v32#1 Reader’s Roundup: Monographic Musings & Reference Reviews

by | Apr 1, 2020 | 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:  Coordinating book reviews is quite fascinating, from a librarian standpoint.  I get to see the new books that are coming to press in the library field and for your library reference collection.  And for someone with a completely virtual collection as we do at Kresge Library Services (University of Michigan), it is nice every so often to see a physical book.  This column and what we are doing continues to morph and grow over the coming months and years as the very nature of reference works and some monographs change.  We had good conversations at Charleston with publishers and I am excited about where this is headed. We are continuing our model for the Reader’s Roundup to include books that are focused on librarianship (very broadly speaking) and reference works (formerly in the Reference Reviews section).  We have a number of books out for review, and a good number in my office, so we have room for growth!

Having said that, if you would like to be a reviewer for Against the Grain, please write me at [email protected].  If you are a publisher and have a book you would like to see reviewed in a future column, please also write me directly.

Thanks to my great reviewers for getting items for this column.  I am very happy to thank three new reviewers: Hali Black, Amy Lewontin, and Michelle Shea.  We also have reviews from my returning reviewers:  Julie Huskey (with two reviews), Jennifer Matthews, Michelle Polchow (also with two reviews), Steven W. Sowards, and Katherine Swart.

Happy reading and be nutty! — CS

Bartlett, Jennifer A. and Acadia, SpenderLibraries that Learn: Keys to Managing Organizational Knowledge.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2019.  978083891831-9, 168 pages. $64.99.  (ALA Member: $58.49)

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

Library leaders have a lot on their plate.  Typical administrative roles include both physical and virtual strategic development, budgeting, collection management and personnel oversight.   These functions support their staff in processes of selection, classification and dissemination of knowledge to their stakeholders. However, customer service success is built on the knowledge, skills, contribution and motivation of their employees.  So how well do library leaders leverage knowledge sharing, execute communication planning, and capitalize on their staff’s intellectual capital in order to support critical internal knowledge creation? Libraries may be facing this dilemma because of our traditional focus on outward stakeholder services.  This book brings to light the valuable resource embedded in the library’s internal social capital, as it is often overlooked by library leadership.

Although this book is a collection of writings by different authors, the editors provide a well-written overview.  Jennifer A. Bartlett and Spender Acadia, among their numerous leadership roles, both serve on the International Federation of Library Associations’ (IFLA’s) Knowledge Management Standing Committee.  They emphasize that successful knowledge management (KM) is built on the existence of a healthy organizational climate with established relationships between employees and library leadership.  As a guiding principle, employees struggle with individualism versus collectivism. Research indicates that knowledge sharing is a highly personal process that requires employee buy-in, a great degree of trust, and must be performed under transparent practices which support safe spaces and nourish prosocial behavior.  Conversely, the authors conclude that KM is not possible in a dysfunctional organizational culture. 

Libraries that Learn is divided into two sections.  The first provides an overview for knowledge management and context within libraries.  The second section includes six case studies, and tools that may be used for a variety of library needs.  A cautionary note warns that technology alone will not solve problems, but soft skill considerations are equally important, as woven into workflows and communication planning.  Collectively, the examples illustrate effective techniques such as leveraging collective sense making, generating effective problem solving, providing clarity in changing roles and responsibilities, and reducing role uncertainty.

Internally, this socially constructed knowledge can be a powerful asset, particularly during periods of organizational transition, where change produces role ambiguity, requires thoughtful needs analysis and successful motivation.  Organizational knowledge capture and transfer is key in employment transitions, both when employees depart or arrive. Written documentation on process and procedure appears insufficient without a given social construct. Additionally, the book cautions leaders to shift expectations, recognizing that today’s employees are less willing to wade through databases and manuals and instead thrive as a generation that learns by doing.  If KM skills appear beneficial in times of transition, this book seems applicable to many readers, given the ever-evolving climate of change.

