v27 #6 Book Reviews – Monographic Musings

by | Feb 22, 2016 | 0 comments

Column Editor: Regina Gong  (Head of Technical Services & Systems, Lansing Community College Library)

Column Editor’s Note:  This is our first issue for 2016 so I’m wishing you all a happy new year.  I can’t believe 2015 is over.  Seems like it flew by so fast, at least for me.  I guess time passes by really quickly when you’re having fun and, of course, when you live in a state that has four seasons.  Speaking of state, I’m happy to welcome you dear readers to this column where all book reviewers are my MI librarian colleagues (including my husband who works at MSU).  We have an interesting array of books that we’ve reviewed for this issue starting with my review of the book Managing Your Brand: Career Management and Personal PR for Librarians.  It contains helpful and practical advice for librarians preparing for tenure and promotion and for those wanting to reinvigorate their careers.  Change and growth are the topic of the books The Purpose-Based Library: Finding your Path to Survival, Success, and Growth and New Routes to Library Success: 100+ Ideas from Outside the Stacks.  Libraries are always looking for ways to adapt and modify services to better serve our patrons.  In the same way, we all need inspiration from other libraries on how to think outside the box or stacks so to speak.  In Rethinking Library Technical Services: Redefining our Profession for the Future, we see how technical services has morphed to keep pace with the changing landscape of library services and how technical services librarians can approach the future and still be relevant.  Linked Data for Libraries, Archives and Museums: How to Clean, Link, and Publish Your Metadata explores the concept of linked data, metadata, big data, and semantic Web.  This book provides both theoretical as well as practical applications of linked data that are useful for libraries, archives, and the digital humanities community.  Meanwhile, we see academic law librarianship out in the forefront in the book Law Librarianship in Academic Libraries: Best Practices.  It offers readers some insights on how law librarians are evolving to meet the changes and challenges in their libraries.  Finally, don’t miss out the review on A History of Modern Librarianship: Constructing the Heritage of Western Cultures.  Just the journey alone in writing this book is a feat in itself.  It’s a great reference and a definitive historical study for those looking to know the modern history of libraries in the Western world.

Anyway, I hope to see you at the ALA Midwinter in Boston.  I’m looking forward to going there.  Hope the winter weather is not too bad.  As always, please let me know if you want to be a book reviewer at <gongr1@lcc.edu>.  There’s a free book waiting for you if you do.  Happy reading, everyone! — RG

 

Still, Julie M.  Managing Your Brand: Career Management and Personal PR for Librarians.  Chandos Information Professional Series. Amsterdam: Chandos Publishing, 2015.  9781843347699.  $78.95.

Reviewed by Regina Gong  (Head of Technical Services & Systems, Lansing Community College Library)

As librarians, do we really need to worry about our personal branding, public relations, and image just like celebrities do?  What does it mean for our profession to manage our own brand?  You’ve probably heard the somewhat typical profile of librarians being introverts.  So given this, how do we self-promote to get ahead in our career?  How do we market ourselves and not appear too self-absorbed?  How do we find meaning in our profession and redirect our energies so we can be our best selves?  I find the answers to these questions and more in this book by Julie Still, a prolific author of five books, over twenty articles, and veteran national and international conference presenter.  She writes based on her experiences and hopes to impart her words of wisdom not only for the newbie librarian but to mid-career and late-career librarians as well.

Part of the new Chandos Information Professional Series, this book at just 114 pages caters to busy professionals who want to learn from information practitioners issues that are important to them.  None can be more important than “managing your brand,” which according to the author, really refers to the “skills, work habits, intelligence, creativity, and ability to work with others” so that we can be an integral part of an organization.  It is documenting all our successes and accomplishments both within and outside of the library so that we can show our value.  Nothing wrong with that, except that not many people do it unless they apply for a job or prepare their promotion and tenure packets.

