v23 #4 Book Reviews — Monographic Musings

by | Oct 5, 2011 | 0 comments

Column Editor: Debbie Vaughn  (College of Charleston)  <vaughnd@cofc.edu>

Column Editor’s Note:  It is that time of year again: time for the Reference Publishing Issue of ATG.  This month’s reviewers explore three different, yet intertwined, topics:  interlibrary loan, open access, and the evolution of the essence of librarianship.  The field of interlibrary loan has certainly seen changes in the last several years, so the third edition of the standard Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook is a timely publication, indeed.  Certainly, open access has had and will continue to have an impact on interlibrary loan practices.  Furthermore, open access forces us to shift our practices — even if only slightly, in some cases — in the “new age” of librarianship.

As always, many thanks to Eleanor Cook for her contribution to this issue.  I am also pleased to welcome reviewers Patricia M. Dragon and William GeePatricia is Head of Special Collections Cataloging, Metadata, and Authorities at Joyner Library, East Carolina University.  She has published in the areas of technical services workflow and metadata for digital projects, and is currently a member of ALA’s Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access.  William serves as Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Librarian at Joyner Library.  He holds a BA in history and political science and a paralegal certificate from Berry College, and an MS in information science from the University of Tennessee.  Happy reading, everyone! — DV

 Crawford, WaltOpen Access: What You Need to Know Now.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2011.  978-0-8389-1106-8.  80 pages.  $45.00.

Reviewed by Patricia M. Dragon  (Head, Special Collections, Metadata and Authorities, Joyner Library, East Carolina University)  <dragonp@ecu.edu>

Walt Crawford’s Open Access: What You Need to Know Now fulfills a need in library literature for a brief, non-technical introduction to the concept of open access in scholarly publishing.  Anyone likely to encounter the book, from librarians and academic administrators to library users such as researchers, students, and faculty, really does need to know this information now, since developments in open access are tied to systemic changes in the longstanding traditions of scholarly publishing and of libraries.  The urgency of the title is well-matched to the content of the book, easy to digest, and immediately practical.

The first chapter cuts to the chase with the question “Who Cares?”  Crawford does well outlining the moral and pragmatic cases for open access, both well-rehearsed elsewhere but helpfully summarized in this chapter.  He describes the subscription-based scholarly journal publishing model as “broken,” giving examples  of outrageous journal price-hikes, accusing publishers of thinking they can “get away with” charging whatever they think the market will bear (p. 7).   Having stated the situation in these terms, he perhaps gives publishers too much of a pass when he writes “I am not arguing that these publishers don’t add value.  Clearly they do” (p. 6), but he does not elaborate at that point on what that added value might be.  At the end of the chapter is a useful breakdown of the traditional journal publishing process, including the tasks which must be done, who normally does them, and the points at which money changes hands.

In the second chapter, “Understanding the Basics,” Crawford focuses on different definitions of open access as contained in seminal publications during its development over the last ten years.  He defines certain vocabulary terms such as green vs. gold OA and gratis vs. libre OA, successfully conveying the complexity of the open access landscape, with its myriad “flavors” and hybrid arrangements involving not only reading access to articles but also copying, data-mining, and reproducing abilities.

The third and fourth chapters address “issues” and “controversies” surrounding open access.  The explanation of the distinction between issues and controversies is lengthy and of questionable usefulness, with the sections often seeming to cross the line from one to the other.  Organization flaws aside, however, the sections in these chapters are cogent nuggets with enticing subtitles for the distractible reader such as “Can OA Journals Be Competitive?” “What Should It Cost to Produce an Online Journal?” and “How Much Value Do Publishers Add to Scholarly Articles?”  While his argumentation is at many points derivative, Crawford at least relies upon stellar sources such as Peter Suber.  Ironically, there are many points at which citations are not given but would be useful, such as when mentioning “one analysis of biomedical research” which suggested that the amount of money that goes to support publishing is no more than 1-2% of funds in biomedical research (p. 49).  As one would expect from an introductory book such as this, the author presents few definite answers, but points out many areas where further research is necessary, such as what funding models work best for open access, or whether conversion to open access has an effect on the impact factor of a journal.  He is most engaging when deflating myths, such as the argument that OA undermines peer review: “Saying a thing three times does not make it true,” Crawford writes, “despite Lewis Carroll’s poetry” (p. 47).

