Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto - OCS, 15th INTERNATIONAL ISKO CONFERENCE

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Ana Lúcia Silva Terra

Last modified: 2018-02-15


Technology simplified information creation and retrieval leading individuals to store an increasing amount of information resources in their electronic devices or/and in an analogical context. They create personal information collections with huge quantity and variety of information items. These information resources need to be organized so that individuals can search, retrieve and use them. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary “organization” is the act or process of organizing or of being organized and “organizing” means to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole. So, information organization implies to create a coherent unity of information resources within a specific context or space. Organization seems to be a basic human insight and even information working spaces that appears to be chaotic have some of organization for the individuals that use them. In broad terms, we organize to understand, to save time and to retrieve. Reasons to information organization are similar and if information is not organized, it is difficult or even impossible to find (Taylor & Joudrey, 2009). In digital context, with information items recorded in several formats and locations, the inability of individuals to accurately recall the huge number of information previously seen, used or stored is certainly higher than in print context. So, news challenges are emerging to personal knowledge organization due to sociotechnical changes. In their electronic devices, information users need to develop adequate skills to create personal information spaces simpler and logic for themselves, allowing an easier use of their information resources.

This proposal intends to make some reflections upon user’s personal information organization in digital context. Intellectual organization through categorizing and labelling documents, name/renaming files and folders or moving documents from different folders will be considered. The need to consider and stress information organization skills in information literacy approaches will be discussed.

For this purpose, a literature review will be done, within the scope of personal information management, information organization and information literacy. Personal information management strategies reflect individual needs and interests but there are patterns and specific skills can help to improve information organization. As Jones (2007) explains, most part of the people maintain several, separate, roughly comparable but inevitably inconsistent, organizational schemes for electronic documents, papers documents or email messages. Additionally, the number of information organization schemes may increase if a person has several digital devices or emails accounts. One of the main problems in personal information organization is related to the cognitive difficulty of categorizing (Malone, 1983). Categorizing problems will difficult finding and reminding functions of information organization.

Even though information literacy is a broad concept including all kinds of interaction skills related to information, information literacy approaches discussed in the literature tended to focus on the seeking, locating and evaluating of information. Additionally, analyzing information literacy standards reveals that organization of information is not emphasis as a core competency, because they do not include or they refer to the organization of information skills in a vague way. The Australian and New Zeeland Information and Literacy Framework (Bundy, 2004) considers information organization in standard four meaning as an information literate person the one that manages information collected and generated. The SCONUL Seven Pillars of Information Literacy: core model for higher education (SCONSUL Working Group on Information Literacy, 2011) refers “Manage” as the six pillar related to information organization in a professional and ethical way. The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education (ACRL, 2016), in the frame “Research as Inquiry”, includes organizing information in meaningful ways as one knowledge practices. A critical analysis of information organization skills explicitly or implicitly included in information literacy standards will be done. The relevance to include them in a concrete way within information literacy standards will be explained.

Personal information usability and findability depend on information organization and will determine the effective use of information resources that each individual stores in their digital devices. Some of the problems of searching and using information could be solved with information organization skills. Attending to this, information organization need to be deepened within standards and other projects related to information literacy.



ACRL. (2016). Framework for information literacy for higher education.

Bundy, A. (Ed.). (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework. Adelaide: Australian and New Zeeland Institute for Information Literacy. Retrieved from http://www.caul.edu.au/content/upload/files/info-literacy/InfoLiteracyFramework.pdf

Jones, W. (2007). Personal information management. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 41(1), 453–504. http://doi.org/10.1002/aris.2007.1440410117

Malone, T. W. (1983). How do people organize their desks? Implications for the design of office information systems. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 1(1), 99–112.

SCONSUL Working Group on Information Literacy. (2011). The SCONUL seven pillars of information literacy: core model for higher education. Retrieved from http://www.sconul.ac.uk/sites/default/files/documents/coremodel.pdf

Taylor, A. G., & Joudrey, D. N. (2009). The organization of information. Westport: Libraries Unlimited.