Basic Library Skills (4th edition)

Bob Duckett (Reference Librarian, Bradford Libraries)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Duckett, B. (2000), "Basic Library Skills (4th edition)", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 139-156.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is the fourth edition of a student text first published in 1981. Starting with the generalities of catalogues, subject headings and bibliography, later chapters cover general information sources, periodicals and newspapers, literature, government information, biography, and business information. There is a chapter on on‐line database searching and CD‐ROM reference sources, and chapters on non‐print materials, on‐line computer use in school libraries, and lastly, hints for writing papers.

In fashionable pedagogic style, chapters start with objectives stating what the student should be able to do after studying them, and conclude with exercises testing the claim, a list of important terms featured in the chapter, and a list of important books. In between, salient topics and categories of literature relevant to the subject are covered. In one of the smaller chapters, that on biography, the student “shall be able to” list the biographical sources the library holds, figure out what each source contains, and locate biographical information. Page‐length sections cover “general information”, indexes (i.e. Biography Index), Marquis Publications (publishers of the Who’s Who in . . . corpus), authors, additional information (obits., etc.), and Internet sources. The exercises ask you to list the biographical indexes owned by your library and to use them to find two biographies of five people each. Sample pages are reproduced from Biography Index, details of two searches of Biography Index via OCLC’s First Search, Who’s Who in America, Contemporary Authors, and Current Biography. The important term to learn is “Obituary”. The answers to the exercises are given at the end of the book, where there is also an index to titles and subjects.

Judged by the standards of traditional BI (Bibliographic Instruction), this book will provide the novice library user with a good knowledge of indexes, abstracts and other reference sources, including some electronic ones. I doubt, though, that the book will be useful outside the US college world. The book is strongly rooted in US sources and services, and in traditional print‐based collections. BI has never been strong in the UK and I doubt that I am the only librarian to have cancelled two of the titles mentioned above. Of the many hundreds of titles featured in the index I doubt many of us would reach even a 50 percent coverage. Despite the inclusion of a chapter on the Internet, On‐line and CD‐ROMs, the text has a traditional and old‐fashioned feel to it, exacerbated by the opening sections on card catalogues and subject headings, the anodyne and poorly reproduced photographs of books on shelves, the 1950s typeface still used by so many of the publishers of indexes, and the yellow paper. Surely BI has had its day? Searching the Web is now the norm for students and information professionals alike. The new textbooks on information skills (rather than “library” skills) are more likely to have a chapter on print sources surrounded by chapters on electronic sources rather than the other way round!I exaggerate, but given the paucity of Web sites in this book and the general print‐based methodology, I would be looking for something fresher. Recommended only for US libraries with good holdings of printed indexes and abstracts.

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