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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 679-680

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Planning for Integrated Systems and Technologies: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians, John M. Cohn, Ann L. Kelsey, and Keith Michael Fiels. (How-to-do-it Manuals for Librarians, no. 111) New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2001. 205 p. $55 (ISBN 1-55570-421-2)

This Neal-Schuman manual is an excellent source for libraries seeking to institute a first-time integrated library system or to upgrade current technologies. It is a comprehensive guide that provides step-by-step detail at all levels of project development. The authors' names may sound familiar, and rightfully so. They are experienced and well versed in library technology, having co-authored the renowned predecessor to this book, Planning for Automation: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians (2nd ed., Neal-Schuman, 1997). More recently, the three collaborated on Writing and Updating Technology Plans: A Guidebook with Sample Plans on CD-ROM (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Cohn and Kelsey are, respectively, director and associate director of the Masten Learning Resource Center at the County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey; Fiels is director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in Boston.

What makes this manual particularly valuable to those working with library technology is the long-range planning process described in the book. It is not just a step-by-step plan from day one to installation day; it is a plan for developing and sustaining technology in libraries. It begins with an often overlooked or ignored element in typical library automation books—the "evolving expectations and the changing nature of library systems" and "the planning imperative" (p. xvi). The first third of the book functions as a tool to create an evolving technology plan, a crucial component of integrated library systems. It covers methods for collecting and organizing statistical data to describe existing technologies and services, assessing needs, setting priorities, keeping a plan current, as well as evaluating and amending existing technology plans.

The middle third of the book focuses on the obvious—selection and implementation of the system. The authors discuss the evolving nature of the organism as well as its impact on libraries. To quote the authors, "Today's library is both a physical place and a virtual environment. . . . Integrated [End Page 679] systems, as they coordinate and blend, must reflect this new reality of library service" (pp. 62-63). They identify various options for implementing an integrated system and touch upon issues involved in joining a consortium. The book does not contain any sample requests for proposals; however, sources where one can find them online are provided. The authors also provide advice for negotiating a contract with the selected vendor after the final cut.

The last third of the manual discusses the impact of new technologies on library collections—retrospective conversion, database maintenance, barcoding, the MARC standard, and other bibliographic standards. The manual concludes by reconfirming the benefits of addressing evolving expectations and changing technologies by having the foresight to plan for the future. At the end of the book there is a handy little appendix that covers all the facets of working with consultants from selection to agreement formulation to ethical issues. The entire manual is chock full of information, suggestions, and answers to numerous questions that arise during planning for an integrated library system.

The authors provide many exercises, charts, figures, lists, examples, and other visuals that will inspire even rank beginners. This manual is well organized and easily referenced, with detailed sources at the end of each chapter for further reading and information gathering. Everything a librarian or information worker needs to know about planning for integrated systems and technologies is included in this work.


Diana T. Loreman
Bucks County Community College,



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