from research projects involving hundreds of thousands of people, the paper first analyses the whys, wherefores, implications, effects and challenges of the "information malnutrition" problem and then proceeds to investigate the ways and means for its holistic solution. Findings ‐ Although in today's information-saturated world people have vast amounts of information at their beck and call, their myriad information needs often go unmet. Fortunately, changing this picture of ineffectual information consumption is quite feasible. The key to it all is achieving a nuanced understanding of people's idiosyncratic needs through ongoing assessment, utilising the analytical framework offered up for the purpose by the authors. It falls to information professionals, then, to see to the true information enfranchisement of the digital consumer, for it is their proclaimed mission to ensure that people's information needs are handled effectively. This can be done directly, via the proficient planning and delivery of information provision, but also indirectly, by spreading professional thinking and practices to those who insist on sorting out their information needs on their own. Originality/value ‐ The paper offers a new approach to the much-debated problem of ensuring that people really benefit from the information abundance that is available to them, which is firmly grounded in theory, but, nevertheless, highly practical.
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Keywords: Digital libraries; Generation and dissemination of information; Information profession; User studies

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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