When I read this book, it almost feels like an advice column.  It has something for everyone, and you may not read the entire book if the situation does not apply to you.  The first three chapters are for people who want to recalibrate their careers and seek direction.  It discusses how to take stock of your career, where you are going, and crafting a personal mission statement.  The author presents ways in which to count your assets.  The assets that Still refer to are time, knowledge, personal contacts, and organizational abilities.  I find the author’s practical illustration of these assets in the working place very useful.  I could not agree more with her assertion that we need to all have a circle of trusted colleagues who we can depend on to provide encouragement and feedback on how well or poorly we’re doing.  It also stresses the importance of cultivating organizational relationships and making sure that you step outside of your bubble and comfort zone.

The succeeding chapters cater to academic librarians who are on tenure-track positions.  What Still writes in these chapters are spot-on for librarians preparing their tenure and promotion dossiers.  The longest chapter is on scholarship since it tackles what a librarian must do to build a portfolio of scholarly activities which in turn can lead to tenure.  It delves into research writing, presentation, writing, and publishing including editorial work.  Librarians on tenure-track also need to provide evidence of service to their library, their institution, and to the profession.  This is where the meat of the book lies since the author speaks from her experiences and offers valuable advice to the readers on how to accomplish these requirements for tenure and promotion.

I highly recommend this book to all types of librarians.  Don’t be put off by the extensive discussion on how to prepare for the tenure process.  If at all, this book forces us to think about ourselves as a brand and how we can take the next step up in our careers as librarians.


 

Huber, John J. and Steven V. PotterThe Purpose-Based Library: Finding your Path to Survival, Success, and GrowthChicago, IL: Neal-Schuman (ALA Imprint), 2015.  9780838912447.  224 pages.  $62.00 (ALA members $55.80).

Reviewed by Corey Seeman  (Director, Kresge Library Services, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)  <cseeman@umich.edu>

John Huber and Steven Potter have written an excellent book for libraries looking to adapt and modify their services and policies to be more in tune with their patrons or customers.  Huber is the principal consultant at J. Huber and Associates (http://www.libraryconsults.com/), a firm focused on introducing lean operations to libraries.  Huber lists a large number of clients with whom he has worked to introduce lean management policies and procedures to their libraries.  The nature of lean library management was also the subject of his 2011 work called Lean Library Management: Eleven Strategies for Reducing Costs and Improving Customer Services.

What makes this book different, in large part, is the co-author.  Steven Potter is the library director and CEO at the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, a system that serves over 750,000.  The Mid-Continent Public Library was also a client of J. Huber and Associates, which provides a very important “post-consultation” perspective of Huber’s assessment.  Many of the key library clients for the firm are large sized public libraries, which might be a target audience for this book.

There is a great sense in this book about promoting lean management systems to ensure that libraries are good stewards of the stakeholder’s money.  Huber rightfully starts out with the notion that library budgets are contracting at a time when there seems to be a thought that the very purpose of a library is not critical for a community (with Amazon, Google, Netflix, etc.).  With this understanding and with a general contraction of many public monies, libraries, especially those that adhere to antiquated management systems and procedures, run the risk of not meeting the needs of their community.  Where lean management comes into play is when a library can create savings in the way they conduct business (such as basic services like book processing, shelving, ordering, etc.) which in turn can be used for new programs that they might not be able to fund on their own.  This book is really good in providing directors with ideas on how they might find savings in their own workflow to create new ways of engaging with their community.  What is nice about this book is that Huber provides the lean management focus and Potter provides the sense of what that looks like in the library.  The end result is a recipe book for library directors of things that have worked elsewhere, that may work at your library.

The book is well written.  It is nicely broken up into parts and chapters, enabling the directors to pick and choose how they go through the book.  While this book clearly focuses on library service improvements, much of the examples comes from larger public libraries.  I do not believe that this nullifies its value in the academic space, but less creative directors may not see themselves in this examples.