Of particular note is the chapter on artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science practices (chapter four).  These influencers affect the service environment but the internal social network remains essential for interpreting and understanding big data and computational output.  This discussion may inspire opportunity for the library to modernize its business practices in the use of complex and voluminous data, and benefit from greater knowledge creation.

Libraries that Learn also points to the detrimental effects of ignoring this important library asset.  Workplace relationships can lead to knowledge hoarding, resistance to change, information silos, inadequate training and inefficient communication.  Markers are provided regarding toxic and unproductive behaviors in communities of practice. As a complete work, this book builds a case for becoming a library that learns, so when faced with new initiatives and unexpected change, leaders can leverage their assets built through KM, as it is a crucial component for success.  This is an ideal read for library leaders and those with a professional goal to attain this status.

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.)

Campana, Kathleen and J. Elizabeth MillsCreate, Innovate, and Serve: A Radical Approach to Children’s and Youth Programming.  Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman.  2019. 978-0-8389-1720-6, 312 pages.  $64.99 (ALA Member: $58.50)

Reviewed by Michelle Shea  (Education Librarian, Texas A&M – Central Texas)   

When public libraries offer ongoing, informal learning opportunities, they help grow communities in tangible ways.  Partnerships lead to engagement between groups that are socially, economically, and ethnically diverse; as a result, more people learn to redefine the boundaries they have set for themselves.  Children’s programming is a large part of this shift, as the youngest learners have much to gain from activities that promote creative thinking and teamwork.

In this book, editors Kathleen Campana and J. Elizabeth Mills have organized a well-written set of essays focused on good instructional practice for library programs.  The foreword and introduction frame the importance of community, while also encouraging readers to use the book as a ready reference.  Librarians can pick up quick tips by reading “radically,” as advocated by the editors. This involves using the work like a reference tool — perusing individual chapters when needed.  Part I highlights critical domains for children’s programming, while part II offers age-based examples from toddlers to teens. Although the chapters work well in isolation, the editors did a careful job of structuring concepts logically to create a readable flow of ideas.  Recommended resources, included at the end of each chapter, offer a treasure trove of web links and journal articles. 

Both editors have practical experience in youth services, so they understand the value of solid program planning.  Kathleen Campana, a PhD Faculty member at Kent State University, supports youth engagement and informal environmental learning through teaching.  Campana has published papers on early literacy, education technology, and library story times, which lends her expertise in the field.  Her frequent co-collaborator, J. Elizabeth Mills, has presented on community, diversity, and outreach while publishing on similar topics.  Mills has also written multiple books for children, giving her an inside perspective on content for young readers.  With these editors, readers are assured a well-rounded set of articles on children’s programming.

With the concept overview focus of part I, librarians may look at their own efforts and adapt or reaffirm their core program values.  While the passages on storytelling and advocacy are somewhat predictable, the overall presentation of ideas is effective. For example, the chapter on media mentorship has useful suggestions for assessing technology trends and implementing new applications into library activities.  This concept transitions into a step-by-step article on outcome-based planning, which is reminiscent of the backward design model followed by school educators. By embedding good teaching practice into event planning, librarians ensure that their programs will be of value to participants, as echoed in chapter twenty’s chart on teen program goals.  A complimentary focus on outreach, particularly for “underserved and underrepresented populations” (p. 237), helps prioritize community collaborations throughout the text.

For those who want more specific recommendations, the latter half of the book includes program activities that have worked for other libraries.  The age group categories are split between preschoolers, children ages six to twelve, and teens. Each section starts with an overview of learning theory and a list of typical developmental attributes for each age range.  Afterward, there are three to four case study chapters, followed by literature reviews on established research for childhood phases. My recommendation would be for librarians to read the first and last chapter for each age division, while skimming the examples relevant to their target group.  Early childhood librarians may view the suggested activities as conventional, as they are primarily focused on basic literacy practice; however, the idea of “pop-up play parties” is worth exploring (p. 126). Middle grade and teen librarians have a wider range of concepts to work with, since there are offerings focused on STEM topics and subject expert teaching.  Overall, the organization of this book makes it a handy reference for librarians who do programming for children of all ages. Youth service librarians will want to purchase this text, as a part of their library’s professional reference shelves.

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.)

Duranti, Luciana and Corinne Rogers (editors).  Trusting Records in the Cloud.  London: Facet Publishing, 2019.  97817783304028, 306 pages.

Reviewed by Julie Huskey (Head of Cataloging, Tennessee State University, Brown-Daniel Library, Nashville)

When researchers consult tangible documents, they assess — or rely on archivists to assess — the authenticity of the documents in the collection.  However, “[w]hen we save a digital record, we take it apart in its digital components, and when we retrieve it, we reproduce it from those components, thus creating a copy,”  Luciana Duranti and Corinne Rogers note in the opening chapter of Trusting Records in the Cloud.  The record’s authenticity, therefore, comes into question every time it is accessed.  Likewise, when a digital record is removed or destroyed, there is the potential for copies, corrupted or not, to remain, but the researcher may not be aware of the document’s status.

As more datasets become available and these drive research, economic, political and business decisions, determining the authenticity of records is crucial.  Cloud-based storage, which distributes the responsibility for digital records, is quickly becoming the primary means of maintaining information, but it threatens the perceptions of legitimacy for many of these works.  InterPARES (International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems) Trust, or ITrust, is the fourth phase of a project of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). (The first two phases dealt with basic production and maintenance of electronic records, and the third phase focused on practical applications.) “ITrust used a theoretical framework strongly rooted in archival science and diplomatics.”  Diplomatics, which the Society of American Archivists defines as “the study of the creation, form, and transmission of records, and their relationship to the facts represented in them and to their creator, in order to identify, evaluate, and communicate their nature and authenticity,” needs to be part of the vocabulary of all information professionals.

Editor Dr. Luciana Duranti is a professor at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, and she has been Director of InterPARES since 1998.  She has published extensively on diplomatics and on its modern counterpart, authentication of digital records.  Co-editor Dr. Corinne Rogers, who was project coordinator for the recently-concluded InterPARES Trust project, is an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia and a Systems Archivist at Artefactual Systems, a developer of archival information systems.

Duranti and Rogers edited this volume of work by fourteen co-authors, a mix of teaching faculty and practicing archivists, and several dozen other contributors producing a diverse work.  Among the chapters of note are from Julie McLeod with an introduction to cloud computing that should be essential reading for all information professionals.  Other chapters describe usability studies of government websites in several countries, and cultural preservation by First Nations advocacy organizations in Canada. 

While the scope of this work can be daunting, certain themes emerge.  These include: the challenges of diffuse responsibility, the tension between security/privacy and openness, how standards vary by organization and government entity, and that open data, by itself, does not guarantee better-informed citizens.  For many readers, they will use this work as a reference tool — especially enjoying the extensive glossary provided by the editors. 

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 within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Kramer-Smyth, JeannePartners for Preservation: Advancing digital preservation through cross-community collaboration.  London: Facet Publishing, 2019.  978-178330-347-2, 212 pages.  £69.95  (ALA $93.99).

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

Have you ever read a book about a seemingly innocuous item that ultimately changed history?  The history of salt, the automobile, even Birds Eye frozen food are some examples. So how is this analogy relevant to Partners for Preservation?  Jeanne Kramer-Smyth has compiled essays from a variety of subject domains, aimed at educating archival colleagues about the depth and breadth of change being experienced within their profession due to the Internet.  The author, an archivist with the World Bank Group Archives, and a writer for Spellbound Blog (https://www.spellboundblog.com/) discusses the intersection of archives, technology, metadata, visualization and the web, as reflected in the variety of contributors to this book.

