- Purchase/rental options available:
portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.4 (2002) 681-682
[Access article in PDF]
Evaluating Networked Information Services: Techniques, Policy, and Issues, ed. Charles R. McClure and John Carlo Bertot. (ASIST Monograph Series). Medford, N.J: Information Today, 2001. 344 p. $44.50 (ISBN 1-57387-118-4)
The number and availability of electronic information services has rapidly expanded over the past five years, becoming a major portion of the budget of many companies, institutions, and libraries. This book is the first major work on the challenging and often ignored area of evaluating networked services, providing a rich variety of perspectives. In keeping with the stated breadth of this book, topics covered include government, international, children's, community health, public, and academic services. This book grew out of papers and panels presented at the American Society for Information Science and Technology's (ASIST) 1999 mid-year meeting, focused on this topic. After peer review, thirteen chapters were accepted for inclusion in this ASIST monograph.
The concise eight-page introduction by the editors does an admirable job of setting out the objectives, key themes, and issues of this compilation. The goal was to "bring together a range of ideas, studies, approaches, and issues" (p. xv) on theory, models, current practice, issues, and future activities. Key themes are: the rapidly evolving context for evaluation; the new and different methodologies which are required along with cross-discipline training for those involved in evaluation; the need to convince one's organization of the importance [End Page 681] of evaluation; and the integration of technical and social evaluation perspectives. The need for more research is evident.
Chapters are organized into six sections: frameworks, theory and models, methodology, usability, policy, and future direction. An information provider's perspective on assessing one's own service is provided by R. David Lankes, Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse. In short, there is something for almost anyone involved in working with electronic resources, from public services librarians to information technology staff to library administrators. A complete list of chapter titles and authors can be found on the publisher's Web site: <http://www.infotoday.com/catalog/asist.htm#EvalNet>.
Editors McClure and Bertot (both faculty members at Florida State University) have considerable sponsored research work, publications, and consulting experience in the evaluation of electronic information services. From first-hand experience with an evaluation seminar taught by McClure, this reviewer can vouch for the quality of his professional activities. The co-editors themselves wrote a chapter (with Joe Ryan of Ryan Information Management) on choosing appropriate evaluation measures, including an especially useful discussion of ten qualitative and quantitative techniques. Even more importantly, the questions that need to be asked before choosing a technique are clearly outlined, such as "Should you measure capacity, use, efficiency, impact or outcome?" (p. 119) Another high-interest topic is covered in Joseph Janes' (The Information School of the University of Washington) chapter on "Digital Reference Services in Public and Academic Libraries," presenting the results of a national sampling of library Web sites that he identified and analyzed for the digital reference services offered.
The book chapters are well documented, providing numerous references in their bibliographies. This book should be useful to any organization providing networked information services and for any person selecting, managing, and promoting these services.
A. Ben Wagner
University at Buffalo,
State University of New York