Knight, J. (2008), "Intranets for Info Pros", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 315-316. https://doi.org/10.1108/00330330810892712
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Intranets were big news back in the mid‐1990 s when people first started to make use of web technologies within their organisations as well as a means of supplying information to customers, patrons and other interested outside parties. Many organisations built themselves intranet sites – indeed some large companies and universities ended up with a multitude of internal web servers run by varying groups and departments. The early intranets have been joined by corporate portals, content management systems, and diverse sets of web‐delivered applications. The use of the resulting internal web of systems varies from site to site, with some systems forming a useful, heavily used means of sharing information efficiently between colleagues, whilst others have become disorganised dumping grounds of files and directories.
Intranets for Info Pros is a book aimed at a variety of information professionals who have to manage, extend or replace intranets in their own establishments. It is a collection of individual papers by a variety of authors working in the field. After a scene‐setting introductory chapter by one of the editors, there is a chapter on the current state of intranets and their potential future developments. Rather than looking at technologies or products directly, this chapter deals more with the potential drivers within an organisation that will shape how an intranet will develop. Next is a chapter on the roles that information professionals taken in intranet deployments, followed by a chapter on how to project manage such a deployment. Running a large intranet can lead to arguments about how it should be governed and who has responsibility for what, and from there it needs to be able to build collaborations between communities of users. This is covered in the next two chapters, followed by a section on content management issues and then a discussion on how to write in an accessible manner for use on the Web. Corporate portals and their relationship to intranets are looked at, as well as chapters on information architecture, the need for decent search mechanisms within the organisation and lastly a brief introduction to the need to design web‐based systems in such a way as to separate presentation and content. The book has an extensive bibliography to support the chapters as well as a biography of the contributing authors and a full index.
This is a difficult book to read from cover to cover, which unfortunately is what a reviewer has to do! By its very nature a book with a multitude of authors results in a variety of writing styles and some differences of opinion in places. Some of the chapters are very clear and easily understood, whilst others seem full of overly verbose prose and one is left wondering what the points being put forward were actually supposed to be. Unfortunately some of the earlier chapters are those that are the hardest to take in, which means that people who do try to read from cover to cover may well give up on the book before they come across the clearer and more useful sections.
It is also not entirely obvious who the target audience for the book is. “Information professional” is a rather broad church – the chapter on the roles that information professionals can play in the intranet demonstrates just how many different stakeholders can be involved in an intranet project. What may be informative and useful to a technical systems designer might be impenetrable jargon for a librarian, and vice versa.
What the book is definitely not is an introduction to the concept of intranets – it is not the sort of book that one would pass to a manager or student that was not already versed in information systems. Readers who find useful material are likely to already be involved with an existing intranet and wish to develop a more advanced understanding of some of the aspects involved with such systems. These readers may be more forgiving of the variable writing styles in the text.
In some ways it could be seen as an ideal book to borrow from the library rather than keep on your own bookshelf – it provides an introduction to a wide variety of facets of the subject and its bibliography leads the reader off to other sources of more in‐depth coverage. The chapters that do not interest one reader may well be exactly what another information professional in a slightly different field will find immensely useful.