After reading this as a collection, I conclude the title is either too narrow or the subject misclassified, as it is an admirable work that aptly conveys just how complex and unforeseen are the consequences of the Internet.  As the reviewer, I anticipated digital preservation would be the focus, but it quickly fades to a subtheme of how professionals and scholars in fields such as law, statistics, journalism, and architecture, document how the Internet is shaking the ground under their feet.  When digital preservation is added on top of these domain challenges, it appears partnering is just a starting point, not the solution. 

Topics are organized into three parts:  1) memory, privacy and transparency; 2) the physical world:  objects, art and architecture; and 3) data and programming. If you’re curious about these questions, then this book is worth a read:

• What is the value of your online music library and who will inherit it when you die (digital assets, proprietary file formats, inheritance and access)?

• When you Google your name, do the results a) collectively display a more extensive amount of information concerning your life than you expected;  and b) if a resolved legal issue still appears online, do you have a “right to be forgotten”?

• Have you solidified your social media estate planning, given potential conflict between platform licenses, issues of personal privacy, current estate law and copyright?

Kramer-Smyth summarizes the common threads by recognizing important industry standards and initiatives, the need for modernization of public policy regulations, as well as the opportunity to create interdisciplinary partnerships to preserve digital information for the future.  For avid life-long learners, archivist or not, this book will leave you with plenty of issues to carefully consider.

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 within three to five days via my network catalog.)

Jordan, Rita, Jacqueline M. Roberts, and Kara Hume (Eds.).  The Sage Handbook of Autism and Education. Los Angeles: Sage Reference, 2019.  9781473959538, 646 pages. $185.00.

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

The education of individuals with autism and related disorders is a relatively young field.  Autism was first recognized as a distinct syndrome only in 1943 and little was known about effective educational interventions at the time.  The Education for All Handicapped Children Act in the United States jumpstarted research in 1975 when children with disabilities started to become mainstreamed in public schools (xxiv).  International in scope, the field of autism studies has produced a great deal of literature on strategies for educating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The Sage Handbook of Autism and Education has gathered essays from top educators, researchers, and scientists in order to provide a comprehensive look at the educational needs of autistic individuals.

Editor Rita Jordan is an emerita professor from the University of Birmingham, UK and adjunct professor at Griffith University, Australia.  Jacqueline M. Roberts is Chair of Autism at the Autism Centre of Excellence, also at Griffith University, Australia.  And, Kara Hume is a research associate professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Together with 79 collaborators, they have compiled an impressive collection of essays.  Composed of six parts and more than 42 chapters, the handbook addresses the needs of professors, undergraduate and graduate students, educators, therapists, and researchers.

In her introduction, Jordan explains that the book aims to be culturally sensitive and evidence based.  She notes it “is not a ‘tips for teachers’ book” but is “aimed at reflective practitioners (and those who train them) who wish to know and understand current views of the nature of autism and best practice in educational support” (xxvii).

Part I of the book covers Learning Needs and Educational Responses.  Chapters touch on ways of characterizing autism, the history of autism education, and what makes a successful professional in autism.  Part II discusses Early Intervention, Education in Core Domains, and Family Support. Part III explores School-Based and Academic Education from the lens of access and support.  Part IV focuses on Collaborative Working in Education with chapters on family — school relationships, educator involvement, and evidence-based practices. Part V covers Education for Life and Barriers to Education, such as bullying and cultural issues.  Lastly, Part VI discusses Data Collection in Education and Measurement of Progress. Chapters include ways of setting and evaluating goals, measuring success and collecting feedback, and future directions in autism education research.

All chapters are heavily cited and contain bibliographies.  The book also has a thorough index. In all this handbook is a great resource for academic libraries and will benefit schools with degrees in special education and autism studies.

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.)

Linder, Kathryn E.  The Business of Innovating Online: Practical Tips and Advice from Industry Leaders.  Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, 2019.  9781620368435 (paperback $25.00). 9781620368428 (hardback $125.00) 152 pages.

