ASSOCIATES (vol. 9, no. 3, March 2003) - associates.ucr.edu
Denise K. Fourier, David R. Dowell
Library and information science text series.
Greenwood Village, CO : Libraries Unlimited,
a division of Greenwood Publishing, c2002
xiii, 303 p. list price US$55
ISBN 1-56308-635-2 / 1-56108-634-4 (pbk.)
Advanced Education Media Acquisitions Centre
Langara College, Vancouver, BC, Canada
In the beginning, there was excitement. Having crossed the U.S.-Canada border unharmed and avoided the customs officers so diligently searching for Little Sisters' Bookstore's naughty orders, a book for review arrived for me at my local post office.
Opening any mailed parcel these days is a rare treat, enhanced in this case by new-book smell. I was ready to be seduced by my first solicited book review.
Alas, it was not to be.
Denise K. Fourier and David R. Dowell have bravely attempted to write a textbook that, in their words, "introduces the novice to trends and issues affecting the current library agency." It seemed like a good niche to exploit.
They have written chapters on the impact of electronic information access, jobs and job searching, ethics in the information age, collections, circulation, reference and other library topics. They have included quotes and occasional interesting facts to engage the reader. They have compiled study questions, resources for further investigation, including web sites, and notes, at the back of each chapter, which a conscientious student might find useful.
The irony is that the very people the profession needs to recruit -- techno-savvy and curious go-getters -- would be totally turned off this book by page two and never read it.
Because even with the authors' best intentions and obvious hard work, the book is in large part a print-dense overwritten humourless information dump with which to test bored students with, an all too common style in the library profession.
It also seems to assume the reader -- however interested she or he is in library work -- has never stepped in a library and in fact knows very little about anything, as the text often states the obvious or at least the widely known.
This is perhaps just a tad harsh. But it's very frustrating to see wasted potential. Business textbooks have just as much of the same kinds of information, but are often a lot more fun to read. Why? Because they assume a minimum level of education, experience and acuity, include lively anecdotes, case histories and examples, and are written with simple, vigorous language, good humour and keen interest.
If applied properly, these techniques could also bring library history, issues and activities to life. So why aren't they? For example, ...
Where are the stories of famous thieves, or bibliographers with their obsession with wormholes and paper provenances, when talking about special collections?
Why not include an excerpt or two from challenged texts, for readers to judge for themselves, and gauge their own reactions?
Where is there some mention of prominent libraries and systems outside the U.S. to counter the often-justified accusation of American insularity and to give some sense of the wider world of libraries?
Why not have pictures and profiles of people working in libraries today: personal as well as professional backgrounds, from all walks of life and work, as examples of careers?
What about also profiling various libraries as case studies of types of libraries?
How about examples, not just "should" advice, in the job sections?
Why not include some funny anecdotes, not just factoids dressed up like stories?
As for physical appearance, although the book is neatly bound and printed, there are a number of regrettably unattractive black and white pictures, poorly composed and reproduced, with multiple lines of caption where a text referral to the figure number (or no picture at all) could have done as well.
I'm sorry, folks. I really tried to like your book. It's not the worst I've tried to read in the field, and you've obviously done your homework and attempted to make it interesting, but it could have been so much better.