portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.4 (2003) 690-692
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Library Information Systems: From Library Automation to Distributed Information Access Solutions, Thomas R. Kochtanek and Joseph R. Matthews. [End Page 690] Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2002. 287 p. $47.50 softcover (ISBN 1-59158-018-8); $60 hardcover (ISBN 1-56308-966-1)
Arranged in four parts, this textbook updates the state of automated systems design for libraries, tracing the evolution of library automated systems from the integrated library system (ILS) approach to a distributed environment that includes Web portals, e-books, and digital libraries. The authors are knowledgeable and well qualified for the task—Kochtanek is an associate professor of Information Science and Learning Technologies at University of Missouri-Columbia, and Matthews is an internationally renowned consultant in library automation.
The text is designed for library systems analysts, library automation administrators, information managers, consultants, and advanced students specializing in library automation and technology. The text presumes a familiarity with the functional and technical aspects of both the systems development cycle and library automation, and it expands knowledge on such topics as the library automation marketplace, open systems, telecommunications and networks, standards, systems planning and evaluation. The work builds on previously published textbooks written by Richard Boss (The Library Manager's Guide to Automation, G.K. Hall, 1990), John Corbin (Implementing the Automated Library System, Oryx Press, 1988), Ed Cortez (with Tom Smorch, Planning Second Generation Automated Library Systems, Greenwood, 1993), and Matthews himself (Choosing an Automated Library System, American Library Association, 1980).
The title of the text suggests that library automation has matured significantly in functionality and performance, vastly surpassing its first and second-generation ancestors. The latest systems make use of client/server architecture, improved computer circuitry and memory, as well as advances in software engineering and telecommunications over the past decade. In essence, the authors describe today's most innovative approaches to bibliographic control, information service and delivery, and library automation planning and implementation.
The book is the single most comprehensive source of the literature on library systems design and planning. The authors enrich the technical side of the topic with discussions on information literacy, system manager characteristics, usability guidelines, impacts on library operations, ergonomics, the history of library automation, and the impact of information technology on library staff. In their analysis the authors identify eight basic technology axioms: 1) the decision to automate is irreversible; 2) standards are critical; 3) the converted database is the most important asset; 4) conversion, maintenance, and training are always underestimated; 5) use of technology will grow to fill the available capacity; 6) information technology is the central nervous system of strategy; 7) the network really matters; and 8) support costs for technology resources and services will become a significant part of a library's budget (pp. 129-134).
Despite the comprehensiveness of the book, the authors understand that in a market as dynamic as library automation, there is a degree of risk in relying on a single source for state-of-the-art developments. Throughout the text and at the end of each chapter the authors identify alternative resources, including Web resources that are useful for continuous up-to-date information on library technology trends. Kochtanek and Matthews also devote an entire section to a review of technology [End Page 691] trends affecting library information systems development and implementation that includes a comprehensive discussion on digital libraries.
The organization of the monograph is well suited to its content, leading the reader through a systematic approach to the evaluation, selection, and implementation of library automated systems. Aiding the reader is a comprehensive glossary and an excellent index that tested well for recall and precision. Readers of this book will be exposed to the latest and most comprehensive treatment of library automation and human intervention. Not only will readers expand their technical knowledge, but also will develop sensitivity to opportunities that new technologies provide in reshaping bibliographic and information services for library users at all levels now and in the future.