February 17, 2018

Kristin Eschenfelder | Movers & Shakers 2005

Show Me the Data


Many librarians have been concerned with the unintended consequences of new technologies, but Kristin Eschenfelder – librarian, scholar, and social scientist – gathers the data to enable rational policy decisions about technology’s ramifications.

As assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at University of Wisconsin – Madison (UWM), Eschenfelder studies information systems from a social perspective. The school’s director, Louise Robbins, says Eschenfelder “is not yet well known, but she will be. She uses a social informatics framework to look at web-based information and information policies, particularly in state and federal government. She is beginning to draw the interest of the American Library Association Washington office for her research.”

Living in Wisconsin’s capital, Eschenfelder has a laboratory at hand for one of her key interests: current practices in capturing, evaluating, and selecting state government electronic documents for web-based permanent public access. Her research aims to develop best practices information for document librarians, which the Government Documents Round Table has gratefully acknowledged by subsidizing her research.

Eschenfelder assigns SLIS students to work on state government information problems. Her class has redesigned state web sites and made policy recommendations for the management of Wisconsin’s .gov domain names. This past fall, students in her seminar on Information Policy, Management, and Institutions explored policy problems in the relationship among publishers of scholarly academic journals, academia itself, copyright and antitrust laws, and libraries – issues like “the big deal” electronic journal packages.

She says she backed into the profession, explaining that she got interested in interface design because of bad systems. When she complained about them, a work-study student told her that in the LIS program they studied how to create better interfaces. That did the trick.

Eschenfelder began to understand that library science was “a great base from which to try and tackle big questions, like how web publishing by government agencies changes our expectations about what information they should provide and how they should be governed, or how changing control practices for information affects culture and society.”

That was right up her alley. Eschenfelder says, “I’ve always been a wanna-be wonk. I subscribed to the New Republic and Foreign Affairs when I was 16. I like to get stuff done.”

Stay tuned. Your policy issues are in her pipeline.



Current Position Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Degree Ph.D., Information Transfer, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, 2000

Honor GODORT’s Newsbank/Readerx/Catherine J. Reynolds Award, 2004

Books or Crops? A career affinity test suggested she should be a librarian or a farmer