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portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.2 (2003) 354-356
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Attracting, Educating, and Serving Remote Users Through the Web,ed. Donnelyn Curtis. (How-To-Do-It Manuals for Librarians, no. 114) New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2002. 269 p. $55 (ISBN 1-55570-436-0)
Attracting, Educating, and Serving Remote Users aspires to "help libraries effectively help [remote] users," whose expectations and behavior patterns may differ from more visible and familiar persons who use library services within library buildings and interact with librarians and library staff. The book consists of a series of essays by librarians who currently work at the University of Nevada, Reno, and begins with an opening essay that provides an overview of challenges posed to libraries by changes in information technology. The remaining chapters explore the possible ways in which libraries can evolve traditional services and resources such as collections, reference, and instruction to best meet the needs of remote users. [End Page 354]
Collections of essays written by multiple authors run the risk of being poorly focused or inconsistent in scope. This volume, however, generally succeeds in presenting a coherent and integrated narrative about strategies for developing services that cater to the needs of remote users. Chapters often include an historical overview of how services have traditionally been provided; options libraries currently have for providing services to remote users; and strengths and weaknesses of possible approaches. Several chapters excel in providing references to related points contained in other chapters, and the use of citations to published works and Web sites at the end of each chapter is generous. Attracting, Educating, and Serving Remote Users concludes with a chapter on fundraising and public relations. While this is certainly an interesting chapter, and it does discuss online delivery of information, it is only loosely related to the book's central theme of meeting the needs of remote library users. Despite the use of multiple authors, all contributors are passionate and persuasive about the need for libraries to evolve to meet the needs of new users and re-focus priorities. This viewpoint will be provocative to some and warmly embraced by others, depending on their points of view.
Although all the volume's contributors are associated with a single institution, the authors generally did a good job of providing a range of examples of how libraries have attempted to meet the needs of remote users. While examples from the University of Nevada, Reno appear, so, too, do examples from other institutions. When discussing vendors who provide course management software and reference software, the authors carefully give examples from several vendors.
While Attracting, Educating, and Serving Remote Users is largely successful in its goals, there are a few minor exceptions. Overlapping accounts of some topics, such as usability testing or authentication, recur in multiple chapters. Each of these treatments is appropriate to the individual chapter in which it appears, but can induce déjà vu for someone reading the entire book. Moreover, there are slight inconsistencies in the level of detail for some topics that appear in multiple chapters. Most notably, one chapter omits discussion of the difference between two scripting languages used to create some types of online services, while the subsequent chapter devotes a great deal of space to this topic and even provides examples of scripts in its appendix. At the very least, cross-references might have been made to these topics, and the book might have benefited from a single, consolidated treatment of some of these topics, particularly the technology available to create "home-grown" tools for serving remote users.
In addition, this chapter might have afforded the opportunity to discuss strategies employed by libraries to create homegrown versions of multiple resources and services for remote users, rather than relying on vendors and aggregators. Developing in-house resources comes with increased risks, but also provides an opportunity for consistency, financial savings, and customization rarely found with vendors. The authors might have provided a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of both models and some examples of institutions that have been successful with...