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Magazines > Online > Sep/Oct 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 5 — Sep/Oct 2004
Hardcopy
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

****
EXCELLENT 
***
WELL DONE 
**
MOSTLY GOOD 
*
SOMETIMES ADEQUATE 
No Logo 
POOR 

This month I take a look at the impact of technology on society with one book on evaluating digital libraries and another that explores Net-centric technologies and their effect on our concept of work. In addition, a book on implementing a training program will help your employees deal with technology, and, finally, a practical book on finding and using Internet resources will bring you back to the ground running.

 

Digital Library Use:
Social Practice in Design and Evaluation

Edited by Ann Peterson Bishop,
Nancy A. Van House, and Barbara P. Buttenfield

ISBN: 0-262-02544-2
Published: 2004
Pages: 341 pp.; hardcover
Price: $40

Score:
***

Available from:
The MIT Press, 5 Cambridge Center,
Cambridge, MA 02142-1493; 800/405-1619; http://mitpress.mit.edu

I really hate the phrase "digital library"—it has been used in so many contexts as to render it meaningless. Any collection of electronic information becomes its own digital library, yet what do we call a library that provides access to dozens of digital libraries? No matter what we call them, collections of electronic documents abound. This book, edited by three well-known academicians, is an attempt to evaluate the impact of existing products and projects on the lives of the users and keepers.

The 12 chapters are all written by different authors, again mostly academics with the vast majority affiliated with graduate library schools, and the book is divided into three parts. The three chapters in Part One provide fascinating perspectives into the future of libraries and texts and the interactions of users, institutions, technology, and content. Part Two focuses on the more practical matters of evaluation of users and the various approaches to designing surveys and collecting feedback. Part Three draws on the previous two sections and discusses the social impact of current digital libraries.

This is not a how-to book, and it really does not dwell on the technology side of digital libraries (I don't know what else to call them). The focus is on the "interactions with the larger world of work, institutions, knowledge, and society, as well as with the production of knowledge." Everyone involved in creating, managing, or using digital libraries should read this book. It will help broaden your perspective and put the user back at center stage in the design and development of these types of products.

 

The Internet in the Workplace:
How New Technology Is Transforming Work

by Patricia Wallace

ISBN: 0-521-80931-2
Published: 2004
Pages: 316 pp.; hardcover
Price: $28

Score:
***

Available from:
Cambridge University Press, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011-4211; 212/924-3900; www.cambridge.org.

This is about more than the Internet. It is about how technology is transforming our notion of work. The author, whose research at Johns Hopkins has focused on the links between technology and human behavior, presents both the positive and negative effects of the Net-centric technologies that have had such an impact on all walks of life.

Each of the 11 chapters explores a different facet of working life and how modern technologies have changed the norm. Some of the topics covered include the blurring of work and nonwork; how the nature of business communication has changed; how leadership has changed when anyone can contact the top brass; the rise of virtual teams, e-learning, and the effect on universities, faculty, and students; workplace privacy and surveillance; and the changing context of employment.

The book provides fascinating insights into how we view our role in society and our work. For many of us, constant change is the norm, so it takes a book like this to make us step back and look at what is happening, both good and bad, with technology and the way it interacts with social norms. The author stresses how the influence of technology goes far beyond the traditional high tech fields, using examples from the trucking industry, retail, academia, and small businesses, as well as larger corporate life.

This book is worth a read, if only to help you think about shaping the effects on society of the technologies we are starting to take for granted. You may end up thinking about technology in a whole new way.

 

The Practical Library Trainer
by Bruce E. Massis

ISBN: 0-7890-2268-0
Published: 2004
Pages: 117 pp.; softcover
Price: $17.95

Score:
**

Available from:
The Haworth Information Press, 10 Alice St., Binghamton, NY 13904-1580; 800/429-6784; www.haworthpressinc.com.

This slight book is aimed at library managers and administrators who are thinking about implementing a training program in their institutions. The title is a bit misleading as the focus is more on the training program itself than on the trainer. The author's goal seems to be to give you the ammunition required to justify an integrated training program, as well as some knowledge of the state of the art of training in general.

The book starts with a chapter on preparing the staff for training and the establishment of a training administrator. Getting support from all levels seems essential for the training to be effective. The author assumes a very broad definition of training, as all types of activities from informal in-house training to conference attendance to formal course work constitute training and lifelong learning.

The main lesson in the book is to create a workplace that stimulates and encourages learning. Accomplishing this will enhance employee satisfaction and retention as well as increase the level of customer satisfaction. A chapter also covers the concept of return on investment and helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your training program.

My main complaint is that the book is just too short. Good topics are introduced and then dealt with in a paragraph or two. If you really want to start a training program, you will need more than this book to get you going. However, as a quick way to introduce managers to the concept and benefits of a formalized training program, this book may be just the ticket.

 

The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook:
A Guide for the Serious Searcher

by Randolph Hock

ISBN: 0-910965-68-4
Published: 2004
Pages: 272 pp.; softcover
Price: $24.95

Score:
****

Available from:
Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750; 609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com.
My first thought was that the title of this book was a little extreme—I'm not sure that experienced searchers will get a lot out of this book. However, you always pick up a few tips, even about Web sites that you use all the time. And less experienced searchers will find a wealth of knowledge, particularly those that think a one-word search on Google retrieves it all.

The book provides many helpful tips and much background information on the resources described. The list of resources is selective, so you are relying on the author's expertise in choosing the resources. Luckily, author Ran Hock is a well-known Internet trainer and speaker, with many years of experience in using and evaluating online information resources.

Each of the book's 10 chapters covers a different type of Internet resource, including search engines, directories, portals, groups, news, products, and multimedia. The URLs from each chapter are listed at the back of the book and are also maintained on a Web site by the author. Most of the resources have been around for some time, so the URLs should remain stable. However a check of the Web site showed that the online links had been checked within the last week.

The most useful part of this book is not just the list of resources, but the author's opinion of when and how they should be used or not used. The author encourages you to think through your search strategy and to find the resources that will most easily match your desired results. This is a far cry from just going to your favorite search engine and typing in a word or phrase.

This book will be a handy reference for anyone who searches or teaches others to search on the Internet.

 


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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