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John J Burke
Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion: A Basic Guide for Library Staff. 3rd ed.
New York, NY: Neal-Schuman. 2009. 279 p. $59.95 ISBN: 978-1-55570-676-0.
Digital natives are those born after 1980, who grew up in wired societies and who seek and control data elements over the Internet as casually as others once used the telephone . Digital immigrants are those born earlier, who later in life have had to migrate into the computer and online environment and are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by the new telecommunications technology. The third edition of the Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion is clearly directed to the latter: “to give colleagues a sound and sensible way to consider and use library technologies…designed to be a one-stop overview.” The guide is divided into five parts and formatted as a tutorial with review questions.
What are the technologies and skills needed on a regular basis in most libraries today? Part 1 presents a historical survey of technologies that have impacted libraries and lists resources for further information: How to evaluate needs of a program, to locate technology sources, to implement the new environment, and to train staff give helpful hints for information professionals.
Beginning with a review of computer essentials, part 2 covers operating systems and communication networks from local areas to the Internet. How LANS, WANS, intranets, routers, and gateways relate to the local library are carefully explained. The author offers a requiem for the traditional library catalog with its conversion to an online public access system and discusses remote access to electronic databases and the evolution of information storage systems.
What can one do on the Internet, the global computer network that has revolutionized information exchange? Searching for information and communicating are major functions now accomplished by clicks on one's own computer. A multiplicity of databases in the sciences, the humanities, and the public domain are now available to individuals and libraries for searching, for sharing files, and for downloading data. Internet search engines, such as Google, and Wikipedia, have in part replaced many search services of the library; the author cautiously analyzes their relationships.
Web 2.0, an evolutionary step of the web, allows new forums for interaction, creativity, and collaboration between individuals and among groups. GMail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, and other webmail options require no local software other than a web browser. Social networking has become an important tool for people to bond online, interact, exchange images, and stay connected. YouTube, Twitter, Second Life, and Skype are now widespread, especially among young people.
In the final chapters, the author addresses the potential role of libraries in the new Library 2.0 environment to meet and support the needs of users. He emphasizes that libraries are all about people and people cannot be forgotten in any discussion of technology.
The Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion is a readable and easy-to-understand introduction and guide. Unfortunately, technology moves at such an accelerating rate that overviews require constant updating. It is a valuable start for the digital immigrant.