What is the use of information science

What is information science, and if so, how many?

The subject matter and future viability of information science have given rise to discussion for decades. As a continuation of this discussion, the collection was published by Simon Verlag für Bibliothekswissen in April 2019.1 The collective work is a topic-related compilation of individual articles that are continuously published in the Open Password newsletter2 were or will be published.

On September 5, 2019, the publisher of the compilation and newsletter, Willi Bredemeier, in cooperation with the Berlin Working Group (BAK) invited information to the university library of the Technical University (TU) Berlin,3 to continue the discussion on the future of information science together with two professors and two master’s students.

More than 60 people came to the university library of the TU Berlin to take part in the discussion on the future of information science. After the welcome by the library management and by the chairwoman of the BAK Information, Tania Estler-Ziegler, Willi Bredemeier welcomed those present. In his statement, he explained what concerns he connected with the collective work he had published. On the one hand, it should be an encouragement to continue the fundamental debate about the future of information science and, on the other hand, an exhibition that shows what is currently happening in information science teaching and research in information science. After the presentation of the speakers in the evening, Willi Bredemeier handed the floor over to Frauke Schade, Professor of Information Marketing, PR and Portfolio Management at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and Chairwoman of the Conference of Information and Library Science Education and Study Programs (KIBA ).

Frauke Schade began her keynote with an attempt to define the field of information science. It defined information science as an interdisciplinary science which, as an action science, is oriented towards the needs of professional practice and, according to the international understanding of the term, includes all cultural memory institutions, including libraries, archives and museums. Schade then presented the results of an evaluation that she had carried out together with Klaus Gantert from the University for Public Service (HföD) in Bavaria and Günther Neher from the University of Applied Sciences (FH) Potsdam. The subject of this evaluation were positions and strategies on digitization from politics and their advisory committees, in which the content of information science research and teaching could be located. The result showed that information science skills, for example in the areas of open access and open science, (research) data management, digital long-term archiving, learning and research environments, information behavior and digital information and media skills are urgently needed. Information science therefore clearly has a future. The only complaint is a lack of specialist staff, which technical colleges and universities can alleviate through suitable cooperation, for example by enabling graduates to pursue a postgraduate degree in parallel to postgraduate employment, Schade concluded.

After Frauke Schade's keynote speech, Dirk Lewandowski, Professor of Information Research and Information Retrieval at HAW Hamburg, gave his keynote speech entitled. In this, Lewandowski initially invalidated the three main points of criticism that had been put forward in the collective work against information science and thus raised doubts about its future (ability): The lack of foundation, the lack of relevance and the inadequate practical relevance of information science. Then Lewandowski explained his view on information science. For him, in contrast to many authors of the anthology, there is no German information science, but only German information scientists who are integrated into international contexts. All successful German information scientists work internationally, but are not noticed enough in Germany. In order to change this, Lewandowski suggested strengthening the community, emphasizing the achievements of information science more, connecting information science to politics, regulation and society, and developing strategies for how information science could grow.

Vivien Petras, Professor for Information Retrieval at and Managing Director of the Institute for Library and Information Science (IBI) at the Humboldt University (HU) in Berlin, also spoke out in her keynote address for strengthening the community. In addition, she argued against a separation of library and information science, which has only developed in this way in Germany. Internationally, library science has always been understood as part of a broader information science. Accordingly, it is only logical that the IBI sees itself today as an information science institute, which investigates memory institutions (above all libraries) as a special form of information organizations.

Florian Dörr, master's student at the IBI at HU Berlin, complained in his impulse statement about the low level of awareness of information science. It lacks the urgently needed lobby in the population, science and politics. Information science could, however, gain enormously in importance if it focused on imparting information literacy. Information literacy is urgently needed in view of the social challenges associated with digital change. By focusing on the imparting of information literacy as well as by a stronger political and social commitment of information scientists, information science could become the forerunner of the knowledge society.

