month I look at the basics of Web conferencing,
super searchers in competitive intelligence,
a guide for getting published in the library
world, and an early history of the online world.
The Web Conferencing Book
by Sue Spielman and Liz
Pages: 256 pp.; softcover
Available from: AMACOM
Books, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019;
If you are just starting to think about Web
conferencing, then this basic book is the one
you need. The authors are consultantsone
techie and one not sowho share the burden
of explaining the technology and practical
uses of Web-based conferencing software.
The flow of the book is a little confusing.
For instance, instead of a glossary at the
end of the book, the list of terminology used
is hidden in the middle of chapter four. And,
if you are new to this game, you really need
to be able to refer to that list from time
to time. Also, the chapter on making the business
case for using the technology comes before
the overview letting you know what is possible.
Still, the content is good and easy to understand.
The authors describe the basic features of
several different brands of software, from
the simple NetMeeting to the elaborate WebEx,
trying to point out the differences and strengths
of each of them. These are likely to have changed
since the writing of the book, but the URLs
for the company Web sites, as well as other
relevant resources, are included in an appendix.
The combination of clear explanations of
the basics of the technology, combined with
a concise list of the features of some of the
major players in the Web conferencing game,
make this a very useful book for those wanting
to quickly choose a vendor and get on with
Super Searchers on Competitive
The Online and Offline Secrets
of Top CI Researchers
by Margaret Metcalf Carr
Pages: 332 pp.; softcover
Available from: CyberAge
Information Today, Inc. 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750;
Even the top experts in this field can't
agree on a single definition of competitive
intelligence. However, after reading this book
by long-time independent information professional
Peggy Carr, you will have a greater understanding
and respect for those in the profession. Unlike
most of the super searchers interviewed in
this popular series, few of the 15 experts
interviewed for this book come from a traditional
library or information science background.
However, most of the skills and processes they
use are the same. They just seem to focus on
both the overall process and the analysis of
the data collected more than traditional information
A word of warning to those of you in the
academic worldyou may not like some of
the premises in this book. The nature of competitive
intelligence is that company A wants to preserve
and enhance its own information flow and interpretation,
while preventing anyone else from knowing about
it, and at the same time exploit any publicly
available information from company B to better
position their company in the market. Although
all the interviewees stressed the importance
of ethics, the entire focus is something of
an anathema to many librarians. There is no "open
access" discussion in this world.
I think all librarians can learn from this
book. Most of the interviewees stressed the
importance of personal contacts, a methodical
approach to and definition of the problem,
and a major emphasis on providing an answer,
not just a list of citations or sources. These
are skills that all librarians should develop.
As information is turned into a commodity,
it is intelligence and knowledge that people
seek as an answer, not just information, and
this book focuses on the skills and processes
to get the answer.
The Librarian's Guide to
Writing for Publication
by Rachael Singer Gordon
Pages: 202 pp.; softcover
Available from: Scarecrow
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham,
MD 20706; 800/462-6420; www.scarecrowpress.com.
Publish or perishwe've all heard this
phrase, but many librarians seem reluctant
to take the plunge. Well, this book is a lifeline
to those dithering on the edge but not quite
knowing how to dive in and swim.
The author, an experienced writer herself,
has also surveyed 99 published librarians (through
an online survey) to come up with the expert
words of advice presented in this book. She
also includes interviews with several publishers,
representing journals, books, book reviews,
newsletters, and online publications. This
provides many viewpoints (although the publishers,
including Information Today, Inc.'s book publisher,
are confined to an appendix) and gives a good
representation of what you need to do to get
started in getting published.
I think the important point to take away
from this book is that all editors are looking
for good content and are open to new ideas.
You have to write about something you are passionate
about and present it in a clear, concise, and
readable way. The author provides tips for
helping you present your ideas to the appropriate
editor in a way that increases your odds of
being published. She also stresses the importance
of following guidelines and helping your editorwords
my editor will no doubt relish.
A couple of chapters focus on book publishing,
including writing a detailed proposal, the
publishing process, and the marketing efforts
that you must make to ensure a successful book.
We are not talking runaway best-seller, million-copy
books, but professional titles in which author
participation can still help the sales process.
If you want to publish, but haven't taken
the first step yet, get this book. You will
feel less intimidated by the entire process
and will get some valuable tips that I wish
I had learned years ago.
A History of Online Information
by Charles P. Bourne and
Trudi Bellardo Hahn
Pages: 493 pp.; hardcover
The MIT Press, 5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge,
MA 02142-1493; 800/405-1619; http://mitpress.mit.edu.
Wow, what a lot of work went into this encyclopedic
book! The authors have gone to great effort
to document the beginnings of the online industry,
searching for the facts and statistics, as
well as the personal stories of the pioneers
of the day.
The first few chapters detail many of the
early efforts in computerized information retrieval.
These are the days of large mainframes, high
storage costs, punch cards, and batch mode
searching. However, many of the search and
retrieval ideas were sophisticated and are
still very much in use today. The authors have
included "milestones" to highlight significant
firsts, such as, "SRI demonstrated the first
online bibliographic search system in 1963." These
are amalgamated into a timeline at the end
of the book.
The middle chapters are devoted to the development
of the first commercial search services: Lockheed
Dialog, SDC ORBIT, and SUNY Biomedical Communication
Network/BRS. The fact that these services developed
at all is amazing, given the constraints of
the parent companies or organizations. There
were only a few people who believed that online
searching was the way of the future.
I particularly liked the next two chapters
describing the birth of the online industryone
from the public point of view and another from
the inside perspective. Enough time has gone
by that many of the frantic tales can be told.
In particular, current users of the online
systems can begin to understand how and why
things are the way they are today from reading
how things got started. Pricing was a guessing
game from the start (and still is, to some
extent). Roger Summit couldn't imagine mounting
more than 128 databases. Dialog ran out of
user passwords. Computer time was valuable,
so some systems ignored words of three letters
or less, title words, and few allowed even
searching of abstracts, let alone full text.
Telephone connections were expensive and difficult.
How far we have come, and how quickly we forget.
This work does a great service to those of
us in the industry. Let us not forget from
whence we came. All library schools and those
interested in the history of information retrieval
should have this book.
Deborah Lynne Wiley [email@example.com] is principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc.
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