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L. Alon, S. Hardof-Jaffe, R. Nachmias

Tel Aviv University (ISRAEL)
The volume of information has become infinitely larger during the last two decades, with the emergence of ICTs. In the digital society, people need to manage an abundant amount of information which is received from multiple information channels and generated by people in social, learning, and/or working contexts. This phenomenon is particularly intense among KW (Knowledge Workers) in various professional fields, where information is the essence of their work, such as industry workers and teachers. The relationship that KW have with information is very intense; therefore, they need to acquire PIM (Personal Information Management) skills. PIM is the act of keeping and managing information items for later retrieval. The task of managing information is accomplished with a range of PIM activities that contract the personal information space. Making PIM decisions is not a simple act. Rather, KW need to put forth cognitive effort in order to do it effectively. High-level strategies are courses of action that people develop in order to keep, manage, and retrieve information items. These strategies are related to PIM; however, they are more general than the practices and they define the guidelines that help people cope with PIM challenges.

Our paper examines PIM challenges and high-level strategies of KW and their implications to education and PIM literacy. The importance of the paper evolves from the emerging reality that demands us to cope with ubiquitous information, alongside the notion that PIM is one of the most important literacies in the 21st century.

Seven in-depth interviews were held with KW in the fields of industry and education. Three stages of content analysis were performed to analyze the data.

We found that KW cope with the need to manage overloaded information spaces that are fragmented into multiple digital platforms. To face the challenges, KW develop innovative, high-level strategies for keeping, managing, and retrieving information items. High-level strategies help them to merge fragmented information spaces, reduce the sense of information overload, and facilitate the process of PIM. KW learned to use meta-level observation of their PIM in order to avoid drowning in the "pools of information". In addition to thinking about specific practices for managing information, they used high-level strategies and established their unique ways of managing their personal information spaces. For keeping, KW used 3 main high-level strategies: making tough keeping decisions, focusing on one main information space, and using a paper-based information space. For managing strategies, KW performed 3 high-level strategies: un-fragmentation, discarding information, and information decentralization. For exploiting strategies, one main innovation was found. Literature suggests that people perform a search as a last resort; however, we found that some of the participating KW preferred to use search over navigation whenever they wanted to find an information item. Strategies point to the capability of KW to innovate and think of new solutions that may decrease PIM challenges and increase efficiency.

We suggest that high-level strategies, alongside PIM practices, are part of PIM literacy. This literacy appears to be a challenge for education system, because students have to acquire it in order to function in a world of ubiquitous information, both at present in learning contexts and in the future as KW in the digital society.