Introduction to Library Public Services (6th ed.)

Maurice B. Line (Consultant, Harrogate)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Line, M.B. (2000), "Introduction to Library Public Services (6th ed.)", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 285-304.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Although this is the sixth edition of a book that has presumably been a bestseller in library terms, I have to acknowledge that I was unaware of its existence. This surprised me less when I learned from the Preface that the fifth edition (1992) was “more or less a complete rewrite of Marty Bloomberg’s standard text”, but I didn’t know of this work either.

My ignorance soon ceased to be a cause of shame when I started to read the book. Its purposes are clearly limited; it is “intended for use in both graduate programs of library and information science and technical programs leading to degrees and certificates for career service in libraries.” Making all allowances for this, the book seems to be pitched at a very elementary level. If you need to know, or want your staff or students to know, what sort of information is contained on a catalogue card, or what a reader registration form might look like, or how to deal with graffiti (paint them over as soon as possible), this may be just the book you want. If you want them to find out how things are normally done in most libraries today, and to follow current practice without question, this book will provide most of the answers. If, however, you want staff and students to see library services as a whole where, for example, collection building is intimately related to remote document access, or to question any practice, keep it well away from them. Part of the problem lies in the book’s structure, which is by operation and activity rather than basic function, but more lies in the actual content.

Even within its limits, the book, long as it is, is incomplete. I would hardly expect anything on management, since it seems to be assumed that its readers are unlikely ever to become managers; but, to take just two examples, I would expect a little on the techniques and processes of flow‐charting, in view of the several flow charts scattered through the volume; and I would also expect something on mediated versus unmediated interlending and document supply.

The index is not very good either. I knew there was something on difficult clients, so I tried “clients”, “customers”, “patrons”, “users” and “readers”, and “difficult”. Eventually I found an entry under “problem customers”. At least students may learn something about how not to make an index helpful to users.

I am also uncertain as to the usefulness of the book even as an elementary introduction. No one will read it through; it is too long and detailed. But it is not detailed enough to constitute a thorough reference manual. A loose‐leaf format might be better; this would also enable references to be kept up to date (especially the evanescent URLs). Incidentally, although there is inevitably a US bias in the book, one thing I must praise it for: the lists of references are not only rather good, but actually include references from non‐US sources.

I have been hard on the book. In fact, within its limits it is very good; however, those limits are drawn so tightly as to render it not only of little but basic use but in danger of inculcating bad thought habits among impressionable young librarians. Still, I suppose older generations survived textbooks like Brown’s Manual of Library Economy without lasting harm – if we ever bothered to read it, which I for one did not.

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