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Magazines > Online > July / August 2003
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Online Magazine
Vol. 27 No. 4 — July/August 2003
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 
No Logo 
POOR 

Featured Books:
[The Enduring Library: Technology, Tradition, and the Quest for Balance]
[The Ultimate Digital Library: Where the New Information Players Meet]

[Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools]
[Super Searchers on Madison Avenue]

This month I look at books to help librarians in the technical aspects of their jobs. Read these books to learn about the principles of computer-based training, develop Web pages using database technology, demystify and apply P3P technology, and go forth and conquer with enhanced systems librarian skills.


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The Enduring Library:
Technology, Tradition, and the Quest for Balance

by Michael Gorman

ISBN: 0-8389-0846-2

Published: 2003

Pages: 176 pp.; softcover

Price: $35

Available from: ALA Editions, American Library Association
50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611
312/280-2427; www.alastore.ala.org

There's a lot of common sense in this brief book. The point is to help dispel many of the myths and hype surrounding technological advances and their impact on the libraries of today and tomorrow. The author, who is dean of Library Services at California State University, Fresno, steps back in time to help us view the modern library through its historical evolution, to better put the changes we are experiencing in a broader perspective.

Balance is a key idea throughout the book. The author clearly resents and refutes the idea of a completely digitized world and rightly bemoans the loss of place of the book and other non-electronic materials. He seeks a sense of balance between the different media, with the focus on providing access to enduring content in whatever form.

The first few chapters of the book describe how the role of librarians has not really changed over the centuries—to select, evaluate, organize, and disseminate content in whatever format meets the needs of the users. However, the hype surrounding the Internet has caused some to focus solely on the emerging electronic media, while disregarding the value of traditional media. Gorman proposes taking a step back and re-examining the role of libraries and how the traditional skills still apply in dealing with the new media. He expands these thoughts through the middle of the book by exploring traditional library functions of reference and cataloging and discussing how they should be applied in the modern library.

The last two chapters focus on information overload and ways of maintaining harmony and balance in your personal and professional life. He goes so far as to compare the ALA Code of Ethics with the Buddhist Eightfold Path. His ideas may be a little extreme, but common sense, balance, and a focus on the common good will help us to see the progression to the library of the future.


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The Ultimate Digital Library:
Where the New Information Players Meet

by Andrew K. Pace

ISBN: 0-8389-0844-6

Published: 2003

Pages: 176 pp.; softcover

Price: $35

Available from:
ALA Editions, American Library Association 50 E. Huron St., Chicago, IL 60611
312/280-2427
www.alastore.ala.org

 

Combine this book with the previous book and you get an even more interesting and confused picture of current and future librarianship. While Gorman looks at librarianship from its historical roots, Pace compares library practices with those of commercial vendors and dot-coms (both successful and failed). He proposes "radical" changes in order for libraries to stay competitive. Pace knows both sides of the issue. He came to his present job as head of systems for North Carolina University Libraries from the library automation vendor Innovative Interfaces.

Gorman focuses on the traditional role of libraries in societies while Pace compares the library to "competing" Internet services. Both suggest changes in order for libraries to stay relevant in the future, but the changes are often conflicting. Pace recommends that libraries should drop their love-hate relationship with their traditional vendors (he is primarily talking about library automation vendors) and embrace some of their practices and attitudes. He feels that many libraries are out of touch with the current competitive arena and could benefit by creating a better working relationship with commercial entities. He stresses that libraries need to adopt a more businesslike attitude in order to stay relevant and solvent in a climate of free information everywhere.

Pace provides several examples of existing or failed Internet companies that present challenges to traditional library services and suggests ways that libraries can learn from these supposed competitors, using the same technology to make an even better service for their clients. Google, Amazon, Ebrary, XanEdu, and others all present threats and opportunities for the agile library.

It is interesting that two very different approaches to the field of librarianship both end with great hope for the future. While much work needs to be done and a redefining of priorities is no doubt in order, both authors profess a belief in the new or continuing role of the library.


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Google Hacks:
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools

by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest

ISBN: 0-596-00447-8

Published: 2003

Pages: 330 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

Available from:
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
1005 Gravenstein Highway North Sebastopol, CA 95472
800/998-9938 or 707/827-7000 www.oreilly.com

This book tells you more about Google than you ever wanted to know. The first third of the book or so provides tips on using the Google search features and special services, such as the Google Directory, Images, News, Groups, Froogle, language tools, and other experiments from Google Labs. The tips range from the simple to the complex, covering such topics as Google search syntax, how to customize Google to your preferences, bookmarklets, date-range searching, and much more.

Since Google released its API in the spring of 2002, thousands of developers have tinkered with the Google user interface and search functionality. To use most of these hacks, you will need to sign up for a Google Web API developer's key and agree to the terms and conditions specified. However, once you've done that, the extensions of the Google tool are limitless. The rest of this book describes a variety of tips for expanding or tweaking Google. These tips range from the simple to the bizarre. Some provide code for you to basically copy and paste onto your own server, while others list third-party sites where you can use someone else's hack. A couple of the more interesting applications include a visual interface that shows Google results sorted by nodes of similarity (like Vivisimo) and a way to incorporate Google results in a small box on your own Web page.

The most interesting chapter is the one on Google pranks and tips. Here you learn about a site that takes any Google results page and presents a mirror image of it—everything on the page is backwards. There is also Google-created poetry and art. It is just amazing what people do to occupy their time.

If you only want search tips on the standard Google Web interface, this is not the book for you. However, if you'd like to branch out more, incorporate some Google tools on your own site, customize the interface, or implement some unique search functionality, this book will give you lots of things to try and probably inspire you to dream up some new applications.


****

Super Searchers on Madison Avenue

by Grace Avellana Villamora;
edited by Reva Basch

ISBN: 0-910965-63-3

Published: 2003

Pages: 244 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

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

 

This latest book in this wonderful series covers the world of marketing and advertising from the information professional's point of view. Experts, 13 in all, were interviewed to find out how they got into the field to start with and what resources and skills they call upon to be successful at their jobs. The interviewees cover various aspects of the advertising profession, including copywriters, researchers, account planners, and consultants.

It amazes me that these books continue to stay fresh and interesting. It just goes to show how truly varied and wide ranging the information profession is and how resourceful and cunning information professionals can be. The Appendix lists 323 resources (they're on the super searchers Web page [www.infotoday.com/supersearchers] as well), and I am sure there is at least one you have not heard or tried.

The author does a good job of soliciting similar information from each interviewee, without making it feel as though she is following a script. She naturally digresses to follow interesting tangents and allows the individual's personality to come through. I particularly like the descriptions of successful projects or examples of particularly interesting questions, as following the thought processes of successful people helps others to improve or evolve their own way of thinking through problems.

If you work in this area, you should definitely have this book. In addition, this entire series should be in all library schools as in inspiration for the wide diversity of jobs available in the library field.


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