The fifth chapter, “Taking Action,” answers the question that many readers will have after appreciating the complexity of the issues and the enormity of the problems in the earlier chapters:  what can I do now?  Crawford provides action items for everyone.  Librarian?  Make sure that users have equal access to open content and to subscription content, and make sure faculty understand the benefits of open access, such as greater visibility of their work.  Scholar?  Look for open access journals in your field and negotiate your rights to be able to deposit your articles in a repository.  Administrator?  Subsidize open access publishing.  The final chapter, “Exploring Open Access,” lists sources to follow for more information.  Beyond a bibliography, it is more a list of periodicals and blogs to watch for developments in open access.

“In essence,” Crawford writes, “academic libraries need open access if they’re to continue any real semblance of maintaining long-term access to the records of the civilization” (p. 8).  A great strength of the book, however, is its balance between urgency and reasonableness.  Crawford is careful to acknowledge that 100% open access may not be feasible, or even desirable, and that perhaps simply increasing the prevalence of open access is enough.  Regardless, change must come, he argues, while explaining in a succinct fashion why, and arming librarians and library-users with the background necessary to guide this change.

Lankes, R. DavidThe Atlas of New Librarianship.  MIT Press and the Association for College and Research Libraries, 2011.  978-0-262-01509-7.  408p.  $55.00

Reviewed by Eleanor I. Cook  (Assistant Director for Collections and Technical Services, Joyner Library, East Carolina University)  <cooke@ecu.edu>

This is an unusual book.  In fact, it’s a book like no other, although books in the future will probably resemble it.  It is billed as a “new landscape for practitioners.” The book offers a fresh way at looking at our profession.  It is “meant to be a tool: textbook, conversation guide, platform for social networking, and a call to action.”  The author is an Associate Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, so one can make a safe assumption that he will be using this text with his students.  Other library science programs may also wish to consider using this book as part of their curriculum.

According to the author, the underpinnings of this book are conversations.  He engages in many conversations and then attempts to visualize and map them, thereby charting a course into the future for our profession.  There is actually a printed map in a pocket at the back of the book.  “This Atlas is a topical map represented by a series of agreements in relation to one another organized into a series of threads.”  Agreements, by definition, are “an understanding about the field of librarianship that may include a skill area, a relevant theory, a practice, or an example.”

The author acknowledges this atlas has limitations; for one, it has a “decidedly North American perspective.”  The physical book itself is also a limitation, but that is bridged by the existence of a companion Website found at: http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/.  This Website includes many video clips, quite a few of them of the author making presentations or conducting lectures, and there is a surprising wealth of links that one can get lost in for hours.  One wonders why this book was even produced in printed form — why not an all-digital text?

The overarching statement that is repeated throughout is: “The MISSION1 of LIBRARIANS2 is to IMPROVE SOCIETY3 through FACILITATING4 KNOWLEDGE CREATION5 in their COMMUNITIES.”6  The links footnoted in this statement will take you to relevant places within the Website.

This is a unique, multi-dimensional work, and as such, it is a little difficult to wrap one’s mind around it.  If students and scholars of library science take time to work through the process of understanding the construction of the book and its supplementary materials, they will come away with a better idea of what librarianship is all about in the twenty-first century.  It’s easy to respect this work, and it is obviously ground-breaking, highly theoretical, creative, and utterly fascinating.  However, one cannot be sure uninitiated readers will be able to find their way through this landscape without a guide, without careful examination, and without plenty of time to study the map before embarking on the journey.  It is hard to do this book justice in a casual review, because it is so different, so densely packed with ideas, and so much a departure from anything with which traditional scholars are familiar.  This book is a must-purchase for any library science program collection, and others interested in the cutting edge of the profession.

Endnotes

1.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=48

2.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=58

3.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=56

4.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=52

5.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=50

6.  http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=54

 

Weible, Cherié and Karen Janke, eds.  Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook, 3rd ed. Chicago: ALA, 2011.  978-0-8389-1081-8.  131 pages.  $85.00.

