REVIEWS: Library and Information Science Research
Electronic Journal ISSN 1058-6768
2004 Volume 14 Issue 2; September

in this issue:

Christopher, ConnieEmpowering Your Library:  A Guide to Improving Library Service, Productivity & Participation.  (2003) Reviewed by Jeanine Akers

Davidsen, S. and Yankee, E. (2004).  Web Site Design with the Patron in Mind: A Step-by-Step Guide forLlibraries.  Reviewed by Doris Munson

Eden, Bradford Lee (Ed.) Innovative Redesign and Reorganization of Library Technical Services: Paths for the Future and Case Studies.  (2004) Reviewed by Mary Beth Weber

Roberts, Tim S.,edOnline Collaborative Learning:  Theory and Practice.  Hershey, PA:  Information Science Publishing.  (2004).  ISBN 1-59140-174-7 (hardcover); ISBN 1-59140-175-5 (ebook); ISBN 1-59140-227-1 (pbk.).


Christopher, Connie.  Empowering Your Library:  A Guide to Improving Library Service, Productivity & Participation.  (2003)  Chicago: American Library Association.  75 pp.  ISBN 0-8389-0858-6.  $30.00.

Beginning with the argument that staff is the most underutilized resource in many libraries, Connie Christopher contends that empowerment is the best way to "maximize existing human resources."  The book is divided into three segments.  The first is devoted to "Empowerment Rationale" and its one chapter makes a strong case for empowerment as a means of helping libraries remain viable amidst competition for funding, customers, and staff.  The bulk of the book is in Part II, which is titled "Making it Happen" and its seven chapters are comprised of the areas that Christopher sees as essential in developing an empowered library.  In Part III, Building for the Future, she looks specifically at "Empowered Library Leadership."   

Throughout the book's slim 75 pages and short, easy to read chapters, Christopher weaves together theory and practice by incorporating and summarizing numerous important works on management and leadership by authors like Peter Drucker and Peter  Block and applying them to the library environment.  Though highly motivated by the idea of empowerment, the author herself admits that it is a term that can be overused and little understood and that there is no formula to be followed that will guarantee this type of organization.  She does not provide a recipe for an empowered library, but discusses the components that are most likely to lead to such a result. 

She begins with the ideas presented in Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline and suggests that if libraries become learning organizations in which all employees enter into a cycle of continuous learning the conditions will be much more favorable for empowerment and thus viability and success.  From there, she moves onto motivation and discusses how Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y, and Frederick Herzberg's findings on motivation theory can be applied to library settings.  In a chapter titled "Excellent Communication" she highlights the importance of "walking the talk" and provides information on active listening, biases, and issues surrounding non-verbal communication.  In chapter five she outlines how a shared vision will increase both motivation and communication and suggests a developmental approach adapted from The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook and recommends analyzing and working to raise the level of trust in your library. 

In chapter six, Christopher discusses the role of administrative units, and in her vision of an empowered library traditional hierarchies are replaced with teams.  Managers jobs are to coordinate and facilitate, share information, coach, provide feedback, lead strategic planning efforts, consider innovation and outreach, provide training and resources, and celebrate successes.  She turns to the literature of team management in chapter 7 and focuses particularly on the work of J. Richard Hackman author of Leading Teams:  Setting the Stage for Great Performances.  To ensure a successful team environment, Christopher notes the importance of emotional intelligence in the creation of a harmonious and productive workplace and uses the writings of Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee as a guide for understanding and improving workplace emotional intelligence.  The book's final chapter provides potential obstacles and advice about implementing the ideas in this book toward the creation of an empowered library. 

Each chapter provides useful checklists, tables, and analytical quizzes that will assist readers in considering empowerment theory in their own organizations.  The questions and checklists provide frameworks for the reader to begin analyzing how their library measures up in the various areas. 

Empowering Your Library covers a numerous topics discussed in the literature of leadership and management today, but provides only a brief introduction to the areas.  Its aim is to be a guide through this dense discipline and in many ways it succeeds as just that, offering basics applied directly to the library environment.  This book would be particularly useful for administrators considering a change who would like a quick overview of the major issues surrounding empowerment.  Library directors might consider providing a copy of this book to employees hired or promoted to department manager positions. However, for libraries seriously considering a major change to their management structure, further reading of the sources Christopher cites would be necessary.

Jeanine Akers
Instructional Services Librarian
University of Memphis



Davidsen, S. and Yankee, E. (2004).  Web Site Design with the Patron in Mind: A Step-by-Step Guide forLlibraries.  Chicago: American Library Association.

