Library and Information Science as a Discipline

My interest in the reach and boundaries of library and information science (LIS) emerged when I was presented with the opportunity to establish the Library School, part of CityLIS, at City, University of London. LIS, like every other discipline, evolves with time, and the following questions arise whenever we attempt to sketch out the content, scope, and factors for change for the subject:

  • what are the core components of the library and information science domain?
  • what is the relationship of library and information science to other disciplines?
  • what are the drivers for change in regard to library and information science?
  • what ethical concerns relate to library and information science?
  • how does academic theory relate to practice?
  • what is the future for teaching, learning and research within the discipline?

These queries generate much debate, and no definitive answers have been forthcoming since the vocational work of the librarian was first considered as an independent discipline in the eighteenth century. However, contemporary work exploring the borders and definitions of LIS has revitalised its significance as an academic discipline to me, and has emphasised the importance of information communication to every aspect of our society.

This ongoing question underpins much of my teaching, which has spanned several decades, institutions and countries. I have designed and delivered academic masters courses for The University of West London, City University London, and for University College London, in addition to working with ASLIB for many years on their programme for continual professional development in information technologies. I have also worked as a consultant, course designer and presenter for the Open Society Institute’s Information Program (previously known as the Library Program), part of which included setting up a network of training centres throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Asia, to educate library and information professionals and teachers.

Some of my publications around the nature of LIS include:

  • Robinson L (2015). Are the digital humanities and library & information science the same thing? Available from:
  • Robinson L, Priego E and Bawden D (2015). Library and information science and digital humanities: two disciplines, joint future? In: Pehar F, Schlögl C and Wolff C (eds.) Re-inventing information science in the networked society. Glückstadt: Verlag Werner Hülsbusch, 2015, pp 44-54.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2015). Library and Information Science. In: Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy, Jensen KB and Pooley J (Eds.) Wiley.
  • Robinson L and Bawden D (2013). So wide and varied: the origins and character of British information science. Journal of Information Science vol 39(6), 754-763.
  • Bawden D and Robinson L (2012). Introduction to Information Science, Facet: London, chapter 1.
  • Robinson L and Bawden D (2012). Brian Vickery and the foundations of information science. In: Facets of Knowledge Organization. Proceedings of the ISKO UK Second Biennial Conference, 4th-5th July 2011, London. Eds. Gilchrist A and Vernau J. Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Robinson L and Bawden D (2010). Information (and library) science at City University London; fifty years of educational development. Journal of Information Science vol 36, 631-654.
  • Robinson L and Karamuftouglu M (2010). The Nature of Information Science: changing models. Information Research vol 15(4), paper colis717. Available from:
  • Robinson L (2010). Teaching reference and information services at City University London. REFER vol 26(2), 10-12.
  • Robinson L (2009). Information Science: the information chain and domain analysis. Journal of Documentation vol 65(4), 578-591.
  • Bawden D, Robinson L, Anderson T, Bates B, Rutkauskiene U, and Vilar P (2007). Curriculum 2.0? Changes in information education for a Web 2.0 world. Seljan S and Stancic H (eds.), InFuture 2007: Digital information and heritage (Zagreb, 7-9 November, 2007) Zagreb: Philosophy Faculty of Zagreb University, isbn 978-953-175-305-0, 27-40.
  • Robinson L and Glosiene A (2007). Continuing professional development for library and information science: case study of a network of training centres. Aslib Proceedings vol 59 issue 4/5, 462-474.

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