Ruthven, Ian and Kelly, Diane (eds). Interactive information seeking, behaviour and retrieval. London: Facet Publishing, 2011. 269 p. ISBN: 978-1-85604-707-4. £44.95

According to Baeza-Yates and Ribeiro-Neto information retrieval

is a broad area of Computer Science focused primarily on providing the users with easy access to information of their interest… It deals with the representation, storage, organization of, and access to information items such as documents, Web pages, online catalogs, structured and semi-structured records, and multimedia objects. The representation and organization of the information items should be such as to provide the users with easy access to information of their interest' (Baeza-Yates and Ribeiro-Neto 1999: 1).
This book provides an overview of the different specialties that comprise interactive information retrieval, in other words it demonstrates how studies of human behaviour and cognition can be used to design and evaluate systems that can directly improve our ability to manage complex information environments, and presents students with a textbook on interactive information retrieval and its debates, theories and issues. It is a natural successor to Ingwersen and Järvelin's (2005) The Turn, which postulated the need for integration of system and human centred information system studies.

Chapter 1, named Interactive information retrieval: history and background, which is written jointly by Colleen Cool and Nicholas J. Belkin provides the reader with a retrospective approach which gives us useful background and foundational information in relation to interactive information retrieval. The discussion begins with the coinage of the term 'information retrieval' by Mooers in 1950 to the emergence of human-computer interaction in information retrieval systems initiated by Bennett in 1971. Then, the cognitive viewpoint and conceptual development of interactive information retrieval first articulated in the mid 1970s and developing greater force since the 1980s is reviewed. The authors conclude that

today the IIR [interactive information retrieval] paradigm is one of the guiding frameworks in IR research, with some evidence suggesting there has been a reconciliation of the Computer Science and Library and Information Science approaches within this framework (p. 14).

Twelve additional chapters are dedicated to central dimensions of the interactive information retrieval paradigm. Some chapters are dedicated to the system side of interaction (i.e. Information representation by Smucker, Access models by Rasmussen and Multimedia: information representation and access by Little, Brown and Rüger), but these should in no way scare the 'soft' reader. The book also covers such topics as information seeking models (by Peiling Wang), methodological approaches (Raya Fidel) and information retrieval system evaluation (Kalervo Järvelin). Max Wilson (Interfaces for information retrieval), Ryen White (Interactive techniques), Jaime Teevan and Susan Dumais (Web retrieval, ranking and personalization) and Nichols, and Twidale (Recommendation, collaboration and social search) have all provided chapters on the different attempts from systems to facilitate more efficient retrieval. Being a 'hot' topic, task-based information searching and retrieval is covered in a chapter by Elaine Toms. Little and Rüger are the only two authors appearing twice, in cooperation with Haiming Liu they have also written about Multimedia: behavior, interfaces and interaction.

The chapters are well written, targeted at students on all levels, from bachelor to PhD. We are in no doubt that the content of this book may well fit in many information science curricula. One of the strong points of this book is its ease of reading and understanding because the editors have properly observed the coherency among the chapters, making references to related chapters in the text. Here and there the authors are a little shallow in treating the theories and concepts they present, e.g., Wang's presentation of Savolainen's everyday life information seeking model. This is a problem of the genre, and emphasizes the need for combining text books with primary sources. A more serious flaw is that the book lacks a closing chapter in which some remarks, future horizons and further research are highlighted. Its foreword (written by Tefko Saracevic) and preface (written by the editors) to a certain degree compensates such a need. Also, it would have benefitted from having a final informative glossary defining and describing the central IIR terms. These small points noted, we believe it is a book of value to both students and their teachers.


Baeza-Yates, R. & Ribeiro-Neto, B. (1999). Modern Information Retrieval. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Ingwersen, P. & Järvelin, K. (2005). The Turn. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

Alireza Isfandyari-Moghaddam
Department of Library and Information Studies
Hamedan Branch, Islamic Azad University

Nils Pharo
Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
November, 2011