Reviewed by C. William Gee  (Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery Librarian, Joyner Library, East Carolina University)  <geec@ecu.edu>

Cherié Weible and Karen Janke have edited the new third edition of Interlibrary Loan Practices Handbook.  The first edition by Virginia Boucher in 1984 became the seminal interlibrary loan handbook, which she later revised and greatly expanded in 1996.  Unlike the previous two editions, which were written singly by Boucher, the third edition was compiled by two co-editors with chapters written by nine authors.  The content of this edition is wholly new with timely updated chapters filled with helpful explanations and best practices.  Margaret Ellingson and Susan Morris place interlibrary loan into historical context by summarizing the development of the practice from ancient times until the present in the chapter, “Interlibrary Loan: Evolution to Revolution.”  Denise Forro adeptly presents a chapter entitled, “Borrowing Workflow Basics,” which includes reproductions of the current ALA and IFLA request forms.  Amy Paulus provides a detailed chapter on “Lending Workflow Basics.”  Cindy Kristof clearly explains major issues of copyright and licensing in “U.S. Copyright and Interlibrary Loan Practice” and highlights practices to follow to stay in compliance; she also includes for reference the text of the sections of copyright law that are most applicable to interlibrary loan.  Jennifer Kuelin’s chapter on “Management of Interlibrary Loan” thoroughly covers statistics, assessment, staffing, and more.  Tina Baich and Erin Silva Fisher address software, services, and online resources of use to interlibrary loan in “Technology and Web.”  Cyril Oberlander’s chapter, “The Future of Interlibrary Loan,” encourages practitioners to continue to expand and to improve our services so that we can better meet our patrons’ expectations; he recommends doing so by adapting our software and workflows and by focusing on implementing customer relations management principles.

Chapters from the previous two editions on dissertations and theses, international interlibrary loan, and library cooperation have been simplified and merged into the chapters covering workflow basics and management; this major change in the table of contents likely reflects that these topics have become more commonplace and easier with modern computer systems than they were in previous decades.  Also removed were nearly 100 pages from the second edition that comprised the 33 appendixes of forms, policies, guidelines, templates, and tips; these were largely replaced in the third edition with links to Websites and organizations to consult.  This reduction makes the book less of a comprehensive daily desk reference than the previous editions were, but the upside of this decision is that practitioners who consult the book will be directed to locate the most current online versions of the referenced documents.  Another downside is that in future decades this edition will not be able to serve as a single source for ILL practices and documents from the year 2011, as Boucher’s two previous editions do for their respective periods.

Significant coverage of OCLC’s WorldCat Resource Sharing (WCRS) system and Atlas System’s ILLiad interlibrary loan management system is provided.  The focus on the WCRS and on ILLiad is understandable since the authors currently manage or have managed large interlibrary loan operations.  With only passing mention of the Clio and Relais management systems, DOCLINE and RapidILL, the book is not intended to serve as a guide to help libraries evaluate the numerous ILL products and delivery options on the market.

The authors clearly focus on interlibrary loan as currently practiced in the United States.  As a result, libraries in other countries might find some sections less applicable.  U.S. libraries, however, will find the text highly applicable, although some smaller libraries and non-academic libraries might find the examples and studies cited from large academic libraries less immediately relatable.  Nevertheless, much of the information contained within this new edition is useful for libraries of all types and sizes, no matter where they are located.

Flowcharts to visually demonstrate basic borrowing and lending workflows and management steps would have enhanced the text, but the concepts and steps are well-explained as is.  The otherwise thorough sections on proper shipping methods do not include specific mention of the five ALA-endorsed shipping guidelines for various material formats, but the book does direct readers to the ILL Code and Explanatory Supplement that reference them.  The exclusion of the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog, which I use heavily to locate international lenders, seemed an oversight until I visited the other sites listed and found them to be at least as useful.  Not all chapters include a bibliography, but those that do contain current citations that allow readers to easily learn more about discussed issues.

Coming in at less than half the length of the second edition, the third edition is an entirely new, compact guide to interlibrary loan in the United States.  The introduction to interlibrary loan that this edition provides makes it a useful handbook for the newcomer to interlibrary loan, as well as to the seasoned ILL employee and the middle or upper manager who is indirectly responsible for ILL.  As a librarian in my sixth year as an ILL manager, I enjoyed reading the easily approachable text and found a few best practices described within to investigate further.  Weible and Janke have given the profession a much-needed update to Boucher’s earlier, quintessential handbooks.  As the first two were embraced, I fully expect the third edition to be essential reading for interlibrary loan personnel.  I highly recommend all involved in interlibrary loan to read this handbook, whether your library purchases it or borrows it through interlibrary loan.

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