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Electronic Resources: Use and User Behavior by Hemalata Iyer (Editor)

Jacket: Hardcover
Pages: 145 pages
Publisher: Haworth Press; (April 1998)
Genre: Science and Technology
ISBN: 0789003724

Comments about the editor: Hemalata Iyer, Associate Professor, has academic interests that focus on user behavior as well as information organization within the larger context of information retrieval. She is the author of several articles on classification, indexing, and access to visual media, especially on methods of structuring and representing information.

Review: As we plunge deeper into the era of electronic resources, librarians and information professionals are increasingly faced with new technologies and a growing sophistication among users. An ever expanding body of research in the field of Library Science is aimed at reviewing the usefulness of emerging technologies, deciding how best to employ these new products and determining the contours of user behavior.

This book presents in monographic form, articles that appeared in issue number sixty of The Reference Librarian. The work is divided into four sections: Use and Users: Some Theories; Internet: Organization and Searching; Geographic Information Systems; and Managing Electronic Resources.

Palmquist's and Kim's article comprise the book's first chapter on user behavior. This article reviews cognitive models of users and discusses methodologies for examining information seeking behaviors (5). The article's section on cognitive modeling will be interesting to those developing interfaces for software or web sites.

The second chapter deals with the Internet and leads with Hsieh-Yee's article. The author presents a study designed to measure the effectiveness of eight major search engines. This investigation called for products to retrieve relevant answers to twenty-one reference questions and five subject area questions (27). The author presents strengths and weaknesses of each product. The study draws conclusions about the effectiveness of search engine use in reference and calls for further research on the topic. Palmquist and Sokoll add depth to this section with their fascinating article on the arrangement and organization of the Internet. The authors examine some techniques for mapping the content found on the Internet (49). The article also discusses the Self Organizing Mapping (SOM) technique and points to sites that employ this tool. Hsieh-Yee's second offering for this book rounds out this chapter with a continuation of her previous study on search engines.

Chapter three reviews Geographic Information Systems, their implications and challenges for libraries. Yu discusses the concepts and functions of GIS and compares the use of GIS with library map collections (87). The article describes areas where GIS can assist in decision making such as in the case of predicting consequences under certain conditions like floods or population growth (91).

The final chapter addresses management of electronic resources. Papandrea explores the complexities electronic technologies bring to reference services. The article introduces the Competing Values Framework of organizational effectiveness and reviews its implications for reference management (112). The book closes with an article by Subramanian reviewing academic user attitudes towards the format of indexes and other library materials. The article explores these "preconceived views" and their impact on the delivery of reference services (127).

This book pulls together disparate materials that discuss technologies and user behaviors that impact libraries. While each article provides the reader with insight into developing technological trends, the book does suffer from several problems. The editor presents the reader with an uninspiring and uninformative introduction that does nothing to whet the readers appetite for the work. In reading about issues that impact the delivery of library services, the reader expects the editor to provide a detailed accounting of the articles to follow and information about their importance.

The work would also have benefited from a more narrowly defined focus with deeper coverage of the selected topics. The chapter on user behavior points out a tremendous potential for future research. In fact, each article in this book represents an interesting topic that warrants deeper analysis. As a journal issue, the diversity of these works adds value to the literature. As a monograph, the work is too unfocused and its content far too shallow.

— Reviewed by: Timothy E. McMahon, M.S.


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