Reviewed by Amy Lewontin  (Collection Development Librarian, Northeastern University Library) 

The Business of Innovating Online, is a well-rounded new book of essays by educators and higher education administrators working in the field of online education.  Edited by Kathryn E. Linder, director of the Oregon State University Ecampus, this short book takes the interested reader into many different and important spheres, within the realm of online education at colleges and universities around the United States.  What makes this book different from many on the topic of online education, is its emphasis on the culture and the importance of innovation, creativity and problem-solving in this sphere.  The various essays in the book also emphasize the need for those operating units for online education, to maintain a sense of positive vision for change within the culture of higher education, which frequently operates within the more risk adverse traditional academic culture.  The book’s emphasis is on bringing to the reader the idea of creating an innovative idea that is “actionable,” yet also is able to become embedded into the daily work of the college and university staff charged with the new projects.  

Higher education has a number of constituencies, and faculty play a large role as it is their teaching that brings value to an institution.  This book’s audience is not faculty, specifically, but rather its intended audience is the administrator who needs to get up to speed in a field that may be somewhat outside of their normal work and needs to learn fast about a constantly changing world of online higher education.  It covers, through some interesting essays on real-world programs, ways in which higher education administrators can work together across campuses, through consortial programs with other universities. One particular essay of note is a dialog between administrators who participated in the launching of the new learning platform called Unizin.  Another essay describes the coming together of two very unlikely partners, the head of Arizona State University and the head of Starbucks, to create an online university specifically focused on Starbucks staff to complete their college educations.  The details of these various partnerships emphasize the ways in which vision and goals are developed and shared, and the writing in the essays is brisk and well worth the time.  

One particular strength of the “Business of Innovating Online” is its emphasis on covering the large variety of models that exist for financing the development of online course materials, the delivery of online courses, and the learning tools that must accompany the educational offerings.  Various short essays in the book examine the costs and benefits involved with the various models and help the reader towards a better understanding of how the innovations outlined could be accomplished on their own campus. Should one develop an in-house service, or is it better to go outside for expertise, as these are all considerations that any higher education administrator must face, and also must make a case for, considering that funding may not be easy to obtain.  Again, real-world examples, this time from Oregon State University and the University of Washington, both with large and successful online programs, are discussed in understandable detail.  

Given the nature of the work, this is certainly a book that should be read by anyone considering improving on or beginning a program in online learning.  It is a book that gets to the heart of the matter, and uppermost in most of the essays is what will the learner or prospective student need, to accomplish their goals, yet it is a book that also covers the types of fees, services and costs that make up online education.  

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.)

Schopflin, Katharine, and Matt WalshPractical Knowledge and Information Management.  London: Facet Publishing, 2019.  9781783303359, 208 pages. $86.99.

Reviewed by Jennifer Matthews  (Collection Strategy Librarian, Rowan University) 

Librarians often think that they have the corner on the market of information management.  Sadly, this activity now falls under the purview of many roles in the business world. Individuals in the business world could be managing compliance, policy, or communications, coordinating training or determining how to facilitate all of an organization’s technology and storage needs.  This is leading to a complicated world for those involved in the management of information. So it makes sense that Katharine Schopflin and Matt Walsh’s Practical Knowledge and Information Management is written to incorporate all of these roles and more.  This title is approached as a how-to guide of dealing with information in all its inherent forms.  Topics range from the history of information management to data governance and knowledge legacy. 

Katharine Schopflin is a knowledge information professional with 20+ years’ experience.  She teaches library school courses, and publishes journal articles and books.  Matt Walsh is a Global Knowledge Manager at dunnhumby (global leader in customer data science).  He has over 16 years of experience in the public and private sectors of knowledge management.  Together they provide many instances of how one can create a culture of better information management at their institution or organization.  Not only do they reference their own work, but also provide several case studies that demonstrate both methods that worked well and those that did not for the reader’s further dissemination. 

