v30#6 Book Reviews — Monographic Musings

by | Feb 18, 2019 | 0 comments

Column Editor: Corey Seeman  (Director, Kresge Library Services, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan;  Phone: 734-764-9969)  Twitter @cseeman

Column Editor’s Note:  Very excited to have my second Monographic Musings column in Against the Grain.  This is an interesting mix of titles that cover a variety of librarian topics.  You will find works here on library instruction, library management, serving patrons with disabilities, selecting reference works for your library, creating online collections and even how to use reflective practice in libraries.  

Thanks to my great reviewers for getting items for my second column.  Thanks to Julie Huskey, Michelle Polchow, Jessica Shuck, Steven W. Sowards, Katherine Swart, and my colleague Sally Ziph for writing reviews for this column.  Steven Sowards might be an Against the Grain first by being a reviewer and author in the same issue!  Calm down, he did not review his own book.

As a reminder, I have introduced a standard rating reference.  Being a big fan of Ebert and Siskel (may they both rest in peace), I loved the way that they presented a clear way to show if something was worth watching.  Roger Ebert used four stars (for his newspaper reviews in the Chicago Sun Times) to let you know quickly if this is something worth the time and money.  So to that end, I have created the ATG Reviewer Rating that would be used from book to book.  I came up with this rating to reflect our collaborative collections and resource sharing means.  I think it helps classify the importance of these books.

  • I need this book on my nightstand.  (This book is so good, that I want a copy close at hand when I am in bed.)
  • I need this on my desk.  (This book is so valuable, that I want my own copy at my desk that I will share with no one.)
  • I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)
  • I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it with three to five days via my network catalog.)
  • I’ll use my money elsewhere.  (Just not sure this is a useful book for my library or my network.)

If you would like to be a reviewer for Against the Grain, please write me at <cseeman@umich.edu>.  If you have a book you would like to see reviewed in a future column, please also write me directly.

Happy reading and be nutty! — CS

Eshleman, Joe, Dr. Richard Moniz, Karen Mann and Kristen Eshleman.  Librarians and Instructional Designers: Collaboration and Innovation.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2016.  187 pages. $65.00 ($58.50 for ALA members.)

Reviewed by Jessica Shuck  (eResources Librarian, Cornerstone University)  

As the role of academic librarian shifts for many of us from one of service to that of an educator, it is beneficial to collaborate with others who are experts in pedagogy and technology to ensure library instruction is effective and useful to our students.  One critical position in this transformation of library work is that of the Instructional Designer. While there are distinct differences between the two professions, there is also one shared overarching goal. The authors refer to the ACRL framework for Information Literacy throughout the book and reiterate that both instructional designers and academic librarians aim to create digital and information literate learners.

While reasons for this partnership may seem obvious to academic librarians, Librarians and Instructional Designers does a great job of clarifying these benefits, in addition to describing the changing environment in higher education and librarianship.  It discusses the history of both professions as well as the differences and similarities in their current roles to stress the importance of the two working together.  The work includes a chapter entitled “Best Practices and Opportunities for Collaboration” and provides numerous case studies for demonstration and inspiration.

The authors are the perfect example of librarians and instructional designers working together effectively.  Three of the four are from Johnson & Wales University Library (at the Charlotte, North Carolina campus).  Joe Eshleman is the Instruction Librarian, Richard Moniz is an instructor and the Director of Library Services, and Karen Mann provides Instructional Technology and Design services.  Kristen Eshleman is the Director of Instructional Technology at Davidson College (in North Carolina) and the lead instructional designer for DavidsonX.  Each authored chapters relating to their specialty.

In particular, the two chapters written by Karen Mann are particularly noteworthy.  Mann draws upon her technology and design experience is especially evident in Chapter 7 (Digital Media in the Modern University) and Chapter 8 (Integrating the Library and the LMS).  She emphasizes the importance of multimodal learning and the sharing of instructional tools, free and subscription.  She provides concrete examples of sharing such as open houses, small group discussions and workshops. Chapter 8 was especially useful, offering multiple options for integrating librarians into the learning management system and using the LMS to initiate information literacy.

Overall, Librarians and Instructional Designers: Collaboration and Innovation was a helpful book for librarians interested in becoming more embedded into instruction.  While not all the ideas presented are extremely innovative, they are very inspiring and will be helpful as you develop these competencies for your library.  The book also encourages more research with each chapter containing a long list of resources for further reading.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it with three to five days via my network catalog.)

Koizumi, Masanori.  Inherent Strategies in Library Management.  Cambridge MA: Chandos Publishing, 2017.  9780081012772, 234 pages. $78.95

Reviewed by Steven W. Sowards  (Associate Director for Collections, Michigan State University Libraries, East Lansing, MI)  

This is a book for any librarian who is weary of flavor-of-the-week management advice, buzzwords, and poorly-grounded advice from consultants.  Reviewing decades of management theories from the for-profit world and their (mis)application to the world of library work, the author dismisses them all, arguing instead that libraries have their own inherent management practices, rooted in real experience, and therefore can rely on our own values and self-awareness.  This is a text of reassurance, not another how-to manual.