Library directors and board members are constantly being pulled in different directions to support increasing needs with decreasing resources.  This is compounded when we are not in full control of either.  While this will not be the last library management book anyone will ever need, it is something that I hope library directors pick up and read.  While your issues and needs may not match up perfectly with what is listed out in this book, it will show you solutions that may help reframe your own situation to better serve your community.


 

Doucett, ElisabethNew Routes to Library Success: 100+ Ideas from Outside the Stacks.  Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2015. 9780838913130.  256 pages.  $55.00

Reviewed by Leslie D. Burke  (Collection Development & Digital Integration Librarian, Kalamazoo College Library)
<Leslie.Burke@kzoo.edu>

If you are looking for ideas and practical methods to begin thinking about transformational changes in your library environment, Elisabeth Doucett’s book would be a good place to start.  Her primary supposition is that for libraries to truly make changes to take them into the future, they will need to look for ideas from non-library organizations or models.  I could not agree more.  Perhaps Doucett’s marketing experience prior to working in libraries influenced her to think “outside the stacks.” Too often, library managers look only to what other libraries have done and do not ask broader questions of how they can make meaningful changes for their constituencies.  This can lead to “navel-gazing” or “me-too-ism” rather than making the necessary creative leaps that can move a library beyond improving current services to providing new and innovative services to their communities.

Although the book is written primarily from a public library perspective, there are plenty of the “100+ Ideas from outside the stacks” that would be of value to an academic, school or special library.  Often readers skip the Preface, but this one is worth reading, as it explains the “why” of the book as well as instructions on how to use it.

The book is a collection of information gathered from interviews with individuals at ten different organizations.  The organizations interviewed for the book are: Gelato Fiasco, Briggs Advertising, EepyBird, Kickstarter, L.L. Bean, Trendwatching.com, Down East Magazine, Maine Community Foundation, Doucett’s own Curtis Memorial Library, and Tom’s of MaineDoucett begins the book explaining the process she used to determine the interviewees and to gather the information for the subsequent chapters.  This twelve-step process is one that any library manager could replicate in his or her own environment and community and is clear and practical.  The author carefully describes the logical and consistent process used with each person who was selected to address her topics.

The chapters include: Entrepreneurship, Creativity, The Extraordinary in the Ordinary, Advocates for the Creator, Customer Service, Trend Tracking, Learning Your Community, Creating a Great Workplace, Content Curation, and Unconventional Thinking.  Readers will easily find similar types of non-library resources to make connections within their own circle of contacts.

Each of these chapters take a similar format where Doucett begins with an identification of the person and organization she interviewed, why she chose this particular topic, why this organization was meaningful, and follows with insights from the interview and typically five to nine sets of  reflections on learning, implication, and ideas.  Doucett then provides a “Summary of What I Learned,” resources used, and interview questions she prepared for the discussion with her interviewee.

Written primarily from a management position, Doucett presents what she learned, the implications she believes a library might consider, and ideas that may be tested.  These ideas may easily be adopted, adapted, and modified to meet the needs of a particular library community.  They could also likely be explored in a department setting.  Some of the ideas or techniques seem a little repetitive, but it is likely that many of these creative thinkers employ similar techniques to bring forth innovative ideas.  The interview questions at the end of each chapter alone may spark some creative ideas among one’s own library staff.

Doucett has written a practical procedure manual to get any library leader to think “outside the stacks” and find the “new routes to library success.”


 

Weber, Mary Beth, ed.  Rethinking Library Technical Services:  Redefining Our Profession for the Future.  New York, NY:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.  978144238633.  187 pages.  $55.00

Reviewed by Susan Ponischil  (Access Services Librarian, Grace Hauenstein Library, Aquinas College)
<susan.ponischil@aquinas.edu>

Technical services is dead.  Or is it?  In Rethinking Library Technical Services: Redefining Our Profession for the Future, editor Mary Beth Weber invites the reader to explore the shifting technical services landscape where obsolescence is challenged on nearly every page.  Each chapter discusses a topic related to technical services.  Most begin with a rich history of the topic.  Cataloging and acquisitions are given as much attention as DDA and RDA.  Weber is well versed in all aspects of technical services, having worked in the field for almost 30 years and written about it for 20.

