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Featured Books

The Evolving Virtual Library II
Practical and Philosophical

Creating a Virtual Library: A
How-To-Do-It Manual

Digital Libraries: Philosophies
Technical Design
Considerations and Example

Only Connect: Shaping
Networks and Knowledge for
the New Millennium

Recommended Reading on Virtual Libraries

ONLINE, May 2000
Copyright © 2000 Information Today, Inc.


Virtual libraries, digital libraries, hybrid libraries--whatever you call them, they're a part of our life. This month, we examine a collection of books to help you get or stay up-to-speed on the latest issues in cyber-librarianship.

* * *

The Evolving Virtual Library II: Practical and Philosophical Perspectives
edited by Laverna M. Saunders

ISBN: 1-57387-070-6; Published: 1999; Pages: 198; hardcover; Price: $39.50
Available from: Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com.

Nearly all of us are involved in some sort of virtual library, either in the creation or use of an existing one, or the design and planning of a future one. This book helps to highlight some trends and issues that the new digital age forces upon libraries of all types and sizes.

As a collection of ten chapters by different expert authors, this book provides insights into a wide variety of experiences and applications, from public libraries, school libraries, academic libraries, and consortia. Each chapter provides at least one successful example of the type of application described, as well as covering some of the major issues discovered during the implementation. The applications described include scanning and digitizing archival materials, creating and accessing internal databases, distance-learning access, and intranet and extranet applications.

The best thing about the book is hearing the individual experts tell the successes, failures, problems, and compromises of their projects. The worst thing is that in nearly all cases, you are left hungering for more details. There are references listed at the end of each chapter, but they don't always pertain to that project--they often are background sources for related topics or issues discussed in the chapter. Still, this book is worth reading for the common issues and unique solutions to be found in all virtual libraries.

* * *

Creating a Virtual Library: A How-To-Do-It Manual
edited by Frederick Stielow

ISBN: 1-55570-346-1; Published: 1999; Pages: 184; softcover; Price: $55.00 Available from: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 100 Varick Street, New York, NY 10013; 212/925-8650; http://www.neal-schuman.com.

Written by the staff of the Mid-Hudson Library System (MHLS), this book documents the issues and principles identified and addressed as they built their own virtual library. The major focus is on management issues, with just enough detail to help supervisors understand the processes. Those implementing a virtual library will certainly need more detailed information than provided in this book, but should read this book first to envision what a virtual library is and what it entails.

Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect in the life of a virtual library, from design to managing to maintenance and looking to the future. The authors present basic guidelines and general concepts first, and then conclude each chapter with examples from the MHLS application. My two favorite chapters are on developing policies and visualizing the virtual library. In the haste to get things digitized and up on the web, the systematic planning and organizing required for a successful project often falls by the wayside. Read these chapters before you start (or now, if you've already started).

I think "How-To-Do-It" should have been left out of the title, since you really don't get enough practical information to implement a virtual library from this book alone. And, it seems to necessitate a certain amount of step-by-step details, for those few issues that can be described easily (like using an HTML editor), which clash with the general tone of most of the topics discussed. Since the best parts of the book are the discussions of access, development, management, and maintenance policies for virtual libraries, perhaps a title change to "policy manual" would be more apt, and more likely to get the book into the hands of those supervisors who need it.

* * *

Digital Libraries: Philosophies, Technical Design Considerations and Example Scenarios
edited by David Stern

ISBN: 0-7890-0769-x; Published: 1999 Pages: 230; hardcover; Price: $49.95
Available from: the Haworth Press, Inc., 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904; 607/722-5857 or 800/429-6784; http://wwwhaworthpressinc.com.

For the more technically inclined, this collection of chapters by different authors provides several excellent insights into some of the more advanced features of the digital library, and some ideas for future developments.

The book is divided into the three sections stated in the subtitle. The philosophies section starts with a basic overview of what a digital library is, and then proceeds to develop two key concepts: collection development in a digital sense, and new paradigms for information retrieval. One of the best recurring theses in the book is the redefinition of information-seeking behavior, with several ideas beyond keyword and Boolean searching presented.

The second section of the book focuses on technical-design issues, including user interface, combining different databases and data types, emerging standards such as XML, and new models of data presentation. The explanations are very clear, so that even those not intimate with the intricacies of database design can understand the new concepts discussed.

The final section should not have been included. A mere 14 pages, describing a geodata collection and various implementations of patent databases, this adds nothing to the book. The examples used in other sections to illustrate various concepts are much more illuminating than these brief descriptions. It was a very disappointing end to a book that had been producing lots of thought-provoking experiences.

* * * * *

Only Connect: Shaping Networks and Knowledge for the New Millennium
by Trevor Haywood

ISBN: 1857392167; Published: 1999 Pages: 330; hardcover; Price:£35.00
Available from: Bowker-Saur, East Grinstead House, Windsor Court, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 1XA, UK; +44(0)1342 326972; http://www.bowker-saur.co.uk.

After delving into the intricacies and minutia of making your digital library a success, take a step back with this book to look at your work in a global and timeless context. In the course of human events, what does it all matter?

The basic premise is that we are all working towards a state of connectedness. How we connect and why we connect varies over time and context, but the driving force is basically the same. Combining historical perspective with current technologies, the author does an excellent job of examining our current state of connectivity, with some insights for future developments.

We are often caught up in technology. How many machines or communication mechanisms do we use in a day? The goal of eliminating time and space constraints drives us to instant communications and analysis. Yet communications failures are still at the heart of most disasters today. Taking the time to read this thought-provoking book can help you place your own communications into a broader context. Will your defining or seminal moment have anything to do with technology? The author suggests that we are so caught up in the delivery mechanisms, that we may miss the message.

The book is divided into nine chapters, each covering an aspect of connecting--from the changing role of our "identity group" to the changing role of telecommunications and the Internet. The author uses historical and daily events to illustrate communication mechanisms, and to point out that technology is not really changing humanity at all.

If we agree that the ultimate goal of a digital library is the communication of knowledge, then this book will help us look beyond the technology to a broader sense of the communications effort, and perhaps create a better system for the development of knowledge.

Deborah Lynne Wiley (deb@consultnw.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.

Comments? Email letters to the Editor to editor@infotoday.com.

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