Contemporary spirituality, religion and information: An interpretivist investigation of meaning-making narratives, spiritual seeking concerns, and librarian attitudes

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2023
Thesis identifier
  • T16678
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201861606
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • More than eight in ten people worldwide identify with a religious group. In addition, people often seek and use spiritual information despite having no formal religious status or affiliation. Spirituality is a prominent feature of several Western and Westernised information-based societies and cultures; however, people’s everyday spiritual information interactions remain poorly understood in information and library science research. To this end, this thesis seeks to understand the role of information in contemporary spiritual but religiously unaffiliated contexts. The thesis’ original contributions lie in three novel interpretivistic investigations conducted to understand 1) the motivations and information interactions of fifteen spiritual retreat residents in a religiously unaffiliated context, 2) insights of thirteen contemporary spiritual teachers and speakers about spiritual seeking concerns & patterns, and 3) two hundred and eighty-one US and UK practising librarians’ views and attitudes regarding spiritual needs and modern library provision. In addition, the investigations are contextualised and supported by a novel synthesis of the literature on spirituality and religion in information research. The investigations employ a qualitative sensibility and use secondary data (online video narratives), qualitative interviewing, and questionnaire techniques. Accordingly, the data (retreat residents’ video narratives, teachers’ and speakers’ interview transcripts and librarians’ questionnaire responses) are analysed thematically, and each investigation is presented as a chapter individually. A general discussion chapter then answers each investigation’s research questions, relates them to existing information science understandings and offers a preliminary conceptualisation of relationships between contemplative spiritual practices and information. Besides empirical contributions, this thesis demonstrates that secondary qualitative data analysis can be a helpful research approach during unexpected circumstances such as government-enforced physical distancing measures and worldwide pandemic-related lockdowns. Finally, this thesis helps facilitate transdisciplinary dialogue between contemplative studies and library and information science research and demonstrates that frameworks from other disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and nursing, can help structure and enrich information behaviour investigations and potentially contribute to interdisciplinary discussions and collaboration.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Ruthven, Ian
Resource Type