Libraries without Walls 3: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users

Philip Calvert (Victoria University of Wellington)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Calvert, P. (2000), "Libraries without Walls 3: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users", Online Information Review, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 329-344.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The development of open learning or distance education has to be one of the most significant changes experienced in higher education in the last 50 years. Inevitably it has made an impact of the provision of library services, to the point it has become the topic of conferences, symposia, and even has its own online periodical, Journal of Library Services for Distance Education.

The third Libraries without Walls conference held in 1999 had as its title “The delivery of library services to distant users”, and here are the proceedings. That means that this is not a comprehensive guide to the subject, though the coverage is quite broad. This volume includes papers on the following: collaborative programmes for support of lifelong learning; library Web pages for distance learners; staff training for distant library services; collecting virtual resources for distance learners; research into the electronic library; library instruction for remote students; electronic document delivery services from the workplace and home; raising levels of information literacy among distant users; and performance measures for the hybrid library environment.

It sounds an imposing list (there are no less than 23 chapters), but inevitably there will be omissions from a full coverage of the subject. One might have expected more on crucial topics such as the organisational structure of the library to support distance learners and how much teams might be used in the future, and on the thorny, awkward questions about copyright and licensing. The reader, nevertheless, should enjoy what is here. Each person will no doubt turn to one paper before the others. For me it was the paper on the EQUINOX project trying to establish a set of performance measures for electronic library services, which set off many questions for further reading and thought.

It is worth mentioning that there was a heavy preponderance of speakers from the UK, a total of 24 in all, compared with 12 from the rest of the world. Projects at Aarhus, Catalonia, Deakin, Rotterdam and elsewhere are the subjects of papers, though there is much more happening around the world than is represented here. That is why Sandy Slade’s impressive paper titled “International trends and issues in library services for distance learning” is so important. He shows his extensive knowledge of the literature of the subject. More than that, he brings together crucial ideas in a way that makes it clear to the reader how it all fits together. The bibliography for his paper will be very useful to anyone wishing to study the subject further, especially as it includes developments outside the usual circle.

This is a useful purchase for most LIS collections, and no doubt individuals who must learn more about the subject will want to own a copy.

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