How to educate the information specialists of tomorrow

The unit of Information Studies at Åbo Akademi University is small, but represents a wide range of expertise in information society. We educate the information specialists of tomorrow who need to master information and knowledge in many ways and for many purposes.

It is interesting to notice that the main part of the core competence is the same as it has been since the education started in 1982 when skills in knowledge organization, information seeking & retrieval, and resource management were taught in the study programme. But as information society has developed, new skills have been integrated into the library and information profession. The amount of available information has grown dramatically and we need to be able to manage and measure information on the internet, locate and analyze relevant information, and evaluate ethical and legal aspects of information. We have to learn how to use new tools and techniques such as social media in library work. And most of all we need to understand the changing information behaviour because of the rapidly developing information environment in order to be able to increase the level of information literacy in our society.

Our study programme is composed in order to meet the requirements of knowledge that are needed for successful work in the library and information profession. The basic courses are an introduction to the subject including knowledge organization and information seeking and retrieval. The intermediate courses focus on more specialized and professional skills in social web, user education and information literacy, library resource management, and informetrics. All courses have a legal and an ethical perspective and the development of the analytical skills of the students are focused. The basic and intermediate courses constitute also the qualification studies needed for library work in Finnish public libraries (60 ects).

The advanced courses at Master level are closely connected to the research profile of the unit reflecting current research, methods, and theory development in information science. An important part of the education is the interactivity with the library and information science field, keeping in touch with practice. This is realized through guest lectures, students working as trainees in libraries and information service, as well as students writing master theses in collaborative projects with the libraries.

Information Studies at the Open University

While Information Studies at Åbo Akademi is the only unit in Finland giving library qualifications in Swedish it is important to reach the possible students throughout Swedish-speaking Finland. In collaboration with the Open University at Åbo Akademi we have developed a well functioning study programme, giving the 60 ects of basic and intermediate courses in information studies through distance education. It takes a little longer, demands diligent students, but the entire programme is guaranteed.

Information Management programme

In 2010 Åbo Akademi went through a larger reorganization and Information Studies became part of the School of Business and Economics. In this process the education and research were thoroughly evaluated and valuable, common interests were found together with the other units at the School. There is a growing need for information specialists in business organizations and together with the units International Marketing and Organization and Management a new programme at bachelor level, focusing strategic information and knowledge management in business organizations, has been developed. The aim is to launch an international master programme in this subject area while there is a huge interest among international students in this topic.

The education is based on research

Research at Information Studies comprises several research profiles. A co-word analysis (see Figure 1) using the keywords of the research interests shows that information behaviour research is central, with connection to different contexts that have been studied at the unit (e.g. everyday life, working environment, business organizations, libraries) as well as different user groups (e.g. youth, elderly, unemployed, different professions). But there are also some clear focus areas such as information and knowledge management, health information, information literacy, library 2.0, and bibliometrics.  (Fig. 1)

In the area of Information and knowledge management the research has focused information culture, knowledge sharing and knowledge construction, collaborative information behavior with an organization and business approach. An important, common theoretical foundation has been brought from the social capital theory. In the health information behaviour research the user perspective is important, where elderly people are focused as well as an understanding of overall information mastering in connection to health. During the last years social media has been an important context when studying information behavior, and information literacy. These studies have focused libraries (library 2.0) and the development of information lite-racy in school education. Important perspectives have also been the understanding of personal information management and collaborative knowledge construction. In studying today’s information environment there is also a growing need of a better understanding of knowledge organization (content and its representation) and development of Webometric methods to study information on the web (in social media). These areas have been part of the strategic development of the research profile at the unit.

Having such an active research environment with many engaged doctoral students and researchers is an extremely valuable asset for developing the education. We have access to the latest research knowledge in the library and information science field. The researchers are part of the ongoing discussions through national and international conferences and seminars.

Lifelong learning

Information Studies is a typical subject where Lifelong learning is present. We can’t educate information professionals that have all the required skills for their whole professional lives. This is also a part of the pedagogical approach of the unit. It is a balance between a practical and an analytical approach. The students need to identify the core competencies of information professionals, and the rules and practices that are needed. Further, they need analytical ability to identify problems and skills to solve different kinds of questions. Finally the students also need expert knowledge in some other disciplines which is realized when the students study minor or majors subjects at other units and faculties. All with a holistic approach.

The competence development of library and information professionals is an important task for us. Organising seminars, workshops and conferences for both students, researchers and practitioners has been part of our activities. Together with the field we can interactively bring insights from both work in practice and research to the overall picture of what is needed by the information professional of tomorrow!

Professor Information studies at Åbo Akademi University
Information Studies is a unit at the School of Business and Economics at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. University degrees given at the unit are Bachelor and Master of Social Science, and Doctoral degree in Social Sciences. Many students combine information studies with degrees in other disciplines. The staff consists (2012) of 1 professor, 2 senior lecturers, 1 university teacher, 5 doctoral students and post docs, 1 amanuensis, 1 secretary. There are about 30 students enrolled in the undergraduate programmes, 10 in the doctoral programme, 40 in the Open University programme. For more information: