The role of information in the migration experience of young Polish women in the UK

Publication Date13 February 2020
Date13 February 2020
AuthorMelanie Benson Marshall,Andrew Cox,Briony Birdi
SubjectLibrary & information science,Records management & preservation,Document management,Classification & cataloguing,Information behaviour & retrieval,Collection building & management,Scholarly communications/publishing,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management,Information & communications technology,Internet
The role of information in the
migration experience of young
Polish women in the UK
Melanie Benson Marshall, Andrew Cox and Briony Birdi
Information School, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Purpose Since Polands accession to the European Union in 2004, migration from Poland to the UK has
increased substantially. These migrants are generally young and highly educated, and are migrating for
reasons of economic improvement and self-fulfilment. Manyare women migrating independently, an emerging
trend in migration in general. Information behaviour research around migration has tended to focus on
populations such as refugees; less research has been done on the information behaviour of economic migrants.
This paper, therefore, investigates the role of information in the migration experienceof youngPolish womenin
the UK.
Design/methodology/approach This study takes an interpretivist, constructionist perspective. An
exploratory study was conducted, involving expert and pilot interviews and analysis of secondary data. In the
main study, 21 participants were interviewed using a semi-structured technique. Data were analysed
Findings The paper provides insights into the information behaviour and experience of this migrant group.
They were found to be confident and successful information users, partly because their migration was planned,
their language skills were high and cultural differences from their host country were not substantial. Weak ties
were an important source of information.The paper contextualises these findings against previous research on
migration in information science, and presents a model of the underlying factors shaping the relationship
between migration and information behaviour.
Originality/value The paper examines the migration experience of a relatively understudied group,
drawing attention to a broader range of experience and demonstrating that a wider conceptualisation of
migration is required in information behaviour. It presents a model of key factors shaping information
behaviour around migration, which is relevant not only to the information field, but also to a wider range of
areas. It also delivers practical recommendations for migrants and those working with them.
Keywords Migration, Information literacy, Information behaviour, Information practices, Refugees,
Economic migrants
Paper type Research paper
In 2018, a total of 244 million people, 3.3 per cent of the worlds population, were international
migrants (IOM, 2018); within the UK, the number of foreign-born residents increased to over
9.3 million, 13.9 per cent of the population and over double the 1993 figure (ONS, 2019).
The migration experience and process of settlement varies greatly between groups, some of
which have received more attention than others, both in popular media and in various fields
of academic literature. There is a significant global population of refugees and displaced
migrants (UNHCR, 2018), and extensive coverage of this group, particularly in recent years,
has shaped perceptions of what the migration experience is, the characteristics of a migrant
and wider issues surrounding migration. However, the refugee community is only one part of
a larger migrational population. Many migrants choose to move internationally for economic
improvement or to join family, and the experience of these groups is quite different from that
of the refugee.
Since the accession of Poland to the European Union (EU) in 2004, the number of Poles
moving to the UK has substantially increased, to almost one million by 2018 (ONS, 2019).
While the Polish population in the UK is long established, particularly following the Second
Role of
information in
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 14 August 2019
Revised 17 January 2020
Accepted 18 January 2020
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 76 No. 4, 2020
pp. 849-868
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JD-08-2019-0158
World War, the experience of the post-accession generation of Poles has been quite different
(Bielewska, 2012). The demographic profile of post-accession migrants is generally young
and highly educated, and they have migrated for largely economic reasons (Fihel and
Kaczmarczyk, 2009), although their migration narratives are often complex, nuanced and
multifaceted, and economic improvement is often not the sole motivation (Ryan, 2015;
nczyk-Ruiz, 2008;White, 2010).
Additionally, the increase in the number of Polish women migrating, often solo rather than
in conjunction with a family, reflects wider global trends towards the feminisation of
migration (Gabaccia, 2016) and the changing motivations, experiences and issues faced by
women migrants. Potential reasons for female migration encompass a wide range of social,
economic and political factors (Maldonado and Brock, 2017;Currie, 2009;Coyle, 2007;Donato;
Gabaccia, 2015). Female migration from Poland is no new phenomenon, but there is evidence
to suggest that the shift from communism to capitalism, coupled with a new wave of social
conservativism in Poland, has influenced young Polish women to seek employment and
personal fulfilment abroad (Aziz, 2015;Coyle, 2007).
Justification for the present study: a new focus on economic migrants
During the process of migration, migrantsknowledge bases and information behaviours
often become disrupted and fragmented, which, upon arrival, must be reconstructed through
re-engagement with new sources and types of information. Migrants must establish the
characteristics of their new information landscape and learn how to navigate it; the ease of
accomplishing this is influenced by many factors. There is also an array of information needs
at different stages, from practical matters of accommodation and employment to less tangible
needs such as feeling connected to new (and old) communities, dealing with status loss and
questions of identity (Caidi et al., 2010;Pumariega et al., 2005;Rayes et al., 2016;Borkert et al.,
2018;Fisher et al., 2004a). Increased migration also places pressures on the host country.
All of this makes it imperative to study the needs of migrants and how they might be met
(Rutter and Latorre, 2009;Wilson, 2010). Previous research suggests that migrants may have
distinct information behaviours, such as preferring interpersonal sources (Khoir et al., 2015;
Caidi et al., 2010;Kennan et al., 2011;Ryan et al., 2008) or seeking out connections based on
shared ethnicity, common interests or simply feeling oneself to be in a minority (Fisher et al.,
2007). These information needs and behaviours have been examined intensively for refugees
(Lamb, 2007;Melnyk, 2017;Nekesa Akullo; Odong, 2017;Shankar et al., 2016;Lloyd and
Wilkinson, 2016,2019;Lloyd, 2014,2016;Lloyd et al., 2013), but few studies have been
undertaken regarding economic migrants in general, and even fewer addressing the
Eastern European population in the UK. With the UKs decision to leave the EU and the
associated focus on migration rights and patterns, examination of this communitys
information behaviour around their migratory experience becomes even more timely.
The population of young economic migrants (who are often highly skilled) from Poland to the
UK has been studied in depth in fields such as sociology and geography, but in the Library
and Information Science (LIS) field, there has been no research into the experience of
this group.
The information literature, while giving some attention to economic migrants, tends to
foreground the experience of the refugee. Against the backdrop of a worldwide refugee crisis,
it is clearly important to study this groups circumstances and how their situation manifests
in their information behaviour. However, much can be learned from studying other groups of
migrants, such as those in this study, and setting their experience against the refugee
The aims of this study are, therefore, to provide insight into the information behaviour of
young Polish women migrating to the UK; to contextualise this against the information
behaviour of another group, namely refugees; and, finally, to present a model of the

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