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Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting


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Recommended Reading on Library Issues

ONLINE, September 2001
Copyright © 2001 Information Today, Inc.

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FEATURED BOOKS:
Creating Web-Accessible Databases: Case Studies for Libraries, Museums, and Other Nonprofits

Caught in a Web: Intellectual Property in Cyberspace

Super Searchers on Mergers & Acquisitions: The Online Secrets of Top Corporate Researchers and M&A Pros

Editorial Peer Review: Its Strengths and Weaknesses


This month we look at some books that discuss key issues in the library area–intellectual property, mounting databases on the Web, and editorial peer review. In addition, the latest super searcher book will help you hone your own searching skills.

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Creating Web-Accessible Databases: Case Studies for Libraries, Museums, and Other Nonprofits
edited by Julie M. Still

ISBN: 1-57387-104-4
Published: 2001
Pages: 184; hardcover
Price: $39.50
Available from: Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com

I was disappointed in this book, edited by university reference librarian Julie Still. I was expecting to gain a better idea of the issues involved in mounting databases on the Web, and perhaps some technical tips. Instead, the book provides an uneven collection of case studies, discussions, and just general opinions.

Each chapter of the book is written by a different author–a few report on databases they have created and mounted (these tend to be the good chapters), while others discuss aspects of databases, such as metadata and user perceptions. There are many issues surrounding the decision to create a database and then to put it up on the Web. This book helps identify a number of them, but the discussions tend to be superficial and the novice may well end up more confused than before.

Some of the difficulty lies in having so many contributors–it is unavoidable that the coverage will vary. A more effective method for this topic would have been to describe a few database projects in more detail, or to have one author highlight the relevant parts of each case study. Too much text, considering the slimness of the book, was devoted to describing the context of the database development rather than the more practical and technical issues.

A lot of my consulting deals with helping nonprofits create Web databases, so I have no doubts that a book comprehensively covering the topic is needed. Unfortunately, this book is not it.

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Caught in a Web: Intellectual Property in Cybersapce
edited by Richard Poynder

ISBN: 0-901157-01-5
Published: 2001
Pages: 191; softcover
Price: $25.00
Available from: Derwent Information, Thomson Scientific, 1725 Duke Street, Suite 250, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703/706-4220 or 800/DERWENT (800/337-9368); http://www.derwent.com.

The point of this book is to discuss whether or not our existing intellectual property (IP) protection tools, copyright, trademarks, and patents still apply in the Web environment. As you might expect, the book does not come up with an answer, but it adequately presents different points of view and presents various issues in the U.S. and Europe. Its author, a former Information World Review editor turned freelance writer, was commissioned by patent database pro- ducer Derwent to write the book.

Caught in a Web starts with an introduction to the global IP landscape, and then devotes a chapter each to copyright, trademarks, patents, and protection technology. The last chapter sums up the issues. At the end of each chapter are brief interviews with two noted experts in the field–one who believes the existing system will work with modification, and one who proposes that a completely new system will be necessary.

The only negative is a tendency for the same examples to be used again and again (Napster, Amazon's one-click), and sometimes even the same quotes are repeated in different chapters. There is so much to discuss in this area that it seems unforgivable in a book this thin. Still, if you are looking for an easy-to-read overview of the IP situation, this book will give you some insight.

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Super Searchers on Mergers & Acquisitions: The Online Secrets of Top Corporate Researchers and M&A Pros
edited by Jan Davis Tudor
(edited by Reva Basch)

ISBN: 0-910965-48-X
Published: 2001
Pages: 196; softcover
Price: $24.95
Available from: CyberAge Books, Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com

I have to admit that I am a fan of these super searcher books. The interviewed experts have so much knowledge that it is impossible not to learn something from them, and it is always inspiring to hear about successful individuals. However, since I have little interest in the area of mergers and acquisitions, I approached this latest incarnation of the series with some trepidation. Much to my surprise, I learned a lot and found it easy to follow the discussions of methods and tools used by the experts. The author, a frequent contributor to ONLINE and EContent magazines, speaker at online conferences, and independent information professional–along with series editor Reva Basch–did an excellent job of having each researcher explain a particular piece of the jargon or process, and then provided a glossary for those unfamiliar with other terms. The research methods used by these researchers are not really very different from those in other subject areas, just the tools vary (and probably the budget). But there are so many ways to approach a problem that you can always learn from others. The 165 tools mentioned in the 13 interviews are listed in an appendix, with Web address or contact information as appropriate. If you have even the slightest interest in researching M&A information, read this book. The novice user will learn a lot about the major tools used and the types of information usually required by the patron. Those experienced searchers will undoubtedly pick up a tip or two, while enjoying the stories and approaches of their colleagues.

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Editorial Peer Review: Its Strengths and Weaknesses
by Ann C. Weller

ISBN: 1-57387-100-1
Published: 2001, ASIST Monograph Series
Pages: 342; hardcover
Price: $44.50
Available from: Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; http://www.infotoday.com

The editorial peer review process is at the heart of all scholarly publishing, but how often do we stop to examine the process or think about its implications? This amazingly comprehensive book takes a look at the published literature to try and shed some light on this age-old process.

The author does not try to draw conclusions and refrains from inserting her opinion about peer review as she discusses the numerous studies. Her goal is to represent the studies and conclusions by hundreds of authors who have looked at this process from 1945-1997. She found that there are no studies that looked at the entire process, but that numerous studies have looked at individual pieces. She also found that the literature was scattered across nearly every discipline.

The book is broken down into ten chapters, none of them peer-reviewed, each one dealing with one facet of the peer review process. After an introduction, the author devotes chapters to Rejected Manuscripts, Editors and Editorial Boards, Authors, Reviewers, the new Electronic Environment, and finally, to some conclusions about the studies that have been done.

There are lots of interesting facts presented in this book. Most rejected papers are published somewhere; most reviewers agree on the papers to be rejected, but not necessarily on those to be accepted. The process of peer review varies widely between journals and especially between disciplines. Most researchers think that the peer review process is necessary, and the author draws the same conclusion. However, there is still much controversy over whether the process should be open or anonymous, and whether editorial comments should be published.

There is more than you ever wanted to know about peer review contained in this book, including an extensive bibliography. However, there is no getting around the importance of the topic for those involved in the dissemination of scholarly information. This book will give you a good idea of how the scientists themselves see the process of editorial peer review, and set you to thinking about how the process could evolve.


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

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

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