The book begins with an introduction followed by nine chapters.  In the introduction, Weber provides an overview of technical services beginning with definitions.  “There is not a single answer for what constitutes technical services as it is unique to each library or institution and is shaped by factors including the library or institution’s mission, available staffing, financial considerations, and interaction with other departments or operations within the organization.”  But there are commonalities, such as cataloging.  Two chapters discuss cataloging, but from different perspectives.  In Chapter 1, the authors ask philosophical questions about the purpose of the catalog: discovery or inventory?  A discussion about Librarian Ethics and Core Values and Google begins about halfway through the chapter.  Chapter 2 clearly and concisely outlines everything you need to know about working with vendors, including the vendor’s perspective.  The last third of that chapter outlines practical ways to advocate for technical services, to colleagues, administrators and users.

Chapter 3 approaches cataloging from a technical perspective focusing on the impact of metadata and cataloging rule changes.  Acquisitions is discussed in Chapter 4 where Michael Luesebrink addresses the change from a supply side approach to demand driven, and the skills required to navigate that change.  Chapter 5 outlines the complexities of electronic resource management, and includes an overview of Oliver Pesch’s model depicting the lifecycle of an e-journal.  Sherry Vellucci talks about data, research data, data curation, data literacy, linked data, open data, etc. in Chapter 6.  She also talks about data as it relates to Open Access and Institutional Repositories, and quite extensively about Research Data.

Chapter 7 is all about “Skills for the Future of Technical Services” and presents a practical exploration of skills and characteristics needed in today’s technical services environment.  Topics include creativity, initiative, communication, advocacy, and professional competencies.   Chapter 8 discusses relatively recent trends that have resulted in a shift toward outsourcing and automating processes.  We see the “aggravation” of aggregators and the need for librarians to learn about programming and communication.  In Chapter 9, Weber facilitates a question and answer interview of six librarians, two public and four academic.  All are asked questions like “has technical services been de-professionalized?” and “what skills will be needed for technical services work in the future?”  They are also asked to respond to statements like, “RDA isn’t the answer,” and “technical services is dead.”

This book is written by academic librarians for academic librarians.  Overarching themes are the need for collaboration, advocacy, and adaptability.  It is clear that a new set of skills are needed.  Also clear is the fact that many contributors believe that the past, the processes that got us where we are today, provide the perspective we need to see ahead.  Each chapter is followed by a list of notes, some of them extensive.


 

Van Hooland, Seth and Ruben Verborgh.  Linked Data for Libraries, Archives and Museums: How to Clean, Link and Publish Your Metadata.  London, UK: Facet Publishing, 2014.  9781856049641.  254 pages.  £49.95.

Reviewed by Dao Rong Gong  (Systems Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries)  <gongd@msu.edu>

Much has been said about linked data and the semantic Web, but people often wonder where to start in the world of diversified linked data practices and standards (or sometimes lack of it).  This handbook is a good starter kit that tries to address those issues by giving some context on linked data work.  It also demonstrates through examples how to contribute to the pool of global linked data and yet make practical sense of it.  The authors Seth van Hooland and Ruben Verborgh, both information science professors, researchers, and metadata experts, have a long history of involvement in digitization and in the information technology field.  The authors state that this book would be the first of its kind that fulfills the needs specifically for “library and information science (LIS) or the digital humanities (DH) communities.”