Web site design with the patron in mind outlines a process of designing or redesigning a web site that focuses on what library patrons want. A well-designed web site steers patrons towards quality information and creates support for the library.

The assumption is that a library already has a web site and wants to redesign it. The language is non-technical -- technical aspects are left for other books to cover. As the authors note, their design process has stood the test of time while the technical aspects change frequently.

The approach to web site design is systematic and broken down into phases: analysis, redesign and implementation, and evaluation. Each chapter starts with its purpose and ends with a checklist of steps to follow. Chapter three summarizes the phases and can be used as a checklist for new projects.

Tips are given on making design decisions and keeping the process focused. The basic premises are repeated when necessary, which gives good reinforcement of key points. Examples help illustrate how the process works. The needs of public, academic, and special libraries are covered.

One excellent recommendation is to create a goals statement to help make decisions and move the process along. The goals statement keeps the design focused on why you have a web site, what it will do, and who it is for. It is a good way to bring team members back on track when they get side-tracked or focus on the wrong issues.

Especially valuable to librarians are the chapters focusing on determining who your library patrons are and the chapter on understanding the patrons' goals. One type of patron cannot successfully navigate a web site if it is designed for a different type of patron. This is one of the features that sets this book apart from other more general books on web site design.

The authors understand that most librarians have more work than resources. While the process outlined in the book is for a complete design/redesign of a web site, ways to fix and improve an existing web site also are given. It is possible to slowly rebuild a web site by doing small fixes over a period of time. The advantages and disadvantages of easy fixes are discussed.

For the most part, terminology is explained as it is encountered. A helpful glossary is present but does not include all the key terms, such as "design," "redesign," "testing," and "evaluation."    Endnotes are found at the end of each chapter, with full citations given in the bibliography. The bibliography includes resources for those who want to learn more about usability. The index is easy to use and thorough.

Whether you are doing a complete redesign of a web site or have more moderate ambitions, Web Site Design with the Patron in Mind offers good suggestions on working through the process.

Doris Munson
Systems/Reference Librarian
Eastern Washington University



Eden, Bradford Lee (Ed.) Innovative Redesign and Reorganization of Library Technical Services: Paths for the Future and Case Studies.  (2004) Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.  480 pp.  ISBN 1-59158-092-7.  $45.00

Innovative Redesign and Reorganization of Library Technical Services: Paths for the Future and Case Studies is divided into two parts.  Part One discusses theoretical aspects of librarianship and examines the issues libraries and technical services operations are currently facing, such as budget cuts, shrinking staffs, soaring materials costs, and the evolving role of the cataloger.  Part Two provides case studies of 15 different technical services operations that have reorganized/redesigned themselves or have planned other ways to meet some of the challenges discussed in Part One.  The editor's introduction sets the tone for the book with a commentary on the state of affairs in librarianship with an emphasis on technical services.  Additionally, each chapter begins with an introduction and commentary by the editor.   Lastly, brief information about the contributors' careers and accomplishments is provided at the end of the book.

This text is a good starting point for individuals planning an examination of technical services operations or considering reorganization.  Chapter 1 provides a literature review, and numerous case studies offer readers a wealth of information.   Many chapters include supplemental materials used in an actual reorganization or redesign such as organizational charts and documents, and bibliographies are provided for each chapter.  The case studies in Part Two are limited to academic libraries, with two exceptions: the last two chapters are about challenges faced by the United States' National Cataloging and Indexing Program and a metadata repository located at Cornell University.  The writing styles in the book vary greatly from scholarly and third person to conversational and first person.  There are few surprises here and most academic libraries have encountered similar situations, such as moving from a hierarchical organization to a flat team-based approach, failure to fully exploit the advantages offered by automation, and how to provide timely access to resources with a decreased number of staff. 

