Three Generations of Savolainen’s (1995) Everyday Life Information Seeking Model

Now In Video Format:
Three Generations of Savolainen’s (1995) Everyday Life Information Seeking Model

Jenna Hartel

I just finished making the 9th episode of the video series What Makes This Paper Great?, and it is available on my YouTube channel, INFIDEOS. It features Reijo Savolainen’s “Everyday Life Information Seeking: Approaching Information Seeking in the Context of Way of Life.” Published in the journal Library and Information Science Research in 1995, this landmark paper introduced a model of information behavior and opened up a now-flourishing research frontier dedicated to non-work contexts. Savolainen’s original article is highly cited, and according to a recent content analysis of syllabi, stands as the second most prevalent information behavior theory taught in reference courses today (VanScoy, Julien, & Harding, 2022). Personally, discovering Savolainen’s ELIS vision was a Eureka! moment in my own doctoral student career. His model was the first I had found that validated leisure and hobbies (my pet interests) as legitimate research subjects within Information Science. For all these reasons, it was a joy to make the video.

—In fact, the video at hand is an intellectual history that chronicles three generations of a single big idea within Information Science.—

Video is an ideal means to unpack, translate, and celebrate this formidable, 35-page document. A birds-eye tour of the paper—quite literally enacted by my flying dove, BIBBLE (shown below)—reveals distinct theoretical and empirical sections. In the video, emphasis is placed selectively upon the initial theoretical portions if the paper that present and delineate its famous model. Bright colors spotlight the model’s innovative combination of personal and sociocultural factors, and how they are intertwined during everyday life information seeking.

“Intertwined” is truly the word, for the video employs a striking metaphor of a dancing plant form to capture information seeking as an organic, dynamic, and situated social construction. Given the model’s complexity, the video then features an accessible illustration of its application to a truck-driver, who unfortunately gets a toothache and must do some information seeking to solve his painful problem.

Like many of the videos in the What Makes This Paper Great? series, viewers experience an advantageous retro-perspective. In fact, the video at hand is an intellectual history that chronicles three generations of a single big idea within Information Science. For, in turn, we see how the original 1995 model was revised in Savolainen’s 2008 book, Everyday Information Practices: a Social Phenomenological Approach. Since good things come in threes, viewers can then watch as it is reworked again in 2021, in collaboration with Leslie Thomson (Savolainen & Thomson, 2021). Along the way, Savolainen reframes his idea in novel ways, namely through social phenomenology and practice theory. One of the things that “makes this paper great…” is Savolainen’s willingness to reformulate his vision under new theoretical influences, which affirm scholarship as an ongoing process of creativity, reinvention, and collaboration.

My favorite part of the video is devoted to the model’s third iteration, an extension spear-headed by Leslie Thomson. Thomson’s 2019 dissertation examined how serious YouTubers in the domain of beauty and lifestyle, gather and disseminate information. Her fieldwork generated a model of the YouTuber’s information creation experience as a 10-step process. In collaboration with Savolainen, these insights were folded into the 2008 version of the ELIS idea, leading to the Expanded Model of Everyday Information Practice (Savolainen & Thomson, 2021). Thomson is represented in the video as a modern-day wizard, of sorts, who literally enacts Information Science magic in her hands. Fans of Thomson’s work, or any now-curious readers of this post, can jump right to that evocative segment of the video, here.

What (else) makes this paper great? Savolainen’s 1995 ELIS paper shifted the nexus of information behavior research from academic and professional settings to the universally shared, heterogenous, intimate, and fascinating space of everyday life. The video closes with more than a dozen pointers to  exemplar studies of ELIS today, namely research into grocery shopping (Ocepek,2018), life transitions (Ruthven, 2022), multispecies families (Solhja, 2021), black diasporic immigrants, (Ndumu, 2019), queer fanfiction (Floegel, 2020), passionate people in their serious leisure (Mansourian, 2019) among many other topics that reside under the ELIS research umbrella. Interestingly, a citation analysis of the 1995 paper (González-Teruel & Pérez-Pulido, 2020) determined that in 25 years the ELIS model has not been further developed; however, it has served as a giant inspiration and beacon.     

Of note, this video sits within the Information Behavior Playlist at INFIDEOS. The playlist features more than a dozen videos on its theme, totaling more than two hours of play time. The videos, shown in thumbnail form, below, are strategically sequenced to ease viewers into the subject through short but enticing Tiny Videos. These are followed by deeper treatments of major information behavior concepts and papers in the What Makes This Paper Great? series. Educators could use this playlist, alongside conventional publications, in courses or lectures on information behavior and/or the foundations of Information Science.


Floegel. (2020). “Write the story you want to read”: world-queering through slash fanfiction creation. Journal of Documentation, 76(4), 785–805.

González-Teruel, & Pérez-Pulido, M. (2020). The diffusion and influence of theoretical models of information behaviour. The case of Savolainen’s ELIS model. Journal of Documentation, 76(5), 1069–1089.

Mansourian, Y. (2019). How passionate people seek and share various forms of information in their serious leisure. The Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association (JALIA).

Ndumu, A. (2019). Linkages between information overload and acculturative stress: The case of Black diasporic immigrants in the US. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 96100061985711–.

Ocepek, M. G. (2018). Sensible shopping: A sensory exploration of the information environment of the grocery store. Library Trends, 66(3), 371-394.Ruthven

Ruthven, I. (2022). Dealing with change through information sculpting. Emerald Publishing Limited: Bingley, West Yorkshire.

Savolainen, R. (1995). Everyday life information seeking: Approaching information seeking in the context of “way of life.” Library & Information Science Research, 17(3), 259–294.

Savolainen, R. (2008). Everyday information practices : a social phenomenological perspective. Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland.

Savolainen, R., & Thomson, L. (2022). Assessing the theoretical potential of an expanded model for everyday information practices. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 73(4), 511–527.

Solhjoo, N. (2021, September 22). Unconditional love: An inspiration for veterinarians, information scientists, and all animal people. Information Matters. Vol.1, Issue 9.

Thomson, L. (2019). “‘Doing’ YouTube”: Information creating in the context of serious beauty and lifestyle YouTube.

VanScoy, A., Julien, H., & Harding, A. (in press). Integration of information behavior into reference and information services education: A syllabus study. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science.

Cite this article in APA as: Hartel, J. (2022, July 18). Now in video format: Three generations of Savolainen’s (1995) Everyday life information seeking model. Information Matters, Vol. 2, Issue 7.

Jenna Hartel

I am an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. As an interdisciplinary social scientist devoted to the field of Library and Information Science (LIS), I conduct research in three related areas: 1) information and the "higher things in life" that are pleasurable and profound; 2) visual and creative research methods; and 3) the history and theory of LIS. In the Master of Information program at the Faculty of Information, I mostly teach graduate students in the Library and Information Science concentration. Both my research and teaching aim to be an imaginative forms of intervention in the field of LIS, through unorthodox projects such as Metatheoretical Snowman, Welcome to Library and Information Science, and the iSquare Research Program. See my website at or my YouTube Channel, INFideos.