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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 674-676
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The Nature of "A Work": Implications for the Organization of Knowledge, Richard. P. Smiraglia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2001. 182 p. $49.50 (ISBN 0-8108-4037-5)
This book is the culmination of over ten years of research and publication by the author on an operational definition of "a work" and is intended to facilitate future research and discussion on bibliographic relationships in the field of information organization. Dr. Smiraglia is a professor at the Palmer School of Library & Information Science, Long Island University in Brookville, New York. He has spent the [End Page 674] majority of his professional career examining and researching derivative bibliographic relationships, especially in online databases. This book is a unique historical review of a challenging question within library science, focusing on several recent studies that have helped to inform and refine the genesis of this particular book. Smiraglia spends a great deal of time comparing the results of these studies to produce strong evidence supporting a potential theory of "a work." In addition, he provides some interesting analogies from the viewpoint of contemporary philosophy and semiotics. The resulting insight, as well as quantitative and qualitative evidence from other recent studies, generates a definition of "a work" that should illuminate and guide further research.
Smiraglia begins with a review of the literature and provides some operational definitions for terms, such as "text" and "document." He moves quickly through a concise, factual history of the concept of "work" and how an empirical understanding of bibliographical families informs research on the nature of "a work." A discussion of the nature of "a work" follows, looking outside traditional information organization literature toward the fields of philosophy, bibliography, linguistics, and semiotics. Smiraglia then proceeds to incorporate the results of four recent studies describing derivative bibliographic relationships, comparing and contrasting their findings, as the basis for his definition toward a theory of "a work." Three of these four studies were conducted by the author between 1992 and 1999. Examination of both quantitative results from these studies, and qualitative analysis of seven bibliographic families, leads Smiraglia to construct a formal definition and parameters toward a theory. Chapter Seven presents continuing discussion of the definition, as well as a call for the development of a system of uniform identifiers for works.
Besides an extensive bibliography, index, and glossary of terms, there are three appendices. Two of the appendices contain charts demonstrating the evolution of concepts and definitions. The third contains a summary of the sampling technique employed to generate the qualitative and quantitative data indicated in the fifth and sixth chapters.
Smiraglia is currently the leading expert and researcher on this topic, and this book is the seminal result of his years of research and dedication to this interesting and complex topic. It comes at an especially important time in the field of information organization, when the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR, 2nd edition, 1988 revision) is currently under intense revision and discussion, and the whole topic of what comprises "a work" is even more important in light of the explosion of the Internet and the resulting reorganization of our understanding of terms, such as serials, periodicals, monographs, editions, and versions. Like a skilled philosopher, Smiraglia leads the reader through his arguments, providing concise summaries of his evidence at the end of every chapter and consistently guiding the reader toward the ultimate goal of a theory of "a work." Appendix I is very helpful in providing a visual history of the definition of the term, and it is interesting that the definition of "a work" provided in the Glossary is a combination of the author's earlier definition of "work" with his new, formal definition given in Chapter Seven (p. 129). Given Smiraglia's excellent reputation, and the persuasive and logical presentation of research given in this book, I can highly recommend this book to library science professors, catalogers, and information organization experts [End Page 675] as a seminal work on this topic, one that will...