In this concise 250-page book, the authors provide both theories and practices of every topic, covering the ground for three main concepts namely: linked data, metadata, and cultural heritage institutes.  The book follows a handbook style and a useful glossary reference is added to the beginning of the book.  The structure of chapters are constructed following the workflow of the metadata lifecycle: from data modeling, data clean up, reconciling and enriching data content, and finally to publishing linked data on the Web.  Another important component of the book is that each chapter is accompanied by a hands-on step-by-step case study.  Those case studies are particularly tailored toward the use cases of library, archives, and museum.  All case studies contain examples to illustrate the objective being described in the chapter, and explains the technical processes in achieving them using various tools such as APIs (application programming interface) or open source software, as well as readily available online metadata sets.

Besides being a must-read “how to” technical guide, this book also provides in-depth perspectives that show readers the big picture of linked data in historical, social, and technological context.  In doing so, it provides good background work and sometimes provocative arguments for the readers to understand the opportunities and challenges surrounding the global application of linked data, including the semantic Web.  For instance, in the early chapters of the book, it points out the gap between reality and the projected goal of linked data in our time, thus encouraging critical views that can differentiate between what is feasible and what is not.  Similarly, the book captures the metadata momentum in terms of big data, compares it to the traditional humanities research where a smaller subset of heavily curated data is often used.  It suggests some paradigm shift that pushes researchers to go beyond the “primary sources” canon, using data mining with the aid of computational technology.  In this shift, it points out that semantically linked data can better assist statistical and probabilistic approaches in research.

The primary audience of this book are metadata practitioners in library, archives, and museums.  However technology wise, it has a well-balanced coverage of the nuts and bolts regarding linked data, and that makes it also a valuable reference source for a broader audience, from the people who manage and carry out the daily work of information systems to individuals who want to explore the world of linked data.


 

Dina, YemisiLaw Librarianship in Academic Libraries: Best PracticesChandos Information Professional Series.  Waltham, MA:  Chandos, 2015.  9780081001448.  116 pages.  $87.00

Reviewed by Frances Krempasky  (Electronic Resources Management Librarian, Lansing Community College Library)  <krempf@lcc.edu>

The central theme of this book is that academic law libraries are experiencing advances in technology that are changing the basic core of their operations.  It offers insights on how academic law libraries are evolving to meet challenges as well as navigating the current landscape, resources, and technologies.  Not only does Dina delve into academic law librarianship practices in the United States, she also examines practices in other parts of the world which gives this book a unique global perspective.

This book is comprehensive and covers all aspects of an academic law library.  It brings together some of the best practices of academic law libraries in terms of organizational structure, operations, and resources.  Chapter 1 presents an overview of law libraries and the qualifications for law librarians.  It explains the organizational structures including the autonomous versus the centralized law library.  This topic is important as both approaches affect budget distribution, collection development, and information technology operations.  This chapter includes an interesting history of law libraries and information on accreditation and standards by regulatory bodies.  Chapter 2 is about the law library user.  Knowing our users will help us market and brand resources and keeps the library vital within the law school.  Chapter 3 gives an excellent description of the types of materials that are standard in an academic law library, from primary print sources to e-resources.   One of the most successful parts of this book is in this chapter since it discusses managing library collections.  As law publishers move to electronic formats, budgets shrink, and library space is reduced, making good collection decisions is critical.  It also presents a common sense approach to collection development, including creating a collection development policy.  The discussion on weeding, resource sharing, and law library cooperatives are informative and relevant.  Chapter 4 discusses circulation, reference, and interlibrary loan/document delivery issues.  Staffing in Circulation is changing as collections move to electronic formats and self-checkout machines proliferate.  Reference staff are incorporating virtual reference services like chat, email, and instant messaging into their daily operations.  Cataloging standards, such as RDA (Resource Description and Access) are also changing the technical services landscape.  Dina gives an impressive synopsis of various classification systems used in law libraries worldwide.  Chapter 6 discusses information technology practices in academic law libraries, including various administrative structures for placing IT within the institution.  She stresses the importance of determining who will manage the integrated library system and the library’s Website.  Administration and management in academic law libraries is the subject of Chapter 6.  It considers the role of the library director in managing human, financial, and physical resources as well as the importance of succession planning and strengthening leadership.