Of particular relevance in this text are the discussions about data governance and data legacies.  In the section about data governance, the authors cover issues ranging from the types of data that should and should not be kept to the development of policy documents regarding the management of data.  Currently, this seems to be an often-overlooked step in the process and these policy documents can ensure that any organization is maintaining proper upkeep of their data repositories particularly if an audit arises. 

The authors also provide good information for dealing with eventual turnover in staffing.  The authors discuss the critical need of discussing data legacy management both before critical staff leaves and after.  Not only is it necessary to ensure that proper training occurs but is it an opportunity to review current practices. Is this the only time an organization should try to capture this information? 

Through the open approach of all knowledge management professionals, Schopflin and Walsh have provided a broad perspective of information and data management.  This approach is practical for both the novice and experienced information professional. 

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 within three to five days via my network catalog.)

This is Who We Were: Colonial America: 1492-1775. Amenia, New York: Grey House Publishing, 2019. 9781642652659.  502 pages. $160.00.

Reviewed by Julie Huskey  (Head of Cataloging, Tennessee State University, Brown-Daniel Library, Nashville)

The history of everyday life, as well as the concept of “history from below,” has received much attention in recent years.  What people did for a living, how they interacted with family members and people in their community, and how they were affected by national and regional events can be just as interesting as the stereotypical names-and-dates approach common in histories before this social lens.  This is Who We Were: Colonial America is part of a thirteen-volume set from Grey House that emphasizes people from all ethnicities and social strata, rather than just the major historical figures. 

As explained in the Introduction, the volume is divided into five sections: “Profiles,” “Historical Snapshot,” “Original 13 Colonies,” “Economy of the Times,” and “All Around Us — What We Saw, Wrote, Read & Listened To.”  Except for the last section, most entries are presented in bullet points or tables. A few brief essays connect the sections and provide some context.

The 25 biographical sketches, which make up the first third of the volume, are based on Grey House’s earlier Working Americans series, edited by Scott Derks.  These biographical sketches “generally fictional, [but] deeply informed by original research” detracts from the volume’s usefulness as a reference source.  Moreover, the intended audience would not likely be aware that the bulleted sketches are merely based on actual persons vs. being the story of an actual person. 

Section Three consists of timelines, first for the colonies as a whole, then for each individual colony, with the latter further divided into sections for general, colonist, and native history.  Section Four opens with an “Economy of the Times” essay, focusing on the lack of hard currency in the colonies, the presence of both British and colonial currency, and British attempts to control commerce in the New World.  It is followed by tables of examples of financial transactions, such as taxes, fees, and purchases, the average prices of slaves by year and place, and prices of commodities (such as cotton and turpentine).

The last section consists of reprints of primary sources, such as personal journals and letters of travelers to (or residents of) colonial America: the longest are of Benjamin Franklin’s writings, but there are also brief excerpts from Christopher Columbus’s diary, John Rolfe’s journal, and colonial official John Pory’s correspondence.  A short essay describes the growth of American newspapers from the first, Publick Occurences, in 1690, to 1731’s Weekly Rehearsal; certainly there were other influential newspapers during the colonial era.  The essay then adds a concluding paragraph of 2003 statistics, which ignores the decline of newspapers that has taken place in the past two decades.

Almost all reference works involve repackaging to some degree, but in this volume, it is somewhat too obvious.  The sources include the Timelines of History website, Wikipedia, the Maryland Secretary of State website, History.com, the (online) New Georgia Encyclopedia, and the National Humanities Center website, all of which are both free and familiar to most reference librarians.

The index is brief, and it lacks cross-references — e.g., there is an entry for the French and Indian War, but none for the Seven Years’ War.  Additionally, there is no entry for “religion,” but there are entries for “Christianity” and “Church of England.” The numerous black and white photographs, illustrations, and maps add to the text, yet most are ubiquitous among reference works.  That the “Further reading” section is organized by author’s first name suggests the work was hastily compiled.