Masanori Koizumi argues for “conviction in the soundness of library management” rather than adoption of faddish business theories.  He sees “well established” “implicitly performed” “inherent strategies” as an unrecognized strength (p. ix). “The management strategies developed and presented in this book are based on libraries’ long-standing management practices … unique to libraries, premised on ideas and purposes specific to libraries that are not evident in the management theories of private enterprises …”  Specific cases point to “management strategies that have been used implicitly and effectively by librarians…” Rather than see librarians cast aside past practices, “…the knowledge and skills they have cultivated over their long history remain useful … and they provide a firm foundation …” even if “those library management strategies had been invisible for a long time” (p. 2).

The presentation is thorough and organized, but can be dry, reflecting its origin as a doctoral dissertation.  The audience will be professionals and academics. References to the literature appear at the end of chapters, especially chapter 3 which reviews the application of management ideas to library work, and chapter 4 which analyzes the organization of specific libraries.  Works cited are in English and cover a period from the 1950’s up to 2013. The author is a professor of Library and Information Sciences (LIS) in Japan, with research interests in library management, library governance, and services to communities and citizens. The book, in print and as an eBook, is part of Elsevier’s “Chandos Learning and Teaching Series.”

This is not a long book (some 230 pages) and effectively shorter than it appears, because a third of the text consists of tables and figures.  This is especially true in Chapter 4, an analysis of library organizations and reorganizations. For those wanting to cut to the chase, Koizumi’s core conclusions appear on pages 188-201, where he identifies four types of inherent organizational designs:  subject-based, media-based, function-based and region-based. Koizumi wraps up his work by listing “General strategies for libraries … (1) subject-based knowledge and information services …  (2) coping with new media and the increase in document formats; (3) effective collection distribution and archival [sic]; (4) sharing collections and bilateral collaboration;  and (5) expanding openness and outreach.” General strategies lead to “specific strategies” (one might say, goals or features of library operations) such as “subject specialization” in services, opportunities for underserved populations, “consultation services” ranging from basic reference to “sophisticated research services,” expanded “editing and publishing functions” to disseminate information, better “visitor facilities,” and the pursuit of “service and operational improvement” through efficiency.

Koizumi analyzes tables of organization and operations at numerous libraries, such as the  University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Tokyo Public Library, the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, and in even greater depth, the libraries of the Japanese Diet (parliament), Cornell University and Harvard University.  Some key findings (such as the “general strategies”) appear clearly only as he concludes.  The focus is on large institutions: would the same argument apply to small and mid-sized libraries?  How comparable are large special, academic and public libraries, especially when looking at both Japan and the United States?  A list would help readers access the large amount of information found in the tables and figures. A chronology of business management theories would guide readers through the changing landscape.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this available somewhere in my shared network.  (I probably do not need this book, but it would be nice to get it with three to five days via my network catalog.)

Kowalsky, Michelle and John Woodruff.  Creating Inclusive Library Environments: A Planning Guide for Serving Patrons with Disabilities.  Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2017.  978-0-8389-1485-4, 232 pages. $62.00

Reviewed by Michelle Polchow  (Electronic Resources Librarian, University of California, Davis)  

Libraries, like many organizations, can be rigid in their institutional culture.  Consider how long it takes to change a habit or to form a new one? Consider also that each employee and volunteer hold unique notions and perceptions about their typical library user.  However, what if the persona of a typical library patron is a mismatch to reality? The outcome of such a condition may be services that do not fit the needs of the patrons the library is trying to serve.  For the libraries that struggle with this problem, this book is a roadmap to gauge the inclusivity in serving a library’s entire community.

Michelle Kowalsky and John Woodruff provide an outstanding work that includes exhaustive checklists and bibliographies when it comes to the complexities of serving a wide variety of disabilities.  Kowalsky and Woodruff both work at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.  Kowalsky is a librarian and Woodruff serves as Director of the Academic Success Center and Disability Resource.

An excellent discussion of universal design is a central theme of the work.  Universal design seeks to avoid inclusivity for one group at the cost of barriers to another.  The breadth of topics may be overwhelming, but just like an individual working to change a habit, the authors remind librarians, “…there really is no substitute for following the law and employing best practices to serving the needs of library users with disabilities;  there is never a downside to improving access and removing barriers.”

