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Magazines > Online > March/April 2004
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SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 2 — March/April 2004
Hardcopy
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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

Featured Books:
Wireless Networking Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know
to Build Your Own PANs, LANs, and WANs

PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer

Net Effects: How Librarians
Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet

Virtual Reference Services: Issues and Trends


Technology rules! This month, I look at four books to help you move forward in the world of technology. The first is a basic guide to wireless networking, then come some solutions to those nagging PC and budding Internet problems, and finally a look at the state of the art for virtual reference.

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Wireless Networking Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know
to Build Your Own PANs, LANs, and WANs

by Russell Shaw

ISBN: 0-8144-7175-7
Published: 2003
Pages: 259 pp.; softcover
Price: $27.95
Available from: AMACOM Books, American Management Association,
1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, 212/903-8316; www.amacombooks.org

If you have no idea how wireless networks work and are thinking of setting up a connection, a node, or an actual network, then this is a book you must read. In simple, straightforward language, the author guides you through the technology and hardware you need for your PAN (personal area network), LAN (local area network), or WAN (wide area network).

The book begins with a brief overview of wireless technologies and then turns to setting up a wireless network or Internet connection on your own PC. After explaining Bluetooth and WiFi standards, the author moves on to the issues involved in setting up a LAN or a WAN. The main focus of the book is on helping a business or organization set up and manage a wireless network. A handy glossary is included in the appendix to help you with the acronyms, standards, and new terminology.

The author devotes a few chapters to the hardware, issues, and management of setting-up a wireless network. He makes some suggestions for particular brands of hardware and software, but more as examples than true recommendations. This at least gives you a starting point for locating equipment. There is an appendix of online resources that avoids sites by particular hardware vendors, but lists 15 useful Web sites for learning more about wireless technology, standards, and applications.

As many libraries are becoming interested in wireless technologies, this easy-to-read book will help you sort through the hype, the conflicting standards, and the myriad applications for wireless to help you determine if wireless is appropriate for you. My bet is that a wireless network is in your future, and this book will help you get started.

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PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer

by Steve Bass

ISBN: 0-596-00593-8

Published: 2004

Pages: 176 pp.; softcover

Price: $19.95

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

Steve Bass, the well-known author of PC World's "Home Office" column and general PC guru, is the guy you would love to have sitting in the cubicle next to yours. Then, every time one of those little annoying things happens with your PC, you could yell over and he would have the solution. Well, this book is the next best thing. In reading it, I found at least a dozen annoyances that I had no idea how to change, and here were the step-by-step instructions. Things like cleaning out the Windows System Tray and Start menu, getting Web pages to print correctly, turning off those pesky automatic URLs in Word, and so on.

The book is organized into seven chapters, covering E-mail (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, AOL, and Hotmail), Windows (primarily XP), the Internet, Microsoft Office, Windows Explorer, Multimedia (music, video, CDs, and DVDs), and hardware. You can browse through a chapter or just flip through this friendly book. Most fixes are a paragraph or two in length, and many involve downloading some third-party software. All of the software and utilities mentioned in the book are collected onto a Web site hosted by the publisher, as well as relevant articles from PC World.

The layout of the book provides ample margin space, which is where the author lists amusing Web sites, anecdotes, supplemental tips, and other items of a quirky or interesting nature. You can spend many enjoyable hours just checking out these notes and sites.

My only complaint about this book is that there are so many more annoyances to be solved. The author invites you to send him e-mail with your particular annoyances and promises to post solutions to some of the best ones on the book's Web site. But read the book first.

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Net Effects: How Librarians
Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet

edited by Marylaine Block

ISBN: 1-57387-171-0

Published: 2003

Pages: 380 pp.; hardcover

Price: $39.95

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

This book is a collection of over 40 practical articles selected by the editor, a self-described "librarian without walls" and early adopter of Internet technology, to help librarians address new issues raised by the use of the Internet and other technologies. Each of the 10 chapters presents a new problem and includes several articles that provide real-life solutions to that problem. The issues discussed include regaining control over selection, rescuing the book, training users, using new technologies, providing equitable access, systems issues, keeping up with technology, legal issues, disappearing data, and foreseeing the future.

I like the premise of this book—gathering selected articles on topics of interest from various publications—but since the articles were not specifically written for the book, the content is a bit choppy and, at times, unfocused. The editor has provided brief commentaries on each article to help smooth the transition, but I still found distracting tangents. However, the majority of the content is good, and the editor's determination to only select articles that provide practical solutions to some aspect of the stated problem ensures that the reader will have a wealth of experience from which to draw.

Recognizing that these topics are timely and need regular updating, the editor has provided a Web site that lists the URLs that she selected for the book, as well as supplemental articles. In addition, most articles list cited works or suggested readings, so you will have plenty of material to explore if a particular topic hits home.

Not every library faces all the issues discussed in this book, but I guarantee you that all libraries face at least a few. This book is worth reading to see what solutions your colleagues have discovered and to help you develop your own answers.

* **

Virtual Reference Services: Issues and Trends

edited by Stacey Kimmel
and Jennifer Heise

ISBN: 0-7890-2045-9

Published: 2003

Pages: 194 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.95

Available from: The Haworth Information Press, 10 Alice St., Binghamton, NY 13904; 607/722-5857 or 800/429-6784;
www.haworthpress.com

The major thought that comes out of this collection of articles is that staffing matters. Although each of the 14 articles focuses on a different aspect of virtual reference, all of them mention the importance of having appropriately trained and motivated staff to handle the virtual reference assignment.

The editors have collected papers focusing on a number of different issues related to virtual reference, including managing the service, collecting statistics, software issues, collaboration with other libraries, and customer service. The articles provide case studies from the authors' libraries, which collectively cover academic, public, corporate, and consortium library initiatives. Some authors simply describe the process involved in getting their virtual reference up and running, while others ruminate on the future of technology and reference.

I particularly liked the short essay by Anne Grodzins Lipow of Library Solutions Institute and Press, which applauds virtual reference as a first step in moving library services to the users, but cautions of the "horseless carriage" syndrome. Virtual reference is not a solution, it is a beginning.

Whether you have virtual reference services available in your library or are just thinking about it, reading this book can help improve your current and future services.

 


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