Nevertheless, the volume deserves credit for its coverage of non-Europeans, and it could be useful for upper elementary through high schoolers, particularly as a research starter.  The price, however, makes it an optional purchase. 

ATG Reviewer Rating:  I’ll use my money elsewhere.  (Just not sure this is a useful book for my library or my network.)

Thompson, Gregory C., Harish Maringanti, Rick Anderson, Catherine B. Soehner, and Alberta ComerStrategic Planning for Academic Libraries: A Step-by-Step Guide.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2019.  978-0-8389-1893-7, 144 pages. $39.99  (ALA Members: $35.99)

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

This concise, well-organized, clear report about strategic planning is aimed at academic libraries and librarians.  The authors do an admirable job connecting the conceptual to the concrete, using a case study from the Marriott Library of the University of Utah.  While the specifics from this book reflect conditions in large research universities rather than a liberal college or a community college, still many of the same suggestions remain valid.  There is an emphasis on lessons learned during planning, implementing and assessing a strategic plan, such as the surprising amount of staff time required, and the challenge of communication that is adequate but not overwhelming.  This reviewer’s own library is completing a strategic plan process, and I can endorse the points made by Thompson et al. 

Seven chapters quickly move the reader through stages in the process, from preplanning and facilitation, to assessment and implementation: this core text is shorter than the appendices.  The text orients the reader to the purpose of the appendices, and the appendices illustrate the concepts introduced in the text. Appendices include an earlier 10-page strategic plan as an example; the agenda for a planning team retreat;  goals and directions as handy one-page summaries; the text of a 15-page survey aimed at stakeholders, along with an IRB consent statement; questions for focus groups; and a 21-page final report based on findings from the survey and focus groups.  While other libraries will craft their own texts, these concrete examples from the University of Utah illustrate choices about length, scope, style (texts, bullet points, graphics), and focal points.  The main text is supported by appendices, a useful list of further readings, and an index. The table of contents clearly states the nature of each appendix. 

This summary case study has less to say about one major early decision in the process: selection of a specific strategic planning model.  Consultants or facilitators often assist with strategic planning, and those experts may prefer one method based on past experience. One could compose a lengthy list of models:  it makes sense to seek advice from facilitators. Assumptions about strategic planning and its purposes may be stated or implied in some commonly-encountered models. SWOT Analysis (the process to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats of an organization) originated in the business world, and may assume a competitive environment that is out of step with the situation in libraries.  SOAR Analysis (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) modifies SWOT Analysis to emphasize the positive, as a basis for improvement. Affirmative Inquiry (AI) takes a similar approach: identifying and building on existing strengths, while improving satisfaction for stakeholders, whether internal or external. Balanced Scorecard is a performance metric, rather than a strategic planning tool — though metrics play a role in library planning (LibQUAL+ is a well-known metric in libraries, mainly aimed at user satisfaction). 

The authors are administrators at the J. Willard Marriott Library of the University of Utah.  The perspective here is administrative: we don’t hear the voices of front-line staff or campus library users, though the process is intended to assess and respect their needs, preferences and aspirations.  Keep in mind that this book is not recommending the specific plan created at the University of Utah, only using that plan to shed light on how strategic planning was managed, in one actual case. 

This book is not the only 21st century work about strategic plans for libraries.  Crash Course in Strategic Planning by Stephen A. Matthews and Kimberly D. Matthews (Santa Barbara CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2013) is another concise, action-oriented introduction, with less emphasis on a case study.  Strategic Planning in College Libraries by Eleonara Dubicki (Chicago: ACRL, 2011), part of the CLIP Note series, compiles sample texts from a range of academic libraries (not only colleges).  Implementing for Results: Your Strategic Plan in Action by Sandra S. Nelson (Chicago: ALA, 2009) is intended for public libraries. Strategic Planning and Management for Library Managers by Joseph R. Matthews (Westport CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2005) discusses types of planning, and has less case study content. 

