Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet

Penny Garrod (Public Library Networking, UKOLN, Bath, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Garrod, P. (2004), "Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended Consequences of the Internet", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 38 No. 4, pp. 274-274.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is a bible for librarians with control freak tendencies: “Do you ever feel as though the Internet has caused you to lose control of your library?”, it asks in the first paragraph of the introduction. In the introduction we hear that the Luddites were right in recognising that mechanisation produces “winners and losers”, and that they were destined to be the losers. Librarians, it seems, are the modern‐day equivalent of the Luddites due to society's wholehearted embracing of IT, with little thought for the consequences. This book aims to help librarians mitigate against the “net effects” of the ubiquitous computer and the all pervasive Internet. It offers strategies, advice and case studies on how to regain control by generally getting stuck in and becoming more proactive.

This book will be of interest to practitioners and service managers in public, academic and government libraries, where there is a strong emphasis on electronic service delivery, 24/7 access, and tailoring services to specific groups of users. Researchers and postgraduate students will also find it a source of ideas and material on how modern Web‐based technologies can be applied in the library domain. Wireless networking, Weblogs, personalised services, filtering and acceptable use policies are all covered here, and there are sections on many of the legal issues associated with facilitating public access to the Internet via public networks.

However, the first thing the reader needs to take into account is that this book was produced and published in the US by Information Today, Inc. The contributors, apart from one Canadian, are American, which is reflected in the content and style of the material. US technological supremacy and culture may render some of the papers irrelevant to the European reader, e.g. chapters dealing with legal issues based on the US Patriot Act – although the issues do have resonance for the rest of the Internet‐using world. The contributors hail from Milwaukee to Hawaii, and many places in between – plus Darlen Fichter from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Some of the writers are well‐known names in the field of Information Science and Computing, and together they represent a wealth of experience.

The language is informal and conversational in that distinctive American style, which non‐US readers may find irksome and “twee” at times. Chapters and sub‐sectors proclaim: “Run with the big boys”, “Stop the world I want to catch up!” and “You go, guys!” – all very well for grabbing attention, but it can seem a touch infantile and even patronising at times. It is almost as though they are trying to show how trendy and non‐librarianish they are – as if to say “no weirdo‐beardos or sensible shoes here”. However, the desire to exert control, especially over users, comes through in some places. Users need to be taught to adapt to the needs of librarians, and “trained” to use “good” information resources, rather than consulting friends, as is the case with students apparently, when seeking information on the Web.

As to the overall content – the layout and referencing is good with lists of recommended reading and URLs appended to most chapters. Summaries of key points, presented in grey‐shaded boxes, are liberally sprinkled throughout and there is a comprehensive index. When combined, these features make the collection easy to navigate, and a valuable reference or research tool. Brief biographies, and an extended blurb on the editor, complete the picture. It is useful to know the background and interests of the writers.

All in all this book covers a lot of ground; it is up to date in terms of technological innovation and how to maximise the potential of IT in the networked library. Setting aside the fact that the book is probably aimed at a US audience, and presents a US‐centric view of the world, the examples and advice it contains are on the whole relevant and valuable to all library managers and practitioners. Many of the key issues are covered including: Web site accessibility and adaptive technologies; attracting and retaining users to library Web sites; Weblogs; wireless networking and PDA services. Non‐US readers may find it interesting just to get an overview of the possibilities regarding Web‐based service delivery in libraries.

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