Book Review: The Librarian's Internet Survival Guide, 2nd Edition
The Librarian's Internet Survival Guide, Second Edition: Strategies for the High-Tech Reference Desk, 2nd Edition. By Irene E. McDermott, Information Today, 2005, ISBN 978-1573872355, 298 pages.
I never read a book twice, but when I was asked to review the second edition of The Librarian's Internet Survival Guide, I welcomed the chance, as I was reminded why I'd loved this book so much when I first reviewed it in 2003. This expanded and updated edition should be at every reference desk as it is not only a useful guide to quality resources but also a motivational tool for librarians everywhere. Irene McDermott helps us find our professional identity in a world where we feel threatened by ubiquitous search engines which give instant answers. Her viewpoint is reassuring and challenging - reassuring because she convinces us that the public will always need librarians and challenging because librarians will have to work very hard to keep up with the constant changes around them.
In the first edition of this book the author concluded that the only constant on the Internet is change, a worrying prospect for our profession. But this second edition is strangely reassuring because, in spite of the substantial amount of new information, many of the sites have retained their virtual co-ordinates. Of course there are new sites - Google Earth, Google Scholar; there are blogs and RSS feeds and new tips on how to deal with spyware and viruses.
Looking through the pages of this guide I was reminded of the author's enthusiasm and energy, of her sense of humour and her dedication to the profession. Whatever you are looking for, she has made it easier by compiling and keeping up-to-date this guide to resources which is wide-ranging and amusing. Whether you are a poetry lover looking for a place to read an Eliza Rutherford poem, or a worried parent trying to ensure their child is adequately protected from the hazards of the Web, or a hassled librarian asked where to find a Strindberg play in Swedish, or for a site which will help a patron protect their investment (several of these are inspired by the Enron scandal) Irene McDermott comes to the rescue.
There are outstanding practical tips from when 'to wiggle' the wire and reboot, to how to get rid of pop-ups and spyware. Even in the most technical bits there are little amusing details which keep you reading on. (Computer boffins can be romantic too - how would you like a search and destroy anti-spy programme dedicated to you!)
You can see Irene McDermott's professional enthusiasm when she suggests that public libraries should support patrons in their efforts from their home computers too, in order to demonstrate good will and for publicity's sake. But she can also be tough on those who are abusive and demanding beyond reason of the limited resources of libraries.
Apart from helping you assert your professional authority, this is a reference tool which will help you keep up-to-date, show you short cuts to knowledge and encourage you to explore and stretch the limits of your own abilities. You might be inspired to work on your own Web pages and to use the author's suggestions to check out how they would look to somebody who is colour-blind, or you might follow her tips and impress your patrons with your technical trouble-shooting skills.
Many people are sceptical about books on the Internet, I was equally sceptical about reading a book twice (even a second edition) but I have to admit that Irene McDermott's enthusiasm is enough to dispel any reservations one might have. So my advice: read this book, keep it by your computer and recommend it to your friends. I am already looking forward to the third edition.