In information ecology, an information system is compared to a natural organism or ecological system whereby internal and external knowledge is integrated in a balanced manner, and information objects, services and products are managed using organisational and digital tools, and sense making “cleaning filters” which adapt and change in response to changes in the environment or the constituents (Candela et al., 2007; Steinerová, 2011; Wang, Guo, Yang, Chen, & Zhang, 2015).
Information ecology is a multi-disciplinary emerging field that covers digital libraries, information ecosystems, e-commerce, networked environments and the issues around rapidly developing new technologies. It offers a framework within which to analyse the relationships between organisations, information technology and information objects in a context whereby the human, information technology and social information environment is in harmony (Candela et al., 2007; Wang et al., 2015). It provides an alternative point of view to the traditional systems design and engineering perspective of information flow, and answers the central question of how to apply knowledge into a dynamic complex organisation.
Nardi and O’Day (1999) explain the interrelationship between people, tools, and practises (cited in Perrault, 2007; Wang et al., 2015) within the context of a shared environment (eco-system) with a cognitive, language, social and value system. The inter-relationship or dependency between the constituents means that changes impact the whole system. Steinerová (2011) and (Candela et al., 2007) looked at the elements of digital libraries and suggested that librarians examine where value integration can take place between the library service, technology, scholarship and culture adding value through new services or contributions to learning, user experience, research productivity, teaching or presenting and preserving cultural heritage.
Applying these ideas to the school environment, constituents of the eco-system include teachers, teacher librarians, students administration, parents and custodial staff (Perrault, 2007). Elements of the system will co-exist but also compete and share, converge and diverge in a dynamic interactive, complex environment (García‐Marco, 2011). The role of the library is such that the information ecology needs to be understood in order to support information seeking behaviour and thereby discover the zones of intervention and areas to leverage to optimise advance information seeking, usage, creation and dissemination within that eco-system and beyond. In response curriculum, content and subject delivery that can be reshaped and constructed dynamically and in a collaborative way according to changes in the environment or needs of students (O’Connell, 2014).
Relating this to my current work, I found the work of Perrault relevant in looking at how multimodal resources and adaptive technologies can best serve students with special educational needs (Perrault, 2010, 2011; Perrault & Levesque, 2012). This type of thinking can be adapted to considering the needs of bi- and multi-lingual students who are part of the school’s information ecology, but have a linguistic and cultural learning and informational need which can be seen as a potential zone of intervention for collaboration between the teacher, teacher librarian, family and community. Provided of course that within the international school group dynamic and context it is understood what is specific to particular linguistic and cultural groups and what is generalizable (Vasiliou, Ioannou, & Zaphiris, 2014) and how best to integrate systematic change and innovation, cognizant of the consequences that may be direct, indirect, desirable and undesirable, and often unanticipated despite our best efforts (Perrault, 2007).
Candela, L., Castelli, D., Pagano, P., Thanos, C., Ioannidis, Y., Koutrika, G., … Schuldt, H. (2007). Setting the Foundations of Digital Libraries – The DELOS Manifesto. D-Lib Magazine, 13(3/4).
García‐Marco, F. (2011). Libraries in the digital ecology: reflections and trends. The Electronic Library, 29(1), 105–120. http://doi.org/10.1108/02640471111111460
O’Connell, J. (2014, July 19). Information ecology at the heart of knowledge [Web Log]. Retrieved March 28, 2015, from http://judyoconnell.com/2014/07/19/information-ecology-at-the-heart-of-knowledge/
Perrault, A. M. (2007). The School as an Information Ecology: A Framework for Studying Changes in Information Use. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), 49–62. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=28746579&site=ehost-live
Perrault, A. M. (2010). Reaching All Learners: Understanding and Leveraging Points of Intersection for School Librarians and Special Education Teachers. School Library Media Research, 13, 1–10. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67740987&site=ehost-live
Perrault, A. M. (2011). Rethinking School Libraries: Beyond Access to Empowerment. Knowledge Quest, 39(3), 6–7. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=58621336&site=ehost-live
Perrault, A. M., & Levesque, A. M. (2012). Caring for all students. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 16–17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=82564002&site=ehost-live
Steinerová, J. (2011). Slovak Republic: Information Ecology of Digital Libraries. Uncommon Culture, 2(1), 150–157. Retrieved from http://pear.accc.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/UC/article/view/4081
Vasiliou, C., Ioannou, A., & Zaphiris, P. (2014). Understanding collaborative learning activities in an information ecology: A distributed cognition account. Computers in Human Behavior, 41(0), 544–553. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.09.057
Wang, X., Guo, Y., Yang, M., Chen, Y., & Zhang, W. (2015). Information ecology research: past, present, and future. Information Technology and Management, 1–13. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10799-015-0219-3