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portal: Libraries and the Academy 4.1 (2004) 154-155
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The Enduring Library: Technology, Tradition, and the Quest for Balance, Michael Gorman. Chicago: American Library Association, 2003. 176 p. $35 (ISBN 0-8389-0846-2)
This is a truly timely work that counters much of the hype surrounding trends in new library technologies and the dawning of the information age. As the title suggests, author Michael Gorman seeks to put technology into perspective, balancing an understanding of the past with a positive outlook for the future. Gorman continues to advocate core library values, previously expressed and published in his last book Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century (American Library Association, 2000). The result is not only a handbook for incorporating new technologies into traditional library activities--such as collection development, reference services, and cataloging--but also a mental health guide for library professionals in dealing with the information overload prevalent in today's society.
Michael Gorman is well equipped to write authoritatively on the state of libraries today. Currently the dean of library services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, he has also been the director of technical services, director of general services, and acting university librarian at the University of Illinois, Urbana; the head of cataloguing at the British National Bibliography; a member of the British Library Planning Secretariat; and head of the Office of Bibliographic Standards in the British Library. He has given numerous presentations at state, national, and international conferences, and has an impressive publication record, including being the first editor of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition (American Library Association, 1978). [End Page 154]
Gorman states that the "central theme of this book is that we are not in an epochal, transformational time, but that we are at an important point in the evolution of libraries." (p. 110) This theme is approached from a variety of angles. Gorman begins the book with a chapter on the way libraries exist today, followed by chapters on the history of communications technology from 1875 to now and current uses of that technology. He stresses the importance of understanding that the technology revolution we face today is not significantly different than technological challenges overcome in the past and asks the reader to take a step back from all the rhetoric and accurately place the problems and challenges of today within the appropriate context of the past and the future. The book emphasizes the importance of literacy, as the process of lifelong improvement in reading and writing skills, and challenges libraries not only to help with the mechanics of reading but also to promote a love of learning through examination of complex texts. Gorman realizes that there is often a tension between book lovers and technology advocates, and he categorically claims that technology can enhance but should never replace face-to-face library services such as reference.
After describing some of the difficulties inherent in applying technology to library services and including Internet resources in library collections, Gorman proposes a library research agenda that focuses on practical means to apply knowledge gained in the past century to new issues. The two final chapters of the book suggest ways that individuals can help cope with technology related stress and achieve balance in their lives.
Mary S. Laskowski
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign