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Magazines > Online > May/June 2003
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Online Magazine
Vol. 27 No. 3 — May/June 2003
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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Featured Books:
[Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning]
[Database-Driven Web Sites]
[Web Privacy with P3P]
[The Accidental Systems Librarian]

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.


Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning

by Michael Allen

ISBN: 0-471-20302-5

Published: 2003

Pages: 328 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.95

Available from: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030; 800/762-2974 or 317/572-3993;

This excellent book, written by the man who founded Authorware, the popular software for creating electronic instruction applications, provides a wealth of common sense and practical ideas for anyone involved in training. It is not a step-by-step guide on creating an e-learning application. Rather, the author focuses on the principles and methods involved in getting a learner motivated and eager to learn.

The first half of the book is a justification for e-learning, which is loosely defined by the author as any type of computer-based training, whether it is on a CD-ROM or delivered over the Internet. Allen points out that many e-learning applications fail due to a lack of involvement of the appropriate people at the right time, including senior management. Too many applications, he laments, are simply re-purposed content thrown into an electronic environment. Other failures can be caused by a lack of identification of what the required outcome is. What exactly do you want the user to be able to do after the training?

The second part of the book focuses on the principles of good instructional design, with many examples. The author repeatedly points out that motivating the user to learn is the key to all success. Putting tasks in context and making interesting activities will help a user want to learn more. He points out that the technology is not what makes e-learning a success: The content in context, with technology as an enabler, does this.

If you are involved in any kind of training, even if it is not computer-based, you will gain by reading this book. The focus is on how to engage the student and keep them motivated and learning, which are principles that apply in all areas of training.


Database-Driven Web Sites

edited by Kristin Antelman

ISBN: 0-7890-1739-3

Published: 2002

Pages: 133 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

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


Edited by Kristin Antelman, associate director for information technology at North Carolina State University, this short book contains nine profiles of successful database-to-Web applications in a variety of academic libraries and one state government library. The projects varied in scope and budget, but most made use of open-source software to keep the cost down. Someone at the library who was actively involved in doing the work wrote each profile, so the focus of each chapter is quite different. Some focus on the political and cooperation aspect, some on the technical, some on the benefits, and so forth.

The most interesting aspect of this book is learning how each library chose a different path and software to accomplish more or less the same outcome. A few chose ColdFusion for their database applications, but others used Zope, iDriver, customized software, and even bibliographic management software to get information up on the Web.

The articles in this book are just long enough to give you a glimpse of what was done in each library, probably because in the long-established Haworth tradition, it's a reprinting of a journal issue (InternetReference Services Quarterly, v. 7, n. 1/2, 2002). In many cases I found myself wondering why the libraries made a particular decision and wished there had been more details. Some of the articles contain extensive lists of references, but these do not substitute for more information on an individual project.

If you are thinking of embarking on a database project and want to see a bit of what has been done before, this book will help you. However, it is by no means enough to get you on your way in a new project.


Web Privacy with P3P

by Lorrie Faith Cranor

ISBN: 0-596-00371-4

Published: 2002

Pages: 321 pp.; softcover

Price: $39.95

Available from: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472; 800/998-9938;


Who isn't concerned with Web privacy these days? Even the spammers want to keep their own privacy so the rest of us can't find them. This book provides a thorough overview of the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P), a technology developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that allows both Web site users and producers to state their privacy preferences through a negotiated agreement.

The author, who is the chair of theP3P Working Group at the W3C, clearly knows her stuff. More importantly, she can convey her knowledge in a way that is clearly understandable to non-techies.

The book is divided into four parts. The first gives an overview of the privacy concerns that led to the development of P3P, along with an explanation of what the technology can do and why you would want to use it. Part Two is for Webmasters who want to use P3P on their sites. These chapters provide an overview of the steps involved, detailed instructions for implementation, and examples of P3P-enabled sites. Part Three goes into more technical details aimed at software developers who want to build P3P capability into their software, and Part Four contains five appendixes with specific details on how to build and implement P3P policies, including a list of all the XML tags that can be included in a privacy policy.

P3P is growing in popularity and provides a good way for both Web site producers to inform users of their privacy policies and users to choose if the site conforms to his/her own privacy preferences. For anyone collecting user statistics from their Web site, P3P makes good sense. Read this book to find out all you need to know about it.


The Accidental Systems Librarian

by Rachel Singer Gordon

ISBN: 1-57387-161-3

Published: 2003

Pages: 262 pp.; softcover

Price: $29.50

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

Anyone who thinks that librarians are behind the times should read this book, written by Rachel Singer Gordon, the former head of computer services at the Franklin Park, Illinois, Public Library and founder/Webmaster of the library career site, who is herself an accidental systems librarian. Many of us have grown in technical expertise simply by doing and being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. This book attempts to formalize and organize these ad-hoc skills into a definition and guide to systems librarianship.

The book starts out by defining systems librarianship. Read the job functions and I guarantee that any librarian with access to a computer has to fulfill at least a few of these tasks. Hence, we are all at least part systems librarians and will benefit from the accumulated knowledge in this book.

The major focus of the book is showing how traditional library skills and a willingness to embrace change can aid you in solving technical problems. For instance, the chapter on Research Techniques shows how to use reference skills to troubleshoot problems and find answers to technical questions. Organizational skills are used to help keep track of computer systems information, document procedures, and to collect and analyze statistics. A great strength of this book is relating unknown technological tasks with familiar library ones.

Each chapter includes references at the end, as well as an extended bibliography as an appendix. The many Web resources mentioned throughout the book are amalgamated into one list as an appendix, sorted by chapter. In addition, the author is maintaining a Web page with updated links and additional resources.

For all those who accidentally find themselves dealing with technology, this book is a valuable reference tool. For true systems librarians, this book is a bible that will help you progress through your accidental career.

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