The Newsleter of the Association of Library & Information Science Students (ALISS)

The Silverfish is published monthly by the students of the Information School at the University of Washington.

The Logo of the University of Washington Information School

About The Silverfish
Current Issue
Editorial Board
Information for Authors

Book seal.

Information and Society: Information Hoarding
By Beth Lahickey
October 18, 2002

Welcome to the first "Information and Society" column. This is a place to examine information issues in a social context (think LIS 550).

This month I would like to discuss the phenomena of information hoarding. I'm not talking about a two year backlog of email in your inbox. By "information hoarding" I am referring to the withholding of information from others. Information hoarding can happen in any collaborative environment and in any size team.

Information hoarding can occur for many different reasons. Information is power. By withholding information from others, one might be attempting to gain or maintain power. In a competitive environment, information hoarding might be a way to ensure job security. One who withholds information from others may be attempting to become the only source for particular information, thus making themselves an "expert." Power, security and respect are all tremendous motivators.

Information hoarding may also be a way to hide one's ignorance. By sharing what they know, one may actually be exposing what, in fact, they don't know.

However, not all information hoarding occurs in the interest of self-preservation. There may be well-intentioned reasons for information hoarding. A co-worker may withhold information in an attempt to spare their co-workers from dealing with an unpleasant or tedious situation that they themselves are willing to endure.

Perhaps information isn't being hoarded. Perhaps it isn't known to the person possessing it that what they have might be useful to somebody else. Perhaps the information is thought to be proprietary when, in fact, it is not.

By being able to recognize and understand the phenomenon of information hoarding in ourselves or in others, we are better equipped to build environments where collaboration flourishes and results in a successful team!

Submissions Requested

Are you interested in sharing your knowledge with the rest of the student body? Have you attended any conferences or taken an interesting or worthwhile class outside of the department? Would you care to review nearby bars for us? Send your Silverfish submissions to

Edited by Michael Harkovitch

Silverfish Web Design by John W.N. Buell