Disabilities can be visible and hidden, can be permanent and temporary, affect the young to the elderly, and apply to all types of libraries.  Although the scope of this work takes a deep dive into creating an inclusive library culture for patrons with disabilities, the authors’ heartfelt guidance is useful for professionals seeking to understand the intricacies of their entire user population.  Taken in this light, the book could be an effective resource to comprehensively assess your library, realign strategies and stay current. Key points brought forward by Kowalsky and Woodruff: periodically take an environmental scan;  update the understanding of current users’ needs;  investigate why some who could benefit from the library are not consumers;  and keep abreast of evolving population demographics to maintain vitality within the community’s network of services.  These are relevant topics for all libraries under all circumstances.

Chapters within the book help focus discrete areas of assessment including: policy creation, service training, community outreach, employment and more.  If your first thought is a lack of resources to commit to such a challenging goal, the authors advocate that inclusiveness is not merely a fad, but equity in access is a professional standard of librarianship, and centers on the fundamental human right to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity.  Recognizing that organizational culture can be stubborn to change, the reader receives additional motivation, citing more and more people with ongoing or temporary disabilities are exercising their legal rights for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To ground this discussion, the book provides resources and guidelines regarding this legal framework.  Additionally, a strong theme permeates the text regarding consistent, comprehensive and inclusive staff development, which appears to be a critical correlation to assure change in the organization’s culture. A wide variety of resources are suggested, even a list of movie titles, to launch discussions of inclusivity.

A key area to be considered is technology in all its aspects.  This affects shared responsibilities throughout the library, including public services, marketing, technical services, collection development and information technology (IT) departments.  Inventions such as text-to-speech screen readers, screen magnifiers, closed captioning, and online chat services support inclusivity. However, increasing reliance on the digital environment raises red flags in maintaining equitable access, especially with library websites and chat services.  

The authors point out that ignorance of best practice, and failure to evaluate and correct these services, can bar an entire population of users who may most need library materials and services.  Neglect can bring about issues concerning legal liability, invasion of privacy and breach of confidentiality. The book calls out technology as the most complex and rapidly changing component for libraries to manage.

Although this review may seem a shotgun spray of concepts dealing with inclusivity, its relevance seems much broader.  The closing chapter, “Keeping Up to Date,” knowing and understanding the demographics of your community seem guaranteed to uncover opportunity, from aging baby boomers (who perhaps serve as university faculty), to disabled veterans, autism’s rise in the general population, to temporary disabilities following accidents or surgery.  This is a sage reminder from the authors, “To forget persons with disabilities when offering these learning opportunities is to ignore an entire population of users who may most need your materials and services.”

On a personal note, while earning my masters of library science (MLS), I was victim to a car accident.  Without feeling in my left hand, I temporarily found myself ill equipped to manage my disability, together with an unexpected time commitment for physical therapy.  I discovered the MLS lab equipped with assistive technology, and this lesson in experiential learning has stayed with me. First-hand, I became familiar with screen readers and database platforms, some more inclusive than others.  Everyone benefits from learning what inclusivity means, and it’s worth point out, no one is immune from the effects of aging. Is your library ready?

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

Monson, Jane D.  Getting Started with Digital Collections: Scaling to Fit Your Organization.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.  9780838915431, 184 pages. $69.00  ($62.10 for ALA members.)

Reviewed by Katherine Swart  (Collection Development Librarian, Hekman Library, Calvin College)  

It’s all too common for patrons to ask, “Can I get that online?”  And, much of the time the answer is yes. However, when it comes to cultural heritage collections, there is often a gap between patron desires and the realities.  This is especially true with collections held by small institutions who may struggle to make their collections available online. Creating digital collections isn’t as easy as slapping an old photograph on a scanner and uploading the file to a website.  But at the same time, digitizing a collection doesn’t have to be an overwhelming burden.

Jane D. Monson enters the conversation with a well-researched guide introducing librarians to what it takes to create a digital collection.  As the digital initiatives librarian at the University of Northern Colorado and reviews editor for the Journal of Web Librarianship, Monson writes from experience.  She also does well to focus the book “… on the needs of professionals at small and midsize cultural heritage institutions who do not have previous experience with digital collections and who may be working with limitations related to money, staffing, and technology (viii).”

The book begins with a section on managing projects.  Monson describes how smaller institutions face unique challenges when embarking on a digitization project, namely money, staffing, and infrastructure.  Remaining positive yet realistic, the author explores the skills needed to be a successful digital librarian, often as a solo act in smaller institutions.  She has excellent ideas for working across departments at a library and details best practices for how to collaborate with colleagues to leverage the strengths of one’s institution.  Lastly, she explains collaborative digital repositories such as Europeana and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the benefits and drawbacks of collaborating across institutions.

The second half of the book delves into the nitty gritty of digitization.  With whole chapters on image conversion and metadata, the book teaches novice librarians the differences among file types, how to select an image resolution, useful metadata terminology, and how to create a metadata scheme.  Furthermore, Monson objectively surveys common proprietary and open source digital collection management systems (DCMS) in another chapter while tackling copyright basics in the next.  The book ends with a chapter on the importance of digital preservation.

