REVIEWS: Library and Information Science Research
Electronic Journal ISSN 1058-6768
2008 Volume 18 Issue 2; September
Bi-annual LIBRES18N2 REVIEWS
in this issue:
Dougherty, Richard M. (2008) Streamlining Library Services: What We Do, How Much Time It Takes, What It Costs, How We Can Do It Better.
Gavin, Christy. Teaching Information Literacy : A Conceptual Approach.
Hernon, Peter, and Rossiter, Nancy, eds. (2007) Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries.
Morrison, Andrea M. (Ed.) (2008) Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries: Issues and Practices.
Smallwood, Carol (Ed). (2008). Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians.
Dougherty, Richard M. (2008) Streamlining Library Services: What We Do, How Much Time It Takes, What It Costs, How We Can Do It Better. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. 268 pp. ISBN: 0-8108-5198-6. $45.00.
Dougherty, library consultant and former Director of Libraries at University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley, provides a well-organized and most useful analysis of suggested ways a library can provide more efficient services for the public and a more efficient and well-run workplace for the staff.
This book is a new retitled third edition of the author’s former work, Scientific Management of Library Operations (1966, 1982). The new title reflects an emphasis on improving library services through analyzing and streamlining all aspects of library work, both on the technical and public service side, rather than on strictly the technical operations part of library work.
The work is full of useful charts and tables. Of particular note are the scope notes that appear at the beginning of each chapter. It is most helpful to the reader to be able to gain a quick overview of the coming chapter. The notes sections, conveniently placed at the end of each chapter, provide extra information and resources for further reading.
The book’s eighteen chapters are divided into six clearly defined sections. After an introduction to the different philosophies of management and a treatment of the impact of technology in Section One, in Section Two (Chapters 3,4 and 5), the author turns to a long list of suggested items in which a library might find some room for improvement. All areas from cataloging to circulation to reference are handled and within each area jobs, tasks and processes that might be good targets for streamlining are itemized. In Chapter Four, tools for diagnosis of problems are presented, along with explanations and examples of how a library might implement these tools to solve problems. Often, part of the process of streamlining is to conduct a study of existing circumstances and Chapter Five presents activities and processes that should be considered in preparation for such a study.
Section Three (Chapters 6 through 9) presents an in-depth discussion of the tools that can be used to analyze workflows and processes. An impressive array of charts and diagrams that are presented with an extreme amount of clarity fill much of this section. This section also addresses the use of paper forms and templates.
Section Four (Chapters 10 through 13) deals with the issue of time. Methods of collecting time data, such as tracking systems, diary studies, work sampling, and direct time studies are the topics of these chapters.
Section Five addresses the all-important topic of money: how much it will cost the library to implement many of these streamlining techniques. For those who are much more familiar with the public service aspect of library work and not so confident with the ins and outs of accounting, this chapter, in addition to providing an overview of procedures for conducting cost studies, also has a section explaining some of the terminology of the budgeting process. It really does make the whole process seem very understandable.
Section Six (Chapters 15 through 18) deals with the topics of assessment and review of changes that have been implemented or are being considered. Another topic covered here is the involvement of staff, and also strategies to get staff involved in the kind of decision-making that is inherent when any kind of change is imminent.
This book should be a welcome addition to the collection of any library interested in cutting out unwanted procedures, unnecessary paperwork, and saving time and money while adding to the efficiency of the operations of the library. The emphasis is on doing the best job possible with the most efficient use of tools and techniques.
Citrus College Library
Gavin, Christy. Teaching Information Literacy : A Conceptual Approach. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 229 pp. ISBN: 0-8108-5202-0. $45.00.
Many books on information literacy give background information or suggestions for practical activities but few combine the two so expertly as Ms. Gavin does in Teaching Information Literacy. As a new librarian about to teach my first library instruction classes, I have been combing through the literature for resources and recently happened upon this gem of a book which is much more comprehensive than its 227 page length would suggest.
The author’s conceptual aim is achieved by including background information and experiential anecdotes along with activities and objectives. Chapters are arranged in the standard progression of a research paper, with the selection of a topic, and developing a thesis statement explained in the first two chapters. Ensuing chapters address Boolean search strategies, periodicals, databases, catalogs, book reviews and web resources.
Each chapter focuses on a particular area of instruction in a systematic manner beginning with goals, such as in Chapter 3, the goal for Boolean search strategies: "To retrieve a set of highly relevant references," and attainable objectives; e.g. Objective 1: "Construct a Boolean search strategy" and Objective 2: "Apply a Boolean strategy to locate resources in major bibliographic databases." Definitions of terms and current attitudes are addressed. Each chapter is also accented by interesting and poignant quotes, such as in chapter 9: Searching the Web, in an anthropomorphic vein, “If students are unclear in their own minds of what they want, they will translate their lack of clarity to the search engine, which in turn, will respond with confused results.”
Additional tools, included in each chapter, are single and multiple session class activities, instructor guides, handouts and exercises, assessment tools, helpful websites (one example for verifying the authority of websites, in chapter 10 is HON or the Health on the Net website, http://www.hon.ch/, which certifies medical and health websites) and bibliographic information.
Each chapter includes helpful teaching tips and should be read carefully as they are often hidden within paragraphs (e.g. “constructing a logical query is easier if the searcher knows something of the topic being searched as well as the unique “lingo” associated with it....encourage students to keep a running list of special terms they run across in their reading.”
I appreciated the author’s willingness to make authoritative statements, such as, when trying to choose the “right” database for a particular search, she advises in chapter 5 (p.85), “When in doubt consult a multidisciplinary database first”; this may be old news to experienced librarians but it was helpful to a newbie.
New teachers are often given many options but few suggestions. In Teaching Information Literacy, Christy Gavin serves as an information literacy mentor offering practical suggestions backed by years of experience which can benefit all information literacy instructors in the ever changing digital information environment.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Hernon, Peter, and Rossiter, Nancy, eds. (2007) Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. 300pp. ISBN 1-59158-291-1. $49.50.
Making a Difference: Leadership and Academic Libraries is an excellent book comprised of eighteen chapters on a wide range of topics. The two editors are professors at the Simmons College, Graduate School of Library Science, and contributors include not only professors but also university library directors and other academics who have written widely in this area. This book is a particularly important one because there has not been a great deal written on leadership in the academic library setting.
This book was written as a companion volume to The Next Library Leadership, which was published in 2003. This earlier work focused on the characteristics of public and academic library directors, while Making a Difference is both narrower and broader in scope. It is narrower in that it focuses only on the academic setting, and it is broader in that it considers academic leadership in a larger context. The discussion in this work addresses not only attributes of academic leaders but also many other elements.
The eighteen chapters cover such topics as contemporary academic librarianship, necessity for library leadership, modeling leadership theories, LIS leadership literature, global leadership, library directors and leadership, leadership effectiveness, diversity and leadership, ineffective leadership, and leadership skills. Additional chapter topics include 360-assessment of leaders, preparation of library leaders and managerial leadership. Taken as a whole, the chapters provide consider academic library leadership from an impressive array of perspectives.
One problem with a work comprised of chapters by different authors is the unevenness of quality. Additionally, this type of book can have material that is repeated in separate chapters. While there is some unevenness of quality and a bit of repetition, these are not significant problems. The chapters as a whole are helpful and well-written, and the topics are diverse enough to involve little overlap in material. While obviously some chapters are stronger than others, there are no chapters of poor quality.
Making a Difference is an excellent resource for academic librarians interested in learning about library leadership as well as library directors already in leadership positions. Additionally, this book would be an excellent textbook for an MLIS course in library leadership. Academic libraries should purchase this book not only with librarians in mind, but also for students interested in leadership in general.
Doctoral Research and Reference Librarian
Dallas Baptist University
Morrison, Andrea M. (Ed.) (2008) Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries: Issues and Practices. Chicago: American Library Association. 240pp. ISBN: 10: 0-8389-0954-X 13: 978-0-8389-0954-6. $55 ($49.50 ALA Member Price)
Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries provides an introduction to the major issues in the management and provision of local, state, federal, and international government information in the modern electronic environment. Government information is increasingly available in electronic formats, either as a format option in addition to print or as born-digital information. Electronic government (e-government) information can take many forms, from PDF versions of the Congressional Record to information posted to a web site. Organizing, providing access to, and preserving e-government information presents a unique set of challenges for librarians. This book does an excellent job of addressing those issues and more.
Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries is edited by Andrea M. Morrison and is a publication of GODORT, the American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table. The chapters are contributed by government information experts, many of whom are affiliated with Federal Depository Libraries. The book is written in a way that is easy for the non-specialist to understand and follow, and yet it does not sacrifice detail that can be helpful to government information specialists. It is designed as a handbook that can be read as a whole for an overview of the issue or as individual chapters for reference on a topic.
The book is divided into two parts. The first, “Issues,” is a brief treatment of background issues in government information. It reviews the history of government information and how we got to where we are now, and covers current trends in the field. Issues addressed in the first part include, but are not limited to, a review of Federal Government information policy, the impact of technology on managing access to government information in libraries, and e-government information for children and young adults.
The second part of the book, “Practices,” is a discussion, with examples and best practices, of the different aspects of managing government information and of the various types of e-government information one might encounter. Aspects of management addressed in the book include cataloging and bibliographic control of e-government resources, reference and instruction with e-government information, and the digital preservation of e-government information. Types of information reviewed in the book include state, international organization, and foreign government information.
While Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries is very informative and provides a number of helpful examples, the real theme of the book is that librarians must adapt to a new paradigm in the accessibility of government information (and information in the broader sense). The book acknowledges that government information isn’t as unique and mysterious a discipline as it once was. Users no longer have to go to a depository library to access most government information; now they can find it on the internet and access it without librarian involvement. But with the volume of government information floating around the internet, do people understand and recognize what they are seeing? Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries makes a compelling case for implementing the strategies it describes so that librarians can continue to provide a valuable service in a primarily e-government information environment.
The context of Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries is e-government information, but the book is informative on two levels. First, as a guide with specific examples and suggestions for the practitioner (i.e. a technical services librarian), and second, as a learning tool to gain a working understanding of the issues involved in the provision and management of e-government information. The issues facing the government information world are the same ones facing libraries in general. Most chapters in the book offer a review of the broader topic at hand (such as bibliographic control) and then enter into a more specific discussion of the application of the issue to government information. It can be beneficial to a public services librarian, for example, to have a working understanding of the issues in bibliographic control so they can understand what is involved in that part of the provision of e-government information.
Electronic government information is accessible to anyone, not just librarians and patrons at federal depository libraries. Public libraries, for example, are increasingly becoming centers for access to electronic government information and services. Many academic libraries are merging government information services into general reference. Managing Electronic Government Information in Libraries is a valuable tool for anyone whose library serves students or the public in any capacity. It is recommended specifically for managers of documents collections, library administrators, public services librarians of all kinds, and technical services librarians involved in the management of government information.
Social Sciences and Government Documents Reference Librarian
Eastern Washington University
Smallwood, Carol (Ed). (2008). Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Co., Inc., Publishers. 285pp. ISBN: 0978-0786435753. $45.00.
No matter the particular type of library/information professional that might happen to pick up this title, that professional will find something useful and inspiring between its covers to bring into the workplace. Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians combines the perspectives and wisdom of 73 professionals with as many different backgrounds and responsibilities to achieve a well-rounded and practical discussion of topics that concern information professionals, of any and all expert levels, in the current, dynamic information environment. The informal tone taken on by these contributors serves to create the feeling of an intimate discussion taking place among supportive colleagues; indeed, this seems to be just what is occurring within the pages of this book.
As a collection of short, direct essays focusing on issues that impact the information professional of the 21st century, Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians represents an ideal resource for the busy library practitioner. These essays, divided into 20 sections, discuss issues that can exist within any library setting; however, each essay contextualizes a particular issue in such a way that the reader can immediately grasp the idea, thought process, and action taken by each of the professionals sharing their experiences Although some of the ideas discussed within this volume may not really be “innovative” or even new, again the informal tone of each of the contributors serves to highlight what made a particular venture “innovative” for a specific professional or professional environment.
Another quality of this resource that makes it particularly attractive to busy professionals is its practical way of dealing with its subject matter. In the section focusing on “The Internet,” discussions surrounding “non-traditional” ideas, such as creating a MySpace page for a library building or a wiki for a group of library staff members, include acknowledgments of possible drawbacks and reasons why many libraries may be reluctant to employ these technologies. However, each essay also includes a number of positive examples that demonstrate the potential for success in each of these ideas. Candid in their discussions of the result of their experiences, nearly every contributor includes a how-to guide and an explanation of what makes a particular idea succeed.
This book also creates an “innovative” reading experience of its own by addressing issues outside of their usual context. For example, the section on “The Writing World” includes ideas that stretch far beyond the expected scope of explaining how to publish scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals or write chapters in books published by a library press. In this section, librarians of all varieties are encouraged to think about writing a regular newspaper column; similarly, an academic librarian waxes poetic about writing poetry and a public librarian describes her experiences marketing her first non-library publication to local bookstores. In another innovative construction, contributors to this book end up sharing not only professional experiences but also personal ones; an entire section dedicated to “Librarians Helping Abroad” describes the personal growth and continued education that several professionals experienced during international library and non-library jobs alike.
Finally, several of the sections within this title focus on the idea of collaboration between various types of libraries or community groups. Because of the diversity of the contributors to this book, Thinking Outside the Book beautifully demonstrates the inspiration that can occur when ideas are exchanged in a supportive environment. In fact, this very book review was inspired by such an exchange of ideas in the “Continuing to Learn” section where the point was made that “librarians have a responsibility to the field…to contribute to the literature in this way” (p. 247). This book clearly hopes to inspire many such instances of creation and collaboration; the practical nature and organization of the essays make this inspiration a distinct possibility.
Rebecca K. Miller
Digital Technologies & Information Literacy Librarian
Louisiana State University