The last chapter is a professional development and networking guide that includes listings of international professional law associations, Websites, online courses, and scholarships.  The appendices include examples of law librarianship course descriptions, codes of professional ethics, examples of social media policies, and a list of legal publishers.

Dina’s book is a primer of relevant law library history plus information on the operations and structures in law libraries today.  It gives an excellent overview of what to expect when embarking on an academic law librarian career.  It covers all the key topics in law librarianship and delivers a global perspective which is often missing from other books.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in law libraries and especially to new law librarians.


 

Richards, Pamela Spence, Wayne A. Wiegand, and Marija Dalbello, eds.  A History of Modern Librarianship: Constructing the Heritage of Western CulturesSanta Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.  9781610690997.  248 pages.  $60.00.

Reviewed by Maurine McCourry  (Technical Services Librarian, Hillsdale College, Mossey Library)
<mmccourry@hillsdale.edu>

A History of Modern Librarianship: Constructing the Heritage of Western Cultures had a long and difficult journey to publication.  Pamela Richards, from Rutgers University, and Wayne Wiegand, then at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, began work on the project in 1992, conceiving it as a comprehensive “modern world library history” composed of essays by scholars in the field.  Richards was diagnosed with brain cancer early in the process, however, and died in 1999.  Efforts to complete the work were met with numerous difficulties, but Weigand never gave up, eventually bringing Marija Dalbello, also from Rutgers, on as co-editor.  The finished volume deals only with Western library history, leaving Weigand and Richards’ original vision of a world-wide focus unfulfilled.  As a history of modern librarianship on this side of the globe, though, it is comprehensive and very effective.

Wiegand and Dabello note in their introduction that they see their work as an extension of Michael Harris’s 1993 publication, History of Libraries in the Western World, a work they describe as the “definitive” historical study.  They also note that the essays are structured in a manner similar to Harris’s and other similar historical studies, being wedded more to topic than chronology.  This structure makes for more challenging reading, in some instances, but will be useful for those using the work as reference for particular issues.  The introduction also notes the common theme in all of the histories of tension between the role of librarians as information curators for their own culture, and as neutral providers of information about all cultures.

The first essay, on Europe, is by British library historian Peter Hoare, formerly of the University of Nottingham.  It is, necessarily, perhaps, cursory in its coverage of some countries, placing emphasis on the regions in which libraries have flourished in modern times.  Hoare’s topical divisions consist of three types of libraries, national, academic and research, and public, and each of those is divided into subsections for the relevant regions.  Weigand’s essay on the United States and Canada follows a slightly different outline, with chronological divisions broken out by topic.  Anthony Olden of the University of West London uses a strictly topical approach in his essay on Africa, mentioning individual countries as applicable.  Ross Harvey, of Melbourne’s RMIT University, provides alternating aspects of Australian and New Zealand library history, starting out chronologically, but concluding with a fascinating section on “Accommodating Ethnic Diversity and Indigenous Peoples,” recalling the volume’s introduction.

The volume concludes with an essay on “Digital Convergence” by Dalbello.  It is an exceptionally clear survey of the history of modern information technology, concluding with thoughtful subsections regarding various topics of interest to librarians since 2005.  In keeping with the volume’s focus, the perspective is that of Western libraries, but deals, too, with the impact of increasing globalization on the management of information.  This need for an expanding global purview for all libraries is particularly well-stated in the “Epilogue” to the last chapter, describing the modern Egyptian Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s online presence as “an active ‘third place’ offering a social space for cultural dialogue.”  The chapter ties the modern library world well to the ever-present tensions described in the introduction.

This volume will serve students and scholars well as a reference for the modern history of libraries in the West, and may also be useful for some courses in library and information science, possibly even as a textbook.  I highly recommend it, too, for librarians interested in the history of their profession.  It is a valuable addition to the literature.

 

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