Announcement: There won't be a NeatNew or ExLibris for the next two weeks, since you and I all have better things to do on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Y2K permitting, I'll see you back here January 7. Meantime, have a great Christmas.
IN PRAISE OF, PART II:
One of the reasons I don't accept advertising, even though I would enjoy the money, is that I prefer you to trust that, when I evaluate a book or product, and when I praise a person or organization, I am offering my honest opinion. Which may be mistaken, of course, but not because I'm shilling for a corporate sponsor.
That said, I would like to do honor to a company that does well by doing good to the library and information community, Information Today, a full-service publisher that provides excellent magazines, books, abstracting services, conferences, and conference papers. It publishes ten professional journals, including Computers in Libraries, which I find useful if unexciting, and one of my favorites, Searcher: the Magazine for Database Professionals, which has expanded its focus over recent years to include the perils and promise of web searching. Not the least of Searcher's appeal is the insightful commentary by its wickedly witty editor Barbara Quint. And while Information Today would like you to subscribe to their publications, they make a number of articles from each journal available free on their web site, http://www.infotoday.com/.
I have found the books from Information Today to be of uniformly high quality. They have a genius for selecting top of the line information experts -- Mary Ellen Bates, Reva Basch, Sue Feldman, Greg Notess, among others -- to write the books, and excellent editors to supervise overall quality. The Super Searcher series is just one of their high quality products.
But the thing I like best about Information Today is the conferences they sponsor. The one I am most familiar with is Internet Librarian, which I went to once as an attendee and once as a speaker. These were the best-organized conferences I've ever been to. Accommodations, travel arrangements, food, scheduling, and exhibits all worked smoothly. The track system they used accommodated the different focuses of librarians, one track following technical issues, another following school issues, etc. I learned more from the high-powered speakers at those conferences than from any other I can remember attending.
Information Today is a premier information provider for librarians and information professionals because it understands both its target audience and the information environment. As information technology changes, and as librarian informations needs change it has been quick to offer new books, journals, and conference presentations (it offered a book on Campus-Wide Information Systems in 1994, just as many universities were beginning to realize they needed one). I for one would like to say, "Thanks."
FIRST AMENDMENT CONCERNS IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
I don't intend to use ExLibris to express partisan political views, and in any case I have more than enough skepticism to stretch across at least three political parties, but some issues that should rightly concern us are being discussed in this campaign. I watched the Republican Presidential debates this past Monday night, and if you missed them, I recommend that you visit http://cspan.org/campaign2000/ where you can watch them. The reason being that, though every one of the candidates said at least one intelligent thing, and though the debate was amicable and jocular, with actual policy content, there was disquieting evidence that not a one of these candidates can be trusted with the first amendment. Sen. McCain, who I like in many ways, actually said that, while he had no idea what his own kids were viewing on the internet in the privacy of their own rooms, he wanted to make sure that libraries and schools installed filters on all their computers.
Hatch, Keyes and Bauer, and maybe Bush, wanted to get God back into the public schools. Asked to name the political philosopher who meant the most to them, Bush named Jesus Christ, as did Bauer and Hatch. All seemed unaware that the first amendment protection of freedom of religion was also a protection of our freedom FROM having a state-sponsored religion forced upon us.
I haven't heard the Democratic candidates debate as yet, so I don't know what their stances are on these issues. If they're equally scary, I'll report back to you.
A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
REVIEW: GREAT SCOUTS!
Nora Paul and Margot Williams.
Great Scouts! CyberGuides for Subject Searching on the Web
Cyber Age Books, 1999. 0-910965-27-7
companion site: http://www.infotoday.com/greatscouts!/
Paul and Williams, both newspaper librarians, know that people don't want to fumble through hundreds of sites in dim hope of finding what they want -- they just want to know a few key resources in their subject area they can trust to get them to anything they need. The authors select no more than about 20 key sites for each subject area. For each site they tell you why they picked it, how it's supported (a key piece of information when you're wondering about objectivity), what you can expect to find there, how many sites they link, how sites are selected, the intended audience, how it can be searched, and how often its content is updated.
Usually I think this topic is not well-suited to book format, because the web changes so frequently that books tend to be out of date before we even remove the shrink-wrap. But this book is an exception, first because the authors select sites that appear to have durability and a good track record, and secondly because they post and update the book's links on a companion website.
The other reason the book is worthwhile, though, especially for students and newbies, is that in the process of reviewing sites, the authors demonstrate a model of how you determine what is most important in a subject discipline and how you analyze and evaluate a site. Which is to say, it's teaching critical judgment. I recommend this book for any of these purposes.
I've posted the TalkBack page at http://marylaine.com/exlibris/talkback.html. Responses to the Books for Tots proposal tell you about some very good such programs already being run by libraries around the country. The article on collaborative management brought some interesting mail as well. If you'd like to post your responses to articles, please e-mail them to me and use "talkback" in your subject line.
You are welcome to copy and distribute or e-mail any of my own articles (but not those by my guest writers) as long as you retain this copyright statement:
Ex Libris: an E-Zine for Librarians and Other Information Junkies.
Copyright, Marylaine Block, 1999.