Computers in Libraries: An Introduction for Library Technicians

Louise Ellis‐Barrett (Downsend School, Leatherhead, UK)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 21 March 2008




Ellis‐Barrett, L. (2008), "Computers in Libraries: An Introduction for Library Technicians", Library Review, Vol. 57 No. 3, pp. 256-257.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Aimed at newly qualified as well as practising library technicians, this book provides a very thorough, if very basic, overview of technology and its use in libraries of the twenty‐first century. Kate Wilson states that it is her aim to look at the way in which roles of library staff have changed in the last 20 years through the impact of computer technology, most notably the spread of the Internet.

Looking in detail at library management systems, OPAC's, resource sharing, information searching and skill‐sharing, Wilson has provided a very succinct, approachable and readable text that should provide students and those staff new to the library with an indepth and thorough understanding of the way in which a library operates through its management systems. However, her claim that existing staff may wish to use the book in order to update their skills is perhaps overly enthusiastic for the topics covered, and the detail provided is very basic, despite its thoroughness.

The opening chapter, introducing computers, gave me the impression that I was about to read a book that had been published 20 years ago, not one that was looking at 20 years of developments. Even so, the style of writing and the content are basic and easy to understand whilst not condescending. There are no expectations of prior knowledge which is very helpful. Despite this approach, however, the review questions found at the end of each chapter are rather demeaning and would be better placed in a child's textbook than a book for mature adult library staff. For example the chapter on computers asks the reader to name five components of computer hardware.

Later chapters are, however, an improvement; after discussing computers, Wilson moves on to look at the Internet and its application in the library. A general chapter introducing library management systems is followed by a chapter on each of the main aspects of a system – acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation and serials. There then follows chapters on OPAC's; resource sharing (i.e. inter‐library loan procedures); information searching – the use of databases both online and on CD/DVD; computer skills, and finally, the future for technology in library services. With the exception of some very basic and perhaps unnecessary advice about using the mouse and keyboard in the computer skills chapter, the content is useful in parts giving a good overview of the practical, behind‐the‐scenes work that librarians undertake. These aspects of the book would perhaps be a good introduction for first year Information Studies students or very new library technicians.

The glossary of terms that each chapter begins with is a useful quick reference, particularly when considering the use of Internet and online databases as there is a considerable amount of technical terminology and a number of acronyms used for describing this. The few diagrams and screen shots provided throughout the chapters provide a useful visual guide to some of the processes described in the text, the extensive bibliography and full index also allow for further reading and quick reference. Overall it is a very succinct book and each chapter is clearly divided allowing the reader to locate the information they require quickly. In summary this book contains some useful elements but is generally too basic to be recommended as a must‐have for all library technicians.

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