Book Reviews

Academic Librarianship Today. Todd Gilman, ed. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 248p. Paper, $55.00 (ISBN 978-1-4422-7875-2).

Todd Gilman has put together a first-rate book on the issues facing academic libraries and librarians today. Moreover, he has selected a genuine who’s-who of thinkers and practitioners, each of whom is uniquely able to provide a critical perspective on the fifteen topics included in the book. While some collections of essays are uneven, this volume provides consistently excellent pieces on difficult and complex matters. Each essay is concise, but it is by no means cursory. The volume begins with a superior historical sketch by Deanna Marcum, who definitely has the depth of perspective to offer a thoroughgoing synopsis of the recent past. To augment the history, Marcum connects the past to the present. Barbara Dewey follows with an overview of governance, describing the external and internal intricacies that make up the structural elements of colleges and universities. The scope of inclusion—from state and federal influences all the way to the roles of institutional general counsels and alumni affairs—is extremely difficult to locate elsewhere.

For a summary of primarily internal workings, Starr Hoffman situates the institution and the library within the prevailing organizational structures of academic institutions. She takes the picture further by relating the library to the larger structure and including organizational elements and tasks within the libraries. One of the major accomplishments and benefits of this book is that it is organized progressively, from the broadest and most sweeping institutional topics to those that have most direct import for libraries and librarians. The next essay, by Tahir Rauf, addresses funding and budgeting. This begins with the sources of funding (something that many may not be fully aware of) and proceeds to the internal budgetary matters for libraries. The latter is, of course, complicated, but it is summarized admirably by Rauf. Next, Sarah and Joan Lippincott present a most succinct and helpful outline of the conduct of faculty research and the nature of scholarly communication. Both the novice and the seasoned professional can learn from their description of, among other things, the workings of peer review.

The second part of the book concentrates on librarians and services, which signals a move to the internal workings of libraries. The section begins with an essay on reference, instruction, and outreach, by Carrie Forbes and Peggy Keeran. These are large topics to tackle, but the authors present a very concise summary of the librarians’ jobs in the target areas, including data on the activities in the services. More important, they detail the duties of professionals and how librarians can succeed at these services in rapidly changing times. Next, the area of collection development is addressed by Lidia Uziel. This is a function of libraries that has and is transforming substantively. Uziel aptly describes the traditional means of developing and managing collections (since libraries of all types and sizes still have to attend to such functions). She also succinctly presents the major alterations in collections and access to information that are affecting most, if not all, academic libraries. This coverage includes the financial aspects of providing materials and access to communities. Autumn Faulkner next writes about the changes that technical services in libraries are facing. For one thing, there have been personnel shifts in many organizations as the work of various technical services have altered according to technological developments. She provides an especially helpful outline of the recent developments in information description and how librarians must keep up-to-date with changes. Her essay should be read by all technical services librarians and students so that all may have the most complete background on the alterations.

Zoe Fisher and Kim Read change the tenor of the essays somewhat next by focusing on college and community college libraries. It is essential that these organizations receive attention, because they are so numerous (and because they operate in ways that differ from doctoral and research institutions). One of their points has to do with the positions and status of the librarians; this emphasis points out what the aspects of differences in status can mean practically. They do present all sides of the status issue. They conclude that there are unique elements to work in the college library.

Gilman shifts gears again to examine the future in some specific ways. For example, Mart Brunner and Jennifer Osorio speak of recruitment and diversity, among other important topics. One emphasis of theirs is that the core work of libraries is a kind of constant in a milieu of change. That change, though, cannot be understated; much of is due to, or is related to, technology. There are different ways of doing things as well as the need to do different things. The changes have resulted in the need for personnel to be able to embrace new duties and for existing staff to develop skills and knowledge. David Lewis writes about the library as place, pointing out that some of the alterations in the library have altered the nature of the place of the library. He provides an excellent background on the evolution of libraries, leading to innovative architectural designs to illustrate how communities can use the spaces to best purposes. His primary point is that librarians must consider how space will, and can, be used. Debbie Faires addresses the important element of service to students, wherever they are. “Distance” education requires a mindset and an array of services that suit the nature of instruction, including online modes of delivery. She provides a service by outlining the development and use of massive open online courses (MOOCs). Many institutions have invested in the development of MOOCs, and Faires describes the course method and its relation to libraries. Another essential issue that is covered, by Brian Owen, is open access and its several ancillary forms. This is an enormously complicated matter, and Owen does an admirable job of, first of all, defining the issue and describing mechanisms like institutional repositories (and beyond) by which open access can be actualized. He also reports on institutional efforts at developing open access tools and then reporting on the existence of the tools. This is an area where transformation is occurring and has opportunities for greater transformation.

Lest one would think this topic might not be included, Nisa Bakkalbasi writes about assessment, with added attention to marketing. She reviews the history and the current state of evaluation, presenting quantitative and qualitative methods that are employed, emphasizing that assessment is cyclical. The research bases of determining needs and then assessing the results is examined. Marketing is also related to a culture of assessment, a culture that integrates change into a formative means of improvement.

Ronald Jantz is charged with what is perhaps the most challenging essay—looking into the future. He admits to the overburdened state of libraries and librarians within the institutions as they exist today. Jantz recaps, in some ways, the topics that precede his, but he examines such items as research and marketing with an eye to the future. It is difficult to summarize Jantz’s essay, because he tackles so many issues so well. Suffice it to say that his essay culminates the volume in an excellent fashion.

There are two additional aspects of the book—very positive aspects—that need to be mentioned. Each essay includes either extensive notes or bibliographies; these are extremely useful for practicing professionals and for teachers and students. The other aspect is the inclusion in each essay of activity questions and assignments. It is this aspect that lends the book most readily to instructional use, giving potential students prompts according to which they can ponder seriously the meaning and implications of the topics presented. In short, Gilman has done a real service in putting together a uniformly excellent volume. First, all academic libraries should acquire the book for professional development purposes. Second, academic programs should give serious consideration to using this book in instruction. As collections of essays go, this book is exceptional.—John M. Budd, University of Missouri

Copyright John M. Budd


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