Information sources in grey literature (4th ed.)

Richard Turner (Librarian, Stockport Grammar School)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 July 2000




Turner, R. (2000), "Information sources in grey literature (4th ed.)", New Library World, Vol. 101 No. 4, pp. 193-196.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

In an age of information overload and where much of this information is published non‐commercially, the need for an understanding of the often critically important grey literature is pressing. Two key factors in particular highlight the need for a work about grey literature – that grey literature includes government reports, including those of the European Parliament, and the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Internet as an information medium. It is not just the sheer volume and incredibly varied nature of grey literature that demands understanding and control, but also its myriad formats with attendant issues of acquisition, storage, distribution and bibliographic control.

Mercifully, Auger begins with a fascinating overview of the nature and development of grey literature to give some clarity to this material. The author even bravely struggles with the definitions as “everyone can recognize a piece of grey literature when they see it, but it is not easy to write an explanation which covers all the exceptions”.

Collection and acquisition are then discussed, including access, issuing bodies and the importance of System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe (SIGLE). Bibliographic control is carefully analysed, including cataloguing and indexing rules. Distribution methods, from fiche to the Internet, are then assessed.

Auger also looks at the traditionally difficult areas of grey literature (well, the areas I have trouble with!) – theses, translations and conference papers. Further chapters focus on the boom areas of aerospace technology, life sciences, business, education, science and technology and the European Community.

All the chapters are clearly written and have excellent bibliographies for further and more detailed reading. Three useful appendices deal with the keys to report series codes, trade literature and a handy list of contacts.

No one is trying to say that grey literature will ever be easy to handle. By its very nature, it is often obscure and technical. But it is also extraordinarily important information. Auger’s book helps to clear the waters and give this enormous area of information some sense of being manageable.

This book will be useful for public libraries, technical libraries and further and higher education information services. Many cities now have a European information centre, but all enquiry and bibliographical services staff will find Auger’s work essential. Because of the constantly developing range of grey literature and methods for its storage, it will not be long until a fifth edition of this work will be needed.

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