Multidisciplinary Approaches to Information Poverty and their Implications for Information Access

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Library science, Information science


Information poverty is a term frequently used to describe a condition associated with economic poverty. No comprehensive analysis exists determining the delimitations, definitions, or parameters of the phenomenon of information poverty. This study explores and critically analyzes the concept of information poverty through an examination of the literature, models, and theories used to further understanding of information poverty as used across the social sciences. This study reveals trends in information poverty research over the past thirty years, demonstrating that information poverty research has, for the most part, followed trends in poverty research. National information policy has focused on infrastructural components of information poverty during liberal administrations and cultural/behavioral components during conservative administrations. In the mid-1990s library and information science researcher Elfreda A. Chatman suggested a small world approach to information poverty. Her theory of information poverty is a notable addition to a more complex understanding of information poverty; however, there is still much to learn about information poverty. The study presents a model of information access that can be useful for further study of not only information poverty but also other aspects of information access. The model takes into account the three layers of information access described in the information poverty literature: the information infrastructure, the social sphere, and the small world. This work suggests that all three of these layers of information access should be considered when discussing information access in general and information poverty in particular.