Foundations of Library and Information Science

Alan Day (Editor‐Compiler, Walford’s Guide)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Day, A. (2000), "Foundations of Library and Information Science", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 139-156.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A determined effort to conquer the essential purchase list of North American library and information schools, the primary purpose of this vade‐mecum is “to explain the current information environment to students … so that further study and practice will be informed by a realistic picture of the still developing information society”. To accomplish this by no means easy task, Rubin divides his text into ten well‐defined chapters. The first, “The Information Infrastructure: Libraries in Context”, dramatically exposes the fear of the ever increasing bulk of information confronting librarians today, underlining the terms of dread by which information is customarily described: the information explosion, the flood of information, bombarded by information, the information overload, and rarely the wealth of information. In order to advance a better understanding of information, he proceeds to examine its processes, networks and services, its infrastructure, and then focuses on its uses in the USA as manifested in the print industry, telephones, radio and television, the database industry, and libraries, thus surveying the immense “array of societal information components and channels” and how they are used.

“Information Science: A Service Perspective”, the second chapter, resolutely refuses to become embroiled in the hoary old question, what exactly is information science and does it differ from librarianship? Instead Rubin outlines how information science impinges on libraries and the difference between information seeking and information gathering. Along the way he arrives at the disturbing conclusion that the public seldom identify librarians as a source of information. What is surprising is that he seems content to prolong the separation of the two disciplines, accepting that library services must rely on information scientists for an understanding of how to define information needs and of how information systems can best be designed so that librarians can do their job effectively. It is debatable whether UK library educators would endorse this view.

In “Redefining the Library: The Impacts and Implications of Technological Change”, Rubin investigates how information technologies have affected information providers in their interaction with users, highlighting micro photography, computers, their on‐line and interactive capabilities, and their library spin‐offs, OPACs, on‐line circulation and automated acquisition systems, and the uses and features of the Internet, before assessing their impact in the years ahead. Two chapters define and examine information policy, first in general terms, and then in the library context, the fees for services controversy, preservation policies, intellectual freedom, and censorship, where an understanding of fundamental principles is so crucial. Classification systems, controlled vocabulary, library catalogues, bibliographical records, either printed, or in machine‐readable catalogues, bibliographies, abstracts and indexes, shelf arrangements, the organisation of knowledge within electronic information retrieval systems, and the expertise librarians and information scientists can offer in the control of such systems, form the subject matter of “Information Organization: Issues and Techniques”.

“From Past to Present: The Library’s Mission” adopts an historical prospective to assess libraries’ contribution to binding communities into a cohesive society, not least in making accessible society’s records to its members, and supporting inclusive institutions and concepts, exerting a beneficial and benevolent influence on a society’s culture and environment. From here it is but a small step to “Ethics and Standards”, identifying professional principles, codes and obligations, often requiring a balance of diverse interests. The last two chapters, “The Library As Institution”, and “Librarianship: An Evolving Profession”, are more introverted, concentrating in the former on the organisation of authority, on issues affecting various types of library, and human resources, while the latter focuses on professional education and the continuing struggle for an identity and purpose, a depressing list of topics suggesting an endemic uncertainty: do librarians have a distinctive function, is librarianship a profession, what is the image and personality of librarians, and what is their future role?

Each chapter ends with extended reference lists, there is a 20‐page categorised bibliography, and a comprehensive index. The book’s merits are plain to see and it will no doubt educate and influence fledgling and experienced librarian alike. But did it have to be so parochial in coverage and application? Apart from the introductory section on ancient and medieval libraries in past to present, and a single page on IFLA in Appendix G Summary of Major Library And Information Science Associations and List of Additional Associations, it is totally based on North American library practice. As far as the author is concerned the Library Association and The Institute of Information Scientists appear not to exist.

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