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"An Investigation into the Information Practices of First-Time Mothers of Infants from Birth to 12 Months." K. Loudon. S. Buchanan. Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde. 2013. Download PDF (BibTeX) MSc Information and Library Studies

The research aims to provide an insight into the information practices of first-time mothers with infants aged one year or younger, as they face the challenges brought by their new status as parents. It was discovered that to date, very few studies have investigated the information needs and practices of mothers, and little is known about how they are influenced by social support networks.

It is an exploratory study which also investigates the methodological considerations necessary to undertake research in the unpredictable and changeable environment of a mother and baby group, as well as issues surrounding the researcher's engagement with the participants. By adopting a flexible and adaptable methodological approach, rich, narrative data on the information worlds of the mothers was collected, as well as from a sample of local information gatekeepers.

The mothers were well educated, and confident in their abilities to find the information they needed to support their parenting decisions. They preferred seeking information from known, interpersonal sources, and valued the experience of other mothers. Some sought the collective knowledge of other mothers via online discussion groups and forums, and complex patterns of information practices began to emerge. Many mothers visited their local library on a regular basis, but they do not view library staff as important source of information.

The mothers appeared to face no financial, material or literacy barriers to their information seeking, but still reported experiences of judgement, misinformation, conflict and confusion. A lack of time and conflicting pieces of information were the most frequently reported challenges. Analysis of the data collected revealed that mothers and gatekeepers experienced challenges in their information practices caused by wider social forces, and the mandatory nature of health policies and regulations.

The Parent Café appears to meet a need in the local community, demonstrated by its growth and the fact is being emulated by the library service. The current study offers suggestions for further research to increase our understanding of the information practices and challenges reported, in order to facilitate and improve future service provision.