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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 678-679

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Intelligent Technologies in Library and Information Service Applications, F. W. Lancaster and Amy Warner. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. for the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST), 2001. 214 p. ASIST Members $31.60, Non-Members $39.50 (ISBN 1-57387-103-6)

These two esteemed authors have teamed up again for another outstanding book. Lancaster (Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois) and Warner's (Thesaurus Design Specialist at Argus Associates, Inc.) earlier collaboration, Information Retrieval Today (Information Resource Press, 1993), is still a leading work on electronic storage and retrieval systems. Their latest book provides cutting-edge information on the status of intelligent technologies affecting libraries and related areas. The authors immediately share their working view of artificial intelligence (AI), citing Charles Fenly's 1992 definition as computer programs that "have been developed which exhibit human-like reasoning, which may be able to learn from their mistakes, and which quickly and cleverly perform tasks normally done by scarce and expensive human experts." (p.2)

Based on literature reviews, Lancaster and Warner report expert systems (ES) as the most-applied library use of AI. They identify three components of an expert system: "a knowledge base, an inference engine, and a user interface," (p. 4). Along with a brief historical account of AI-related technologies, they provide an exhaustive discussion of AI developments in the 1990s. Each chapter provides a wealth of well-researched and documented discussion, with Chapter One focusing on core library operations, the heart of the work. The authors draw on years of expertise to provide excellent tracking of various ES products and their current applications. The authors demonstrate a talent for making a significantly complex subject understandable to all audiences.

Chapters Two and Three continue to describe information retrieval and management applications of ES in areas such as cataloging, acquisition, collection development, reference services, and subject indexing. Whereas the previous chapters focus primarily on applications, Chapter Four covers general technologies. This well-placed information illustrates the next steps for ES technologies. Even as the authors conclude that "almost none of the effort put into expert system development within the library community has resulted in fully operating systems" (p. 2), they recognize the significant progress being made in medical and other scientific fields that will soon merge with the development of information applications. For example, the UCLA Brain Mapping Center <> is receiving global support for its work on the interpreting, recording, and reasoning processes of the human brain; this knowledge is being analyzed and shared through specialized databases.

In Chapter Five, the summation, the authors reemphasize that, from the best to the least prototypical, all AI/ES software products introduced in libraries are meant to assist librarians, not to replace them. [End Page 678] Also, librarians and other information providers are realizing that not all tasks can be performed by AI/ES systems. This chapter also offers conclusions and implications, mainly extending the discussions on applications of intelligent technologies in library service operations from Chapter One. Survey instruments are included in appendices one through three; appendices four and five include tools for readers to remain up to date with new developments in intelligent technologies. Over 500 references constitute a valuable bibliographic resource. The only room for improvement in this impeccably researched work would have been to flesh out each chapter with the level of detail found in the first chapter.

While this work is most suitable for academic librarians and information science faculty and students, all librarians and information specialists could benefit from its discussion of intelligent technologies as possible tools for improving selected library services.


Thura Mack
University of Tennessee, Knoxville



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