The previous article examined the kinds of
information sought by managers and the ways
in which they use it. This issue of Library
Management is largely concerned with the
sources of this information. Our main pur-
pose is to provide a guide to formal published
sources, both print and electronic, but some
consideration of alternative sources is also
called for. Accordingly, this article will begin
with an overview of all types of information
sources, followed by a discussion of informal
sources of information and other alternatives
to formal publications.
A typology of information sources
The following shows the main ways which
have been proposed for classifying informa-
tion sources, arranged by format, status and
• Oral vs. Documentary.
• Textual vs. Audio-visual/multimedia.
• Paper-based vs. Electronic.
• Personal vs. Impersonal.
• Formal vs. Informal.
• Published/open vs. Unpublished/
• Internal vs. External.
The meanings of most terms are obvious, but
two of the pairs call for comment. Personal
sources are those which deliver information to
the individual manager, whereas impersonal
sources communicate to groups or wide
audiences, usually through some formal
system. A manager’s personal sources include
organizational colleagues, superiors and
subordinates; and external professional and
other contacts. Impersonal sources include
published books, newspapers and journals,
radio and TV broadcasts, the company’s
annual report and accounts, and in-house
computerized management information
systems. Formal sources may be deﬁned as
those which are constituted in some regular-
ized or legal manner in relation to the user,
whereas informal sources have no such basis.
Formal sources are often also impersonal, and
informal sources are likewise often personal;
and so at ﬁrst sight the pairs informal-person-
al and formal-impersonal seem to be synony-
mous, but this is not necessarily so. For exam-
ple, a government ofﬁcial might be a personal
Volume 16 · Number 5 · 1995 · pp. 16–19
© MCB University Press · ISSN 0143-5124
Sources of information,
formal and informal
David Kayeis Principal Lecturer in the Department of
Library and Information Studies, Manchester Metropolitan
Discusses the classiﬁcation of information sources, by
format, status and location. Proposes a typology which
plots the formal/informal dimension against the
personal/impersonal. The resulting matrix provides a
framework for conceptualizing the totality of the complex
network of sources available to the information seeker in
business. Presents and discusses examples of sources from
each quadrant of the matrix. Concludes with a brief
introduction to newer modes of information access, with
particular reference to the Internet. Forms an introduction
to the more detailed consideration of formal sources in
later articles of this issue.