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VOLUME 26 NUMBER 6 November/December 2002 
HARDCOPY
Recommended Reading on Community, Independent Information Professionals, and Leadership
by Deborah Lynne Wiley
Next Wave Consulting, Inc.

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FEATURED BOOKS
Online Community Information: Creating a Nexus at your Library
Web Word Wizardry: A Guide to Writing for the Web and Intranet
Super Searchers Make It On Their Own: Top Independent Information Professionals Share Their Secrets for Starting and Running a Research Business
Nobody in Charge: Essays on the Future of Leadership

This month I look at community involvement, from how to best utilize and digitize community information, to how to write for better community understanding of your Web site, to thoughts on community leadership. And, as a counterbalance, read about the super searchers who have struck out on their own.


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Online Community Information: Creating a Nexus at your Library

by Joan C. Durrance and Karen E. Pettigrew

ISBN: 0-8389-0823-3
Published: 2002
Pages: 192 pp.; softcover
Price: $42
Available from: ALA Editions, American Library Association, 50 East Huron St.,
Chicago, IL 60611; 866/746-7252; www.alastore.ala.org

This book presents the key results from a major research study that examined the role of the public library in helping citizens obtain community information over the Internet. The researchers are both academics. Joan Durrance is professor and coordinator in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, while Karen Pettigrew is an assistant professor in the Information School at the University of Washington, Seattle. The book starts with trying to quantify how the public uses networked community information (CI) and identifies some of the barriers to access. Several examples are then provided of libraries that have digitized and organized information for the public, often in conjunction with other community organizations.

The most interesting sections deal with best practices and case studies of libraries that are providing unique or exceptional community information services. However, you get just a very quick glimpse at the activities, with not enough insight into how the libraries actually accomplish and manage this valuable service. URLs are provided, though, so you can visit each of these organizations and see for yourself what kinds of services are offered. There is also an extensive bibliography that covers both the historical and current aspects of providing community information to the public.

If you are looking at ways to expand your role in providing community information, this book will help you understand the current situation in most public libraries, but it won't give you actual hands-on guidance for expanding or developing your own community information service.

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Web Word Wizardry: A Guide to Writing for the Web and Intranet

by Rachel McAlpine

ISBN: 1-58008-223-8
Published: 2002
Pages: 272 pp.; softcover
Price: $11.95
Available from: Ten Speed Press,
PO Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94704;
510/559-1600; www.tenspeed.com

This witty and practical guide to writing for the Web should be required reading for everyone who designs or manages a Web site. The author, a New Zealand-based writing coach and consultant, has a knack for pointing out the absurdities in many of the common Web designs, starting with her opening sentence of "Welcome to my book." She highlights the difference between writing for print and writing for the Web and manages to whittle all the verbiage down to the five items in the "Bill of Writes": Write to be found; Write to be skim-read; Write to be understood; Write to be trusted; and Write to get results.

In addition, she provides an excellent chapter on writing for an international audience and the confusion that can easily arise for those trying to read or interpret slang-filled English. There is also an interesting chapter on how to write headings, titles, and links to help make your content more accessible for those searching and skimming your pages.

The book also covers how to add keywords, titles, and descriptions to your Web pages to maximize retrievability by the general search engines. How long should a title be? What words will your users be searching, and how can you add them to your page in such a way that it does not detract from the usability of the content?

I write content for Web sites nearly every single day, and I learned a lot from this book. I'm sure that you will, too.

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Super Searchers Make It On Their Own:
Top Independent Information Professionals Share Their Secrets for Starting and Running a Research Business

by Suzanne Sabroski,
edited by Reva Basch

ISBN: 0-910965-59-5
Published: 2002
Pages: 318 pp.; softcover
Price: $24.95
Available from: CyberAge Books,
Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055; 609/654-6266; www.infotoday.com

This tenth book in the Super Searchers series focuses on the trials and rewards of running your own business, written by someone with lots of experience in doing just that. Although many research sources and techniques are mentioned, the main thing you will gain from this book is how these 11 people took the leap into successfully running their own businesses. Some planned for years, others fell into it, but all of the interviewees clearly expressed a joy and zest for what they are doing. In fact, they all have difficulty stopping work—a trait I've noticed in just about every self-employed person I've encountered.

Another common theme: All felt experience and contacts were crucial to their success. Few could imagine being successful at running their own research service just out of school. A broad range of industry experience and key contacts are the best preparation tools.

A few other revealing findings: Working from home is now quite acceptable, and being a sole proprietor instead of a corporation tends to be easier and perfectly adequate for most individuals. There is a huge reluctance to hire employees. Sub-contractors and colleagues are preferred when additional assistance is needed. Most felt that specialization is required—pick your niche and focus on it. No one can do everything, so pick what you are good at and stick with it.

If you have any yearnings towards being your own boss, read this book. It actually makes it all sound easier than it is, but will also give you inspiration for going it alone.

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Nobody in Charge: Essays on the Future of Leadership

by Harlan Cleveland

ISBN: 0-7879-6153-1
Published: 2002
Pages: 236 pp.; hardcopy
Price: $27.95
Available from: Jossey-Bass,
989 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103-1741; 888/378-2537; www.josseybass.com

It is joy to read this man's writings. His insights cover the experience gained in over 60 years of leadership in private and public organizations, and yet his outlook is ahead of what is happening today, not necessarily looking back at what has happened.

The book contains 14 essays, all reworked from previous publications of the author. The historical perspective adds a depth to the thoughts that would not be possible from one who had not been involved in public affairs for so many years. The book is divided into two parts. The essays in the first part document how society has changed so that basically no one person is in charge. Things are too complex for one person to know it all. Part two then states that since nobody is in charge, everyone has the chance to be in charge. However, most people will not necessarily rise to the challenge of being a leader, so only a few leaders emerge. Several of the essays discuss the roles of leaders and the effect of organizational structure and information flow on getting things accomplished.

A recurring theme through many of the essays is the impact of knowledge or information on leadership, and the changes that will be wrought in our societies as we move to an economy based upon resources that are shared rather than exchanged. Information is not scarce, and both parties tend to gain when it is shared. And leaders need to be generalists to understand and coordinate the disparate pieces of information that are being shared by the people s/he is to lead.

Take the few hours necessary to read this book and then sit back and reflect on the ideas presented. I guarantee you will find yourself with at least one "ah-ha" experience.

 


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

Comments? Email the editor at marydee@infotoday.com


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