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Magazines > Online > May/June 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 3 — May/June 2004
Recommended Reading on the Library Field
By Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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This month I look at the basics of Web conferencing, super searchers in competitive intelligence, a guide for getting published in the library world, and an early history of the online world.


The Web Conferencing Book

by Sue Spielman and Liz Winfeld

ISBN: 0-8144-7174-9

Published: 2003

Pages: 256 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

Available from: AMACOM Books, 1601 Broadway, New York, NY 10019;

If you are just starting to think about Web conferencing, then this basic book is the one you need. The authors are consultants—one techie and one not so—who share the burden of explaining the technology and practical uses of Web-based conferencing software.

The flow of the book is a little confusing. For instance, instead of a glossary at the end of the book, the list of terminology used is hidden in the middle of chapter four. And, if you are new to this game, you really need to be able to refer to that list from time to time. Also, the chapter on making the business case for using the technology comes before the overview letting you know what is possible. Still, the content is good and easy to understand.

The authors describe the basic features of several different brands of software, from the simple NetMeeting to the elaborate WebEx, trying to point out the differences and strengths of each of them. These are likely to have changed since the writing of the book, but the URLs for the company Web sites, as well as other relevant resources, are included in an appendix.

The combination of clear explanations of the basics of the technology, combined with a concise list of the features of some of the major players in the Web conferencing game, make this a very useful book for those wanting to quickly choose a vendor and get on with their life.


Super Searchers on Competitive Intelligence:
The Online and Offline Secrets of Top CI Researchers

by Margaret Metcalf Carr

ISBN: 0-910965-64-1

Published: 2003

Pages: 332 pp.; softcover

Price: $24.95

Available from: CyberAge Books,
Information Today, Inc. 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750;

Even the top experts in this field can't agree on a single definition of competitive intelligence. However, after reading this book by long-time independent information professional Peggy Carr, you will have a greater understanding and respect for those in the profession. Unlike most of the super searchers interviewed in this popular series, few of the 15 experts interviewed for this book come from a traditional library or information science background. However, most of the skills and processes they use are the same. They just seem to focus on both the overall process and the analysis of the data collected more than traditional information specialists.

A word of warning to those of you in the academic world—you may not like some of the premises in this book. The nature of competitive intelligence is that company A wants to preserve and enhance its own information flow and interpretation, while preventing anyone else from knowing about it, and at the same time exploit any publicly available information from company B to better position their company in the market. Although all the interviewees stressed the importance of ethics, the entire focus is something of an anathema to many librarians. There is no "open access" discussion in this world.

I think all librarians can learn from this book. Most of the interviewees stressed the importance of personal contacts, a methodical approach to and definition of the problem, and a major emphasis on providing an answer, not just a list of citations or sources. These are skills that all librarians should develop. As information is turned into a commodity, it is intelligence and knowledge that people seek as an answer, not just information, and this book focuses on the skills and processes to get the answer.


The Librarian's Guide to Writing for Publication

by Rachael Singer Gordon

ISBN: 0-8108-4895-3

Published: 2004

Pages: 202 pp.; softcover

Price: $34.95

Available from: Scarecrow Press, Inc.,
Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706; 800/462-6420;


Publish or perish—we've all heard this phrase, but many librarians seem reluctant to take the plunge. Well, this book is a lifeline to those dithering on the edge but not quite knowing how to dive in and swim.

The author, an experienced writer herself, has also surveyed 99 published librarians (through an online survey) to come up with the expert words of advice presented in this book. She also includes interviews with several publishers, representing journals, books, book reviews, newsletters, and online publications. This provides many viewpoints (although the publishers, including Information Today, Inc.'s book publisher, are confined to an appendix) and gives a good representation of what you need to do to get started in getting published.

I think the important point to take away from this book is that all editors are looking for good content and are open to new ideas. You have to write about something you are passionate about and present it in a clear, concise, and readable way. The author provides tips for helping you present your ideas to the appropriate editor in a way that increases your odds of being published. She also stresses the importance of following guidelines and helping your editor—words my editor will no doubt relish.

A couple of chapters focus on book publishing, including writing a detailed proposal, the publishing process, and the marketing efforts that you must make to ensure a successful book. We are not talking runaway best-seller, million-copy books, but professional titles in which author participation can still help the sales process.

If you want to publish, but haven't taken the first step yet, get this book. You will feel less intimidated by the entire process and will get some valuable tips that I wish I had learned years ago.


A History of Online Information Services, 1963-1976

by Charles P. Bourne and
Trudi Bellardo Hahn

ISBN: 0-262-02538-8

Published: 2003

Pages: 493 pp.; hardcover

Price: $45.00

Available from:
The MIT Press, 5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142-1493; 800/405-1619;

Wow, what a lot of work went into this encyclopedic book! The authors have gone to great effort to document the beginnings of the online industry, searching for the facts and statistics, as well as the personal stories of the pioneers of the day.

The first few chapters detail many of the early efforts in computerized information retrieval. These are the days of large mainframes, high storage costs, punch cards, and batch mode searching. However, many of the search and retrieval ideas were sophisticated and are still very much in use today. The authors have included "milestones" to highlight significant firsts, such as, "SRI demonstrated the first online bibliographic search system in 1963." These are amalgamated into a timeline at the end of the book.

The middle chapters are devoted to the development of the first commercial search services: Lockheed Dialog, SDC ORBIT, and SUNY Biomedical Communication Network/BRS. The fact that these services developed at all is amazing, given the constraints of the parent companies or organizations. There were only a few people who believed that online searching was the way of the future.

I particularly liked the next two chapters describing the birth of the online industry—one from the public point of view and another from the inside perspective. Enough time has gone by that many of the frantic tales can be told. In particular, current users of the online systems can begin to understand how and why things are the way they are today from reading how things got started. Pricing was a guessing game from the start (and still is, to some extent). Roger Summit couldn't imagine mounting more than 128 databases. Dialog ran out of user passwords. Computer time was valuable, so some systems ignored words of three letters or less, title words, and few allowed even searching of abstracts, let alone full text. Telephone connections were expensive and difficult. How far we have come, and how quickly we forget.

This work does a great service to those of us in the industry. Let us not forget from whence we came. All library schools and those interested in the history of information retrieval should have this book.

Deborah Lynne Wiley [] is principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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