Information Sources in Planning: Introduction

<p class="MsoNormal"> For more than ten years now I have been a librarian at the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, managing <a href="http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/index/ius-library">a small library dedicated to planning, geography, urban design and environmental issues</a>. I have been extremely fortunate to have had the freedom in this role to evolve a hybridized career involving research, librarianship, teaching, writing and editing. </p>

January 24, 2012, 11:23 AM PST

By Michael Dudley


For more than ten years now I have been a librarian at the Institute of Urban Studies
at the University
of Winnipeg, managing a
small library dedicated to planning, geography, urban design and environmental
issues
. I have been extremely fortunate to have had the freedom in this role to
evolve a hybridized career involving research, librarianship, teaching, writing and editing.

One of the things I enjoy most about the job is not only assisting students
with their research but incorporating library search strategies into the
courses I teach at the University
of Winnipeg. An annual
highlight for me is my annual presentation to first year city planning students
from the University
of Manitoba
on information
literacy in planning research, to orient them to using our collection in the
preparation of their theses and practica. By information literacy, I am
referring to
  

a transformational process in which the learner needs to
find, understand, evaluate, and use information in various forms to create for
personal, social or global purposes.

Over the years of delivering and redeveloping this lecture,
I've become more aware of the important intersections between information
literacy concepts, and those concerning planning. As any regular reader of this
website will understand, planning issues are becoming increasingly fraught with
controversy, involving diverse constituencies representing competing claims,
arguments and data sets. Positions are becoming more polarized, and their
partisans often employ overheated, hyperbolic rhetoric. Navigating these claims
and counter-claims – as well as anticipating and combating widespread
disinformation – is becoming an essential part of our role as planners; yet the
potential universe of information is vast and filled with numerous pitfalls. To
engage in these debates successfully we must be able to both develop our own
critical skills in assessing and using information, and assist others
in developing these tools as well.    

Librarians and educators are also pointing out that an information-literate society is a
prerequisite for being able to achieve progress on social, political and
environmental problems. As the World Summit on the Information Society declared in
their 2005 "Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong
Learning
,"

Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning.
It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create
information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and
educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes
social inclusion of all nations. Lifelong learning enables individuals,
communities and nations to attain their goals and to take advantage of emerging
opportunities in the evolving global environment for shared benefit. It assists
them and their institutions to meet technological, economic and social
challenges, to redress disadvantage and to advance the well being of all. 

By extension, then, successful planning also necessitates lifelong learning on the part of citizens, communities, practitioners and institutions.    

With these important contexts in mind, I am engaging in a
new project on Interchange: a series on Information Sources in Planning. Over
the coming months, I shall be reviewing a selection of databases, magazines,
news sites and reference sources with a view to assessing their
functionality, scope, applicability and accessibility. These posts will be oriented to learning how to make best use of these sources' capabilities but
shall at the same time also be critical, in that they will consider any limitations or potential biases – and the influence of such on the quality of the information
presented.

My hope is that both academic and practicing planners
(particularly those new to the profession) will find this feature useful, and
that it will broaden the range of information sources being used in their work. That said,
I'll also be very interested in hearing from readers about the tools you use,
and will welcome your suggestions for inclusion in the series.

 

First up: An overview of information literacy principles.

 


Michael Dudley

With graduate degrees in city planning and library science, Michael Dudley is the Community Outreach Librarian at the University of Winnipeg.

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