Some of the highlights of this text include Chapter 6 "The Name and Role of the Cataloger in the Twenty-First Century" by Nadine P. Ellero, Chapter 9 "Workflow Analysis as a Basis for Organizational Redesign at McMaster University Library" by Cheryl Martin (possibly the best chapter in the book), Chapter 16 "Shifting Duties and Responsibilities of Technical Services Staff" by Karen Davis, Constance Demetracopoulos, and Daryle McEachern Maroney, and Chapter 17 "Technical Services Between Reality and Illusion: Reorganization in Technical Services at the Ohio State University Libraries- -Questions and Assessment" by Magda El-Sherbini.  These chapters provide an excellent analysis of relevant technical services issues and information that will greatly assist those considering an examination of existing technical services operations.  In contrast, it is unclear how Chapter 12 "Creating Career Paths for Cataloging Support Staff" by Karen M. Letarte, Charles Pennell, and Shirley Hamlett, fits into Part Two's theme of case studies.  It is an examination of the lack of career options for library support staff as well as a literature review on this topic, and perhaps should have been included in Part One of this text.  Lastly, with the exception of Chapter 21 "A Vision of the Future: Cornell University's Geospatial Information Repository (CUGIR)," there is little in-depth discussion of the role of metadata in technical services operations.  Most libraries, as well as technical services departments, have been touched by digital library initiatives and metadata in some way.   One of the thorny issues libraries must confront is the debate regarding the ability of MARC format and traditional cataloging practices to describe resources versus metadata and new approaches to providing access. 

This book is recommended for individuals with little or no experience in planning a reorganization of technical services and will offer no surprises or advice to seasoned individuals.  However, for those requiring guidance, it provides sufficient information to use as a starting point. 

Mary Beth Weber
Head of Cataloging
Rutgers University



Roberts, Tim S.,ed.  Online Collaborative Learning:  Theory and Practice.  Hershey, PA:  Information Science Publishing.  (2004).  ISBN 1-59140-174-7 (hardcover); ISBN 1-59140-175-5 (ebook); ISBN 1-59140-227-1 (pbk.). 

Higher education recognizes collaborative learning as a valuable educational tool; however, faculty and administrators may be challenged by the distinctive environment of computer-mediated learning.  These essays assembled by Tim S. Roberts (Central Queensland University) address online collaborative learning issues and offer suggestions for designing and implementing courses.  These issues include moving students beyond cooperative learning toward collaboration; managing group dynamics in the online environment; structuring learning activities to foster interdependence; methods for analyzing and evaluating online collaboration; and the enhancement of online dialogue.  Recognizing the infancy of online collaborative learning as a research discipline, these essays call for further investigation of the online teaching-learning environment.

Consistent with the dual focus of these published essays, the authors correlate research with the task of teaching online courses.  Readers should note Sue Bennett's "Supporting Collaborative Project Teams Using Computer-Based Technologies," especially the section "Implications for Practice" on pages 21-23; the essay "Moderating Learner-Centered E-Learning:  Problems and Solutions, Benefits and Implications" by Curtis J. Bonk, Robert A. Wisher and Ji-Yeon Lee; and "Thinking Out of a Bowl of Spaghetti:  Learning to Learn in Online Collaborative Groups" by John M. Dirkx and Regina O. Smith.  Throughout the book, the authors firmly anchor online pedagogical strategies on the results of extensive research.  More than a summary of current research, Online Collaborative Learning brings the insights of recent research to bear on critical issues in teaching online courses.

 Perhaps the best example of the integration of research and teaching can be found in Agnes Kukalska-Hulme's essay, "Do Online Collaborative Groups Need Leaders?"  Based on her review of recently published research, she emphasizes that "online groups do need guidance" (page 263).  She distinguishes between "cooperative learning" which is "teacher-centered, directed and controlled" and "collaborative learning" which "suggests ways of dealing with people that respects their abilities and contributions" (page 264).  Even in the work of collaboration, which requires a higher form of interaction than cooperation, "a group of learners can only go so far on its own" and "at some point there will be a need for a teacher's intervention" (page 265).  She provides insights into faculty development, group dynamics and leadership leadership behavior in several pertinent sections, as well as discussion on the impact of specific media on these aspects of online collaborative learning.

Joanne M. McInnerney and Tim S. Roberts elaborate on the distinction between "cooperative learning" and "collaborative learning" in their essay "Collaborative or Cooperative Learning?"  Through their review of recent literature, they reveal the confusion that often results when educators discuss these terms.  In separate sections, the authors thoroughly discuss the distinctive characteristics of each type of learning and base their findings on the research literature.  McInnerney and Roberts conclude their discussion with practical suggestions for implementing online collaborative learning—and again, their suggestions are grounded in the research literature.

Online Collaborative Learning models the reform movements in higher education that endeavor to improve teaching through research-based instruction and curriculum design.  Essential for professional libraries of educators involved with online courses and for academic libraries that support online degree programs.

Barry W. Hamilton, Ph.D.
Theological Librarian
Northeastern Seminary