In the last two days I have read two papers by Archie L. Dick. Yesterday I read “Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science” and this morning I read “Restoring knowledge as a theoretical focus of library and…”. [OK, we all know that is not its title but more on that later.] [Really were read 30 & 31 Aug.]
As of now, Archie Dick is my newest intellectual crush! I thoroughly enjoyed both of these papers and look forward to finding and reading more of his work.
Dick, A.L. 1995. Restoring knowledge as a theoretical focus of library and… South African Journal of Library & Information Science 63, no. 3 (September): 99. doi:Article. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=9603201479&site=ehost-live.
Dick, Archie L. 1999. Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science. The Library Quarterly 69, no. 3 (July): 305-323. http://www.jstor.org.proxy2.library.uiuc.edu/stable/4309336.
“Epistemological Positions and Library and Information Science” addresses “the general neglect of epistemology as a topic of professional and methodological concern” (305) and advocates for a holistic perspectivism.
The sections of this paper are:
- The Unknown Influence
- Getting to Know How We Know in LIS
- General Complexities of Examining Epistemology in LIS
- Specific Difficulties of Examining Epistemology in LIS
- Ways of Knowing in LIS
- A Way to Go for the Ways to Know in LIS
- Holistic Perspectivism
As one may guess from that outline, the metaepistemological framework that Dick argues for is one of holistic perspectivism.
“Holistic perspectivism therefore recognizes that several epistemological positions (perspectivism) provide the bases for justifying a range of knowledge claims related to social wholes (holism) in LIS. As a purportedly valid perception of some aspect of LIS, each perspective or epistemological position provides, in essence, a partial view on that aspect. Dialectical tension with other perspectives or epistemologies facilitates the continuous growth of valid knowledge in LIS” (318).
This is certainly not an “anything goes” relativism, though.
Dick states that there are “[t]wo central questions that epistemology in LIS seeks to answer” (without exhausting the scope thereof) (306). These are: “(a) How much of what LIS claims to know on the basis of its modes of professional practice and research traditions can indeed be justified on the basis of evidence for its claims? and (b) What type of knowledge is bibliothecal knowledge …?” (307).
As is the case in any endeavor, but especially in one that professes to be a profession, and perhaps even a science, “the intentional or unconscious espousal of an epistemological position holds definite implications for how they practice their profession and conduct scientific research ” (307).
In the section “A Way to Go for the Ways to Know in LIS” he discusses processes of epistemology substitution and epistemology elimination, which, for me, has some definite similarities to W. McNeill’s critique of myth destruction in Mythistory.
This then leads us into his views on holistic perspectivism, which I find a convincing discussion of the sort of pluralism we need to actively embrace in our field.
I was led to this article by Smiraglia (2002) which I had meant to blog but may well not get to now. Recommended reading though.
Smiraglia, Richard P. 2002. The Progress of Theory in Knowledge Organization. Library Trends 50, no. 3 (Winter): 330-349. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/8414.
 Harding, Sandra. 1988. Practical Consequences of Epistemological Choices. Communication & Cognition 21: 153-155.
“Restoring Knowledge as a Theoretical Focus of Library and Information Science” is concerned with the shift from knowledge to information as the theoretical basis of library and information science. Using this context he also explains the shift from the myth of library as place to the myth of the electronic library. Considering that this article was published in 1995 I see this piece as highly prescient. And, again, I see a direct connection with McNeill as Dick is using “myth” in a sense similar to McNeill and not in the late 20th century derogatory sense of “myth.”
I found this article excellent, prescient, and highly valuable to my developing critique of “information” as a basis for librarianship (and information science).
The sections of this article seem to be:
- Introduction (unlabeled)
- Different responses
- Value of conceptions of knowledge in the context of LIS
- Approaches to knowledge
- Divergent conceptions of knowledge in LIS literature
- Knowledge as an interrelated, dynamic unit
- Knowledge as differentiated into distinct types
- Knowledge as exosomatic and publicly accessible
- Conceptions of unrecorded knowledge
- Knowledge–information relationship
- Knowledge as a Dialectical process
- Conception of knowledge supporting the meaning of information in LIS
- Knowledge as a theoretical focus in LIS’s future
Regarding myth, he also provides the most blatant explanation of the ‘origin myth’ of information science that I have yet seen.
I will leave that discussion and the following brilliant critique of the conception of knowledge and information that that leads to to the effort of the interested reader. This discussion leads to another critical reason why it is that professional librarians and information scientists must be epistemologically aware of their commitments, theoretical and practical.
This article made my day! If you have any itch to be scratched regarding the importance of epistemology in LIS you would be hard pressed to do better than beginning with these 2 articles. If you desire further suggestions for reading on this topic do not hesitate to contact me as I would be more than glad to provide some suggestions.
Regarding the elided title and the seeming sectioning: Library databases have been giving me fits lately. Part of the problem is that now that I am 10 hours away from the wonderful LIS collections of UIUC I have to get a lot of older stuff electronically that I could have easily photocopied. Or even, heaven forbid, ILL the article and suffer someone else’s horrible job at photocopying. These assorted gripes may have to wait for a separate post. But back to this article.
I had to get this electronically, and thankfully it is available in some form, from EBSCO Professional Development Collection. The only option is a full-text HTML file. This file has absolutely no pagination indications, except for the starting page number listed in the article metadata section at the top of the page, and the title as I typed it at the top of the page. Also, the HTML markup of sections is not at all clear as to the actual hierarchy of the sectioning as, no doubt, the print version’s typography would have made abundantly clear.
EBSCO finds this scholarship so important that they provide me no real means of citing a paper that I find exceptionally important, and they even elide the article title in the provided metadata. Apoplexy, I have it.