Carmen Krause [author of this article], master's student at the Department of Information Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, answered the question about the future of information science in her impulse statement with three commented counter-questions: Which period, which geographical reference area and which information science are we talking about? In doing so, she pointed to the increasing pressure to change caused by the digital transformation, to the lack of awareness of information science in German-speaking countries and to the question of whether information science is an academic discipline at all. Krause denied the latter with reference to the lack of a uniform self-image as well as own theories and methods that relate to a certain unique subject area. Therefore, according to Krause, information science should be understood as an x-disciplinary field of research instead of an academic discipline. She also suggested combining the information science master’s degree or further training in information science with a non-information science bachelor's degree and doing information science in research and teaching across locations and disciplines. In the future, information science, as an x-disciplinary field of research, could convey and translate information relating to holistic questions between disciplines and thereby gain in importance and visibility.

After this last statement, the moderator Michaela Jobb, head of the Economics and Management Library at the TU Berlin and member of the BAK board, opened the panel discussion. The first question, whether they see themselves as information scientists, was answered in the affirmative by all speakers. Vivien Petras added that in Germany she sometimes explicitly describes herself as a library and information scientist in order to clarify her point of view. Elisabeth Simon, owner of Simon Verlag für Bibliothekswissen, noted that, in her experience, an information scientist used to be held in high regard, whereas a librarian was hardly valued. Perhaps, she speculated, this was one of the reasons why the separation between library and information science in Germany could have persisted so persistently.

When asked how civil society, politics and other decision-makers could be brought closer to the knowledge and benefits of information science, Dirk Lewandowski again referred to the points he had mentioned. In addition, answered Lewandowski, the associations should grow and become even more active. Orders to act on individuals, however, are ineffective, since each of those present is already doing a lot for information science. Tania Estler-Ziegler agreed with Lewandowski and also said that BAK, DGI, dbv and BIB could easily become more active. Rainer Kuhlen, former professor of information science at the University of Konstanz, urged information scientists to publish more. Helmut Voigt, a former specialist at the university library of the HU Berlin and a member of the BAK board, objected that publishing was difficult for information scientists because information science, like statistics, is more of a methodological science.

Jana Rumler, head of library services at the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research and member of the board of LIBREAS e. V. and Petra Schramm, librarian at the Central and State Library in Berlin, brought the topics of lifelong learning as well as in-service training and further education into the discussion.

Maxi Kindling, employee in the Berlin Open Access office and board member of LIBREAS e. V., asked why a compilation on the future of information science, of all things, was neither open access nor digitally published. The lack of diversity among the authors is anything but forward-looking. At the event, she noted that the academic mid-level staff would play a key role in shaping the future of information science. Accordingly, it is not very representative that, besides professors, only students were invited to the podium.

The need to talk about the future of information science seemed to be great overall, and the audience was actively involved. Even after the event, some heated discussions continued. Once again, it became clear how difficult it is for the information science community to come to a uniform understanding of information science. At least an agreement could be reached that library science definitely belongs to information science and that there will be some kind of future for information science.

  1. http://www.simon-bw.de/books/bibliothekswissenschaft/item/zukunft-der-informationswwissenschaft-hat-die-informationswwissenschaft-eine-zukunft [last seen on October 14, 2019] ↩︎

  2. http://www.password-online.de/push-dienst-archiv [last seen on October 14, 2019] ↩︎

  3. http://bak-information.de/events/bak-09-19-zukunft-der-informationswwissenschaft-hat-die-informationswwissenschaft-eine-zukunft-eine-veranstaltung-des-bak-in-kooperation-mit-open- password / [last seen on October 14, 2019] ↩︎

Studied after graduating from high school Carmen Krause in the master’s degree in Modern History and Modern German Literature at the Humboldt University in Berlin. There, as a student employee of the Philosophy Branch Library, she was able to gain her first professional experience in the library sector during her studies. After completing his studies, he worked in the libraries of companies and academic institutions. For this reason, she decided to take up a bachelor's degree in library management at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, which she completed in 2018 with a thesis on the potential of the Internet of Things for libraries. For this work she was awarded the b.i.t.online innovation award 2019 and the Best Presentation Award of the 9th student workshop for information science research. She is currently studying information sciences at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam.