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Magazines > Online > July/August 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 4 — July/August 2004
Hardcopy
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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EXCELLENT 
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WELL DONE 
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MOSTLY GOOD 
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SOMETIMES ADEQUATE 
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POOR 

This month I look at the Patriot Act, the evolution of newspapers, free stuff on the Web, and technology law—a little something for everyone.

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Refuge of a Scoundrel: The Patriot Act in Libraries

by Herbert N. Foerstel

ISBN: 1-59158-139-7

Published: 2004

Pages: 232 pp.; hardcover

Price: $35

Available from: Libraries Unlimited, Greenwood Publishing Group,
88 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881; 800/225-5800; www.lu.com.

There is no piece of current legislation more likely to cause a debate in the library community than the U.S. Patriot Act. With a gag order on libraries and booksellers that have been contacted by officials in the execution of provisions of this act, it is difficult to know what the real effect is on the freedom of Americans to read, browse, and utilize library and bookstore resources. This book attempts to document the current state of implementation and actions resulting from this act, while also putting the current actions into a historical perspective of government surveillance.

The author, the former head of branch libraries at the University of Maryland, College Park, has a long history of monitoring and reporting on government activities affecting intellectual freedom in the library. He draws from some of his other works for parts of this book, particularly Chapter 1, which provides a history of library surveillance. Chapter 2 gives a brief description of this complex (342-page) bill and how it was rushed through Congress. Foerstel highlights the particular provisions affecting libraries and booksellers. Chapter 3 attempts to document how the bill has impacted libraries and the responses to the perceived or actual threat. Chapter 4 discusses additional related legislation, and the final chapter talks about "fighting back" and the efforts to modify certain provisions of the bill.

Each chapter is carefully researched and extensively footnoted, but the author's bias towards privacy rights and intellectual freedom is obvious. This book is definitely aimed at librarians and information professionals and is a must read for those involved with public policy.

 

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Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers

by Pablo J. Boczkowski

ISBN: 0-262-02559-0

Published: 2004

Pages: 255 pp.; hardcover

Price: $30

Available from: The MIT Press,
5 Cambridge Center,
Cambridge, MA 02142-1493; 617/258-0676; http://mitpress.mit.edu.

This highly academic book—the author is an assistant professor of organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management—uses three case studies to examine the evolution of electronic publishing efforts by America's traditional print newspapers. The initiatives examined were the Houston Chronicle's "Virtual Voyager," The New York Times' "CyberTimes" and New Jersey Online's "Community Connection." Interestingly, all three sites have since been closed or returned to the mainstream efforts of the paper, but that doesn't really affect the interest of this book. It focuses on the processes within an organization that evolve to create new products, in this case, electronic versions of newspapers.

Digitizing the News begins with a description of the historical efforts of newspapers to explore electronic delivery with such technologies as teletext, videotex, fax, and telephone news services. The author's point in including this information is to show that the newspapers went through an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary change by the time all ended up on the Web.

The main focus of the book is an exploration of the adoption of technology and how the backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes of the people affect the outcomes. The companies in the three case studies all adopted the technology in different ways, with different premises for what it could do and what their users would want it to do. The process involved long looks at what a "newspaper" really is and what it could be in the future. While many newspapers have become more comfortable with the juxtaposition of print and electronic information, many journal and other traditional publishers are just struggling with this issue now.

It seems that many libraries, publishers, and others in the information industry are struggling with their roles now. Perhaps we can learn from the efforts of others.

 

 

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The Web Library: Building a World Class Personal Library with Free Web Resources

by Nicholas G. Tomaiuolo

ISBN: 0-910965-67-6

Published: 2004

Pages: 440 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.95

Available from: CyberAge Books
Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was expecting another annotated list of Web sites, providing more sites and less information about them than I could ever use. Instead, the author, a librarian at Central Connecticut State College, has selected what he considers the best and spends a good part of the book describing the sites and providing background information on the companies or persons who developed them.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each focusing on a different type of resource: magazine and journal articles, news, ready reference and ask an expert services, electronic texts and e-books, images, and online exhibitions. There is also a chapter devoted to software to help you get all the plug-ins needed to access the free information. The only type of resource I really found missing were audio files. Surely, there are free sites for these? A list of all the resources cited is included as an appendix, and the author also offers an online Web site with the links from the book and promises of updates. He also encourages you to make your own portal by making your own Web site and choosing the resources you personally like.

A nice touch in this book is including short interviews with key personnel behind the scenes at selected resources. This helps you to not only understand why the resource is available for free to begin with, but provides more of a feeling of legitimacy. We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch, so how can these high-quality resources be offered for free? Usually the answer is marketing, although in a few cases, such as with many electronic texts, it is simply that copyright has expired (or been waived) and a few idealistic people believe that the information should be free.

In each chapter and with most resources, the author takes the time to figure out a monetary value for what the free resource is worth, compared to an equivalent for-fee one. While I think this is a bit ridiculous (and it reminds me of those "priceless" MasterCard commercials), if you believe his numbers, buying this book can save you thousands of dollars. But do buy it, as the selection of resources is good, the commentary that goes with it is engaging, and the combination is priceless.

 

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Technology Law: What Every Business (And Business-Minded Person) Needs to Know

by Mark Grossman

ISBN: 0-8108-4738-8

Published: 2004

Pages: 178 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.95

Available from: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706; 800/462-6420; www.scarecrowpress.com.

Like many people, I really wish for a world without lawyers, or more correctly, a world where lawyers are not necessary. Since that Utopian state is unlikely, it is nice to find a lawyer who can communicate in a humorous, down-to-earth way. Grossman, a business law attorney and head of the Technology Law Group at the law firm of Beckert & Poliakof, P.A., takes subjects that most of us would like to ignore and makes us aware of the risks and issues involved in a way that we can understand. No small task.

This book is based on previously published articles and columns that have been edited and organized into 10 major subject areas. The coverage is all areas of technology, from copyright to venture capital to employees' rights to privacy. Only one chapter specifically focuses on the Internet, but of course it sneaks its way into many topics. The author's goal is not necessarily to give legal advice, but to make you aware that you need legal advice in various aspects of technology deals. In particular, I found the sections on negotiating contracts and analyzing standard contracts and terms of service extremely useful and enlightening. The amount of detail is brief, but I found with many sections I had a small "Aha" experience as something caught my attention. Overall, this is probably more useful than trying to read more detailed legalese.

There is a lot of good advice in this book, and it is fun to read. But be prepared to have a long list of items to discuss with your tech lawyer when you finish.

 


Deborah Lynne Wiley [deb@consultnw.com] is principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to marydee@xmission.com.

 

 


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