Purpose In contrast to the interest of describing and managing the social processes of knowing, information science and information and knowledge management research have put less emphasis on discussing how particular information becomes usable and how it is used in different contexts and situations. The purpose of this paper is to address this major gap, and introduce and discuss the applicability of the notion of situational appropriation of information for shedding light on this particular process in the context of daily information work practices of professionals. Design/methodology/approach The study is based on the analysis of 25 qualitative interviews of archives, library and museum professionals conducted in two Nordic countries. Findings The study presents examples of how individuals appropriate different tangible and intangible assets as information on the basis of the situation in hand. Research limitations/implications The study proposes a new conceptual tool for articulating and conducting research on the process how information becomes useful in the situation in hand. Practical implications The situational appropriation of information perspective redefines the role of information management to incorporate a comprehensive awareness of the situations when information is useful and is being used. A better understanding how information becomes useful in diverse situations helps to discern the active role of contextual and situational effects and to exploit and take them into account as a part of the management of information and knowledge processes. Originality/value In contrast to orthodoxies of information science and information and knowledge management research, the notion of situational appropriation of information represents an alternative approach to the conceptualisation of information utilisation. It helps to frame particular types of instances of information use that are not necessarily addressed within the objectivistic, information seeker or learning oriented paradigms of information and knowledge management.