Monson truly succeeds in covering every aspect of digitization that small institutions should know about and does so in a readable style that will appeal to librarians.  The book clearly conveys what readers are getting into when conducting a digitization project from beginning to end. However, the author is wise to point out periodically that flexibility, not perfection is key.  The basic skills chapters are invaluable, as are Monson’s innovative ideas for collaborating across institutions.  Every small institution starting a digital collection project should read this book.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this on my desk.  (This book is so valuable, that I want my own copy at my desk that I will share with no one.)

Reale, Michelle.  Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice.  Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association, 2017.  978-0838915295. $57.00 ($51.30 for ALA members.)

Reviewed by Sally Ziph  (Librarian, Kresge Library Services, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan)  

The idea of reflective practice for professionals can be traced back to the writings of John Dewey and others, including management researcher Chris Argyris in the late 1970’s.  The key aspect of “reflective practice” is to explore your own experiences as a means to improve the way that you work.  In this thoughtful and provocative book, Michelle Reale, librarian and associate professor at Arcadia University, posits an active process of reflection as a way for academic librarians/teachers to improve their performance in both the classroom and in the library.

The book’s chapters cover all aspects of starting a reflective practice with a notion of this being for librarians and educators.  Reale writes about intentional reflection, the cycle of reflection, using a journal, reflection with colleagues and reflection as a class assignment.  Each chapter includes anecdotes, suggestions, references and step-by-step strategies and exercises.

The book explains in detail how to create a self-perpetuating “reflexive loop” process in which we “interrogate, and respond to our own thoughts, feelings, and dilemmas” in order to “take stock of our practice by interpreting, analyzing, and questioning the way we work.”  These days, many professors are asking students to write and turn in “reflective interlude” assignments, even here at the Ross School of Business.  That fact alone is a good enough reason for librarian educators to try out the process for themselves.

I found this book fascinating, and I was especially interested in Reale’s breakdown of the reflexive loop into three processes:  making the time for reflection, becoming a perpetual problem solver, and questioning the status quo, as well as her discussion of the three precepts of metacognitive awareness:  declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and conditional knowledge.  There’s even an intriguing autobiographical note that reveals how Reale stumbled into her own reflective practice after being criticized for her “authentic” work style.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)

Sowards, Steven W., and Juneal Chenoweth, editors.  The Reference Librarian’s Bible: Print and Digital Reference Resources Every Library Should Own.  Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2018.  9781440860614, 454 pages.

Reviewed by Julie Huskey  (Head of Cataloging, Tennessee State University, Nashville, TN)  

This work admits that it might be considered something of a throwback: since the rise of the Internet, reference books have fallen out of fashion among patrons (and many librarians), in favor of (preferably free) online sources.  Although librarians know that curation of resources is more important than ever, reference shelves are nevertheless often squeezed by other demands for space, from both inside and outside the library. The Reference Librarian’s Bible is the sort of bibliography that is too rarely consulted these days; it serves as both a collection development tool and an ever-present reminder that reference books still have a place.

Co-editor Steven W. Sowards is associate director for collections and past head of reference at Michigan State University Libraries;  he also serves on the board of ARBA.  (He is also a reviewer of books for Monographic Musings).  Juneal Chenoweth is managing editor of ARBA and ARBAonline.  All of the five hundred entries were originally published in ARBA (American Reference Books Annual) or the ARBAonline database, although a few have notes indicating publication of a more recent edition.  Each review includes the scope and organization of the work, strengths and weaknesses, audience, price at time of publication, Dewey and LC classifications, and, if applicable, changes from previous editions.  Some reviews include comparisons to similar works.

The editors are clear about the scope of the book and what reference tools were included and what were not.  Sowards and Chenoweth do not include many search engines, directories, and only a handful of dictionaries.  About ten percent of the items listed in the work are free online resources, (including government documents and resources from commercial and nonprofit sites).  The reviews of online sources are from the original review date, which in some cases is a decade ago with a few back to the 1990’s. For example, the review of the Wikipedia is from 2007, and American Factfinder is from 2011.  Many of the tangible sources are also available digitally, but the digital version is not reviewed. There are subject and title indexes, but the book is so well-organized that they are almost unnecessary.

Despite the inclusion of works that are older than some librarians would like, there is a case to be made for the usefulness of resources that are not extremely recent.  The Reference Librarian’s Bible will probably be most helpful to library science graduate students learning their way around reference sources, but it is also a solid collection development tool, and a good refresher for librarians in areas other than reference.

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I need this in my library.  (I want to be able to get up from my desk and grab this book off the shelf, if it’s not checked out.)  


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