The Digital Age and Local Studies

Ina Fourie (University of Pretoria)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Fourie, I. (2004), "The Digital Age and Local Studies", Online Information Review, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 377-377.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The Digital Age and Local Studies reflects Peter Reid's passion for local studies and his ability to offer sound, practical advice to the newcomer to this field, as well as stimulation and challenges to experienced local studies librarians and educators.

Local studies has shown a growth in interest in national as well as international collaboration since the introduction of the Web, and it is now time to address the problems, issues, concerns and potential solutions – all things that are aptly addressed by Reid. Reid builds on his experience in teaching local studies to masters’ students, a good knowledge of the literature (reflected in the bibliography of sources consulted), as well as a good knowledge of best practice. This last point is reflected in the examples cited, for example Rutland Online, Genuki, West Sussex Libraries Local Studies and Port Gordon Local History online. These examples are, according to Reid, “… those which have been deemed by the information and library profession as a whole to be good or even best practice”. In the introduction Reid already makes it clear that the book is not about digitisation per se or about the technicalities of digitisation.

The Digital Age and Local Studies consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1 offers an introduction and background on local studies, and especially the changes in local studies brought on by access to the Web. Aspects addressed include the concept of local librarianship, how local is local, and global dissemination. The myth of parochialism and the popularisation and globalisation of local studies are considered in Chapter 2.

The Web affects many aspects of local studies such as electronic enquiry services, for example, online enquiry submission forms, Internet Relay Chat, webblogs and bulletin and discussion boards. These are dealt with in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4 the offering of services to remote users, and content selection and content creation are discussed, with the Knowsley Library Service as the example.

Various aspects of e‐genealogy, e‐collaboration and cooperation, and e‐learning are discussed in Chapters 5‐7. The Web is especially suitable for genealogical studies, while cooperation is now possible on a national level, as well as with academic communities, archives, museums, community groups and individuals. The final chapter deals with various aspects of evaluation and appraisal, such as criteria, evaluating information sources and evaluating local sources. Special attention is paid to Internet resources. According to Reid, the key message is that “The best way to develop digital local studies services is to look at what others are doing and to follow this through by thinking creatively about what can be applied to one's own service”.

The Digital Age and Local Studies is a well‐bound soft‐cover publication. It has a reasonable index and an interesting bibliography of sources consulted. This work is highly recommended to those interested and involved with local studies and its promotion. It is certainly also a worthwhile textbook and recommended reading for those teaching in the field. For a more detailed bibliography the reader is referred to Diana Dixon's Local Studies Librarianship: A World Bibliography (Library Association, 2001).

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