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.)

Turnbow, Dominique and Amanda RothDemystifying Online Instruction in Libraries: People, Process, and Tools.  Chicago: ALA Editions, 2019.  97880838919378, 112 pages. $59.99  (ALA Member: $53.99)

Reviewed by Hali Black  (First Year Experience Librarian, Cook Library, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi) 

The driving force behind libraries seeking to deliver online instruction is the realization that it is virtually impossible to connect with all the students and programs in a face-to-face setting.  Online instruction formats, such as digital tutorials, can provide a scalable alternative to traditional instruction. However, many libraries face challenges in creating online learning objects. These challenges include lack of staffing in areas such as instructional design and instructional technology implementation.  Therefore, many librarians might feel that they lack the knowledge and skills to design online learning objects, not to mention the time it takes. Despite the initial resources and time that are required to design and create online learning objects, Turnbow and Roth make the argument that the payoff is both scalable instruction, as well as continued use over time.

Author Dominique Turnbow has worked in academic libraries for over a decade as both an instruction and reference librarian.  In addition to her MLIS, Turnbow received her MEd degree in 2013 and continues to apply her instructional design expertise to the design of online information literacy tutorials.  Co-author Amanda Roth possesses over five years of experience with web design and information architecture, as well as knowledge of user experience best practices in the corporate world, which she uses to create and deliver information literacy instruction through the use of online learning objects.  Since earning her MLIS in 2013, Roth has worked in academic libraries, providing instructional services to undergraduate students. 

Their book seeks to demystify instructional design and development process used by librarians to create digital learning objects and resources.  While online instruction is a great way to promote library services, the authors caution against creating online learning objects for the sole reason of “We should be doing it” or “It’s what the students/faculty want.”  They warn that by creating digital learning objects on information literacy concepts that are not suited to online delivery or that don’t meet the needs of the intended learners, learners may be turned off and not want to use the library’s other instruction services.  This warning is not meant to sway good-intentioned librarians from creating online learning objects, but instead to remind creators of online learning objects to consider their reason for creation as well as who their intended learners are. 

The book begins by introducing the concept of online learning, including explaining frequently used terminology, and explaining how to determine whether or not online learning objects are appropriate for your learning objectives, goals, and circumstances.  The authors spend some time explaining their own institution’s process and two key positions: an instructional designer and an instructional technologist. The authors argue that the skillsets of each of these positions are necessary for successful online learning and even go so far as to give advice on how to make the case for the addition of such positions to your administrators.  The book goes on to provide an overview of instructional design, including a breakdown of specific models and approaches which offer frameworks for designing instruction. The pros and cons of each model employed by the authors’ institution are discussed, along with strategies to identify and implement library instruction in an academic library. 

Despite its brevity, this book provides information on a variety of topics related to online instruction.  I found chapter four, “Development for Non-developers,” to be particularly insightful, as it provides several development processes and techniques that are suitable to academic libraries.  Additional chapters on documenting one’s work and becoming an instructional design/technology librarian include useful information for both new librarians as well as those who are interested in pursuing similar work.  The book is also filled with sections labeled “ID in Action” which provide a variety of practical examples of how digital instructional design is being applied and used in libraries, including the time it took to design and create the online learning objects. 

Overall, I found this title to be straight forward and easy to understand.  As an instructional librarian in an academic library who’s seeking to expand and improve our online learning offerings, this book was very helpful and informative.  I recommend this book to new instructional librarians, as well as instructional librarians in higher education settings who may be new to online learning.

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.)  

Guide to the ATG Reviewer Ratings

Here is the ATG Reviewer Rating that will be used for each book covered in the Reader’s Roundup.  This reviewing scale reflects our collaborative collections and resource sharing means.  I think it helps classify the importance of these books. — Corey

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 within 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.)

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