Document (#33798)

Editor
Block, M.
Title
Net effects : how librarians can manage the unintended consequenees of the Internet
Imprint
Medford, NJ : Information Today
Year
2003
Pages
xiii, 380 S
Isbn
1-57387-171-0
Abstract
In this collection of nearly 50 articles written by librarians, computer specialists, and other information professionals, the reader finds 10 chapters, each devoted to a problem or a side effect that has emerged since the introduction of the Internet: control over selection, survival of the book, training users, adapting to users' expectations, access issues, cost of technology, continuous retraining, legal issues, disappearing data, and how to avoid becoming blind sided. After stating a problem, each chapter offers solutions that are subsequently supported by articles. The editor's comments, which appear throughout the text, are an added bonus, as are the sections concluding the book, among them a listing of useful URLs, a works-cited section, and a comprehensive index. This book has much to recommend it, especially the articles, which are not only informative, thought-provoking, and interesting but highly readable and accessible as well. An indispensable tool for all librarians.
Footnote
Rez. in: JASIST 55(2004) no.11, S.1025-1026 (D.E. Agosto): ""Did you ever feel as though the Internet has caused you to lose control of your library?" So begins the introduction to this volume of over 50 articles, essays, library policies, and other documents from a variety of sources, most of which are library journals aimed at practitioners. Volume editor Block has a long history of library service as well as an active career as an online journalist. From 1977 to 1999 she was the Associate Director of Public Services at the St. Ambrose University library in Davenport, Iowa. She was also a Fox News Online weekly columnist from 1998 to 2000. She currently writes for and publishes the weekly ezine Exlibris, which focuses an the use of computers, the Internet, and digital databases to improve library services. Despite the promising premise of this book, the final product is largely a disappointment because of the superficial coverage of its issues. A listing of the most frequently represented sources serves to express the general level and style of the entries: nine articles are reprinted from Computers in Libraries, five from Library Journal, four from Library Journal NetConnect, four from ExLibris, four from American Libraries, three from College & Research Libraries News, two from Online, and two from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Most of the authors included contributed only one item, although Roy Tennant (manager of the California Digital Library) authored three of the pieces, and Janet L. Balas (library information systems specialist at the Monroeville Public Library in Pennsylvania) and Karen G. Schneider (coordinator of lii.org, the Librarians' Index to the Internet) each wrote two. Volume editor Block herself wrote six of the entries, most of which have been reprinted from ExLibris. Reading the volume is muck like reading an issue of one of these journals-a pleasant experience that discusses issues in the field without presenting much research. Net Effects doesn't offer much in the way of theory or research, but then again it doesn't claim to. Instead, it claims to be an "idea book" (p. 5) with practical solutions to Internet-generated library problems. While the idea is a good one, little of the material is revolutionary or surprising (or even very creative), and most of the solutions offered will already be familiar to most of the book's intended audience.
Unlike muck of the professional library literature, Net Effects is not an open-aimed embrace of technology. Block even suggests that it is helpful to have a Luddite or two an each library staff to identify the setbacks associated with technological advances in the library. Each of the book's 10 chapters deals with one Internet-related problem, such as "Chapter 4-The Shifted Librarian: Adapting to the Changing Expectations of Our Wired (and Wireless) Users," or "Chapter 8-Up to Our Ears in Lawyers: Legal Issues Posed by the Net." For each of these 10 problems, multiple solutions are offered. For example, for "Chapter 9-Disappearing Data," four solutions are offered. These include "Link-checking," "Have a technological disaster plan," "Advise legislators an the impact proposed laws will have," and "Standards for preservation of digital information." One article is given to explicate each of these four solutions. A short bibliography of recommended further reading is also included for each chapter. Block provides a short introduction to each chapter, and she comments an many of the entries. Some of these comments seem to be intended to provide a research basis for the proposed solutions, but they tend to be vague generalizations without citations, such as, "We know from research that students would rather ask each other for help than go to adults. We can use that (p. 91 )." The original publication dates of the entries range from 1997 to 2002, with the bulk falling into the 2000-2002 range. At up to 6 years old, some of the articles seem outdated, such as a 2000 news brief announcing the creation of the first "customizable" public library Web site (www.brarydog.net). These critiques are not intended to dismiss the volume entirely. Some of the entries are likely to find receptive audiences, such as a nuts-and-bolts instructive article for making Web sites accessible to people with disabilities. "Providing Equitable Access," by Cheryl H. Kirkpatrick and Catherine Buck Morgan, offers very specific instructions, such as how to renovate OPAL workstations to suit users with "a wide range of functional impairments." It also includes a useful list of 15 things to do to make a Web site readable to most people with disabilities, such as, "You can use empty (alt) tags (alt="') for images that serve a purely decorative function. Screen readers will skip empty (alt) tags" (p. 157). Information at this level of specificity can be helpful to those who are faced with creating a technological solution for which they lack sufficient technical knowledge or training.
Some of the pieces are more captivating than others and less "how-to" in nature, providing contextual discussions as well as pragmatic advice. For example, Darlene Fichter's "Blogging Your Life Away" is an interesting discussion about creating and maintaining blogs. (For those unfamiliar with the term, blogs are frequently updated Web pages that ]ist thematically tied annotated links or lists, such as a blog of "Great Websites of the Week" or of "Fun Things to Do This Month in Patterson, New Jersey.") Fichter's article includes descriptions of sample blogs and a comparison of commercially available blog creation software. Another article of note is Kelly Broughton's detailed account of her library's experiences in initiating Web-based reference in an academic library. "Our Experiment in Online Real-Time Reference" details the decisions and issues that the Jerome Library staff at Bowling Green State University faced in setting up a chat reference service. It might be useful to those finding themselves in the same situation. This volume is at its best when it eschews pragmatic information and delves into the deeper, less ephemeral libraryrelated issues created by the rise of the Internet and of the Web. One of the most thought-provoking topics covered is the issue of "the serials pricing crisis," or the increase in subscription prices to journals that publish scholarly work. The pros and cons of moving toward a more free-access Web-based system for the dissemination of peer-reviewed material and of using university Web sites to house scholars' other works are discussed. However, deeper discussions such as these are few, leaving the volume subject to rapid aging, and leaving it with an audience limited to librarians looking for fast technological fixes."
Theme
Internet
LCSH
Libraries and the Internet
RSWK
Bibliothek / Internet
BK
54.32 / Rechnerkommunikation
06.74 / Informationssysteme
DDC
025.04 / dc21
LCC
Z674.75.I58N47 2003

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