Information Services in an Electronic Environment

Steve Morgan (Deputy Head of the Learning Resources Centre, University of Glamorgan, UK)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 1 April 2002




Morgan, S. (2002), "Information Services in an Electronic Environment", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 28-28.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

For the last few years – and I guess it will continue for a while yet – authors in libraryland have been tripping over themselves to offer predictions as to where the electronic library will lead us and what will be the implications on the way there. Many of the scenarios make for interesting reading and this collection is no exception. As one of the “reflective practitioners” at whom, according to the editor in the introduction, this volume is aimed, I found this a very impressive and thought provoking book. This is the second in the themed International Yearbook series; the first covered collection management, the third next year will cover digital libraries.

Divided into five parts and 14 chapters, with 17 contributions from eight different countries, this yearbook provides an authoritative tour around the emerging trends in the electronic library environment. Part 1, consisting of Chapter 1 (Cullen), provides a comprehensive overview of reference services which treads interesting ground with discussions about intelligent information retrieval agents and customized interfaces. What of the place of the interpersonal connection between librarian and user in this era of disintermediation? The four chapters of Part 2 deal with information services in various types of libraries: the huge potential impact of the Internet on public libraries (Liu); an investigation into information behaviour in UK Higher Education, particularly centred around the JISC‐funded JUBILEE Project (Banwell); building social competence in young people through the use of technology as the best solution to counteract the commercialism of our time (Higgins); Danish plans to create a national electronic library to include all research and all public libraries (Petersen and Thorhauge). Ambitious or what?

Part 3 (Delivery of information services), again a four‐chapter collection, consists of the following: current developments taking place in information retrieval, especially image and audio retrieval (Hartley); a discussion about the role of technical standards used to support the discovery, order and delivery phases of the information‐seeking process (Jackson); the results of research into library services that support distance learners and the need for collaboration with teaching departments to integrate courses and resources (Slade); an examination of the copyright implications for document delivery and, particularly, the need for reinterpretation in the light of new developments (Watkins).

Clearly, a crucial factor in engaging with the electronic environment is having the necessary skills to make the best use of the resources available. All too often nowadays there is an assumption that young people are more IT‐literate than they actually are. Brandt explores this in Chapter 10, the first of three chapters in Part 4 (Information literacy – a key service). Building on this aspect, Chapters 11 (Peterson) and 12 (Abbott and Peach) were for me the most engrossing of the whole collection – it may have something to do with my former life as a Subject Librarian with all that user education. Both in their different ways address the transition from traditional bibliographic instruction (the preferred term in the US) to a more all‐embracing information literacy and its role in the lifelong learning agenda. Whether librarians are able to position themselves as significant players in these important developments remains to be seen.

The final brace of chapters (Powell, followed by McGlamery), or Part 5, address the complex issues around measuring and evaluating electronic information services. Particularly interesting are the ideas about the electronic “trails” that users of digital library collections leave and that provide opportunities for detailed analysis in relation to their information transactions.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to students of library and information studies or practitioners who wish to keep up‐to‐date with recent developments in the field. A stimulating read!

Related articles