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LIS as a field of study: socio-cultural influences on students' decision making

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Purpose ‐ Using Bourdieu-inspired sociological literature, this paper aims to report on a study that examines the educational choices of new entrants in the three library and information science (LIS) schools operating in Greece at the undergraduate level, with reference to their socio-cultural characteristics. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Data were obtained through a questionnaire, distributed to 187 LIS students, aiming to address the question of what attracted them to the LIS field. Findings ‐ Analysis reveals three distinctive student groups in the sample and shows that these differ in respect to the reasons attracting them to LIS. The first group, with restricted cultural resources at their disposal, is attracted only by extrinsic reasons, namely the prospect of immediate employment. The second group, of middle level parental education, is attracted by intrinsic reasons, most notably the qualitative characteristics of the field as a future profession. This group seems to use these qualities to preserve the belief in an upwards moving and successful educational career. Qualities attracting the students of the third group, when examined with reference to their socio-cultural characteristics, indicate that the choice of subject made is linked to their socially acquired ability to recognise what may be promising regarding possible future LIS career paths. This is in contrast to students from low socio-cultural backgrounds, who seem not to have access to the high cultural resources the LIS field requires for "decoding" and understanding its hidden possibilities. Originality/value ‐ This paper uses socio-cultural explanations of students' choice of LIS as a field of study, contributing methodologically and substantively to this area of research.
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Keywords: Careers; Greece; Higher education; Information science; Social capital

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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