Information needs and information seeking behavior of parliamentarians in South Africa

B. J. Mostert, Dennis N. Ocholla


Parliamentarians have an incessant need for timely, authoritative, and current information because of the enormous social responsibility bestowed on them by the electorates or society. A strong information accessibility that empowers them to fulfill this responsibility effectively is therefore very significant. Essentially and traditionally, parliamentary libraries are expected to provide legislators with most of the information they need. The study aimed at determining the information sources, service and systems used in South Africa by the parliamentarians, and also to investigate the role of the parliamentary libraries in the information provision process. A survey was conducted by use of questionnaires targeting all parliamentarians in South Africa and a response rate of 23% (167) was received. This study has revealed that parliamentary libraries are underutilized because parliamentarians use other equally competing information sources largely accessed through the internet. Further, South Africa has enormous information sources and services that legislators can access and exploit and the use of electronic sources of information is growing rapidly, almost reaching the level of use of print sources. Unexpectedly, oral sources of information are used less. Parliamentary libraries have a potential to offer a variety of services to parliamentarians, yet they are not well-utilized, perhaps because of reasons such as poor marketing and innovative information services. Wilson's model on information seeking has been extended by a new model proposing and explaining information-seeking strategies popular to parliamentarians in South Africa.

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