The last thing I expected a book with a title like The Library and Information Professional’s Guide to Plug-ins and Other Web Browser Tools to be was entertaining. But to my amazement, this book kept me turning the pages for the length of a long train journey, thanks to its illustrated examples of how US libraries and museums have made use of plug-in applications in such things as interactive library tours, 3-dimensional exhibit image display, and virtual enquiry desks. I got a genuine sense of reading the future, right here, from a book which sets out otherwise to be no more than a practical guide to software applications.
These examples from real-life library and information services also earn the book’s right to the title The Library and Information Professional’s Guide... The authors are themselves librarians, and they tell us in the preface that they wrote the guide having been frustrated in their own search for something that was written from the perspective of people who have neither the time nor the inclination to research the subject in depth, but who simply want guidance on what plug-ins do, how to install them, and what to do when things go wrong. Not that it is exactly a noddy-guide: in only 171 pages to cover a wide field, it inevitably assumes a certain level of systems competence from its readers. Indeed, I would have welcomed a glossary of terms which, from librarian authors, I am perhaps justified in expecting!
Each chapter is well structured and attractively presented: for each application the reader is told its purpose, its system requirements, given tips on its installation and is alerted its pros and cons. You are warned for example which installations are band-hogs – essential information if you are responsible for managing a network. Finally each chapter ends with a troubleshooting guide, which means that this book should sit usefully at any system librarian’s elbow.
But possibly not for very long: this UK edition is dated 2002, yet as it admits, it already contains old news. The authors warn us in the preface that since the some of the applications described are updated annually, and even monthly, you cannot rely on total accuracy of the book’s contents, and therefore it is accompanied by a website with links to the application providers’ websites to allow readers to keep up to date with costs and upgrades.
One quibble: what exactly is the point of this so-called UK edition? None of the US spellings have been anglicised (one chapter is left called “Math and Science”); and none of the dollar prices are converted into sterling. More importantly, the chapter on accessibility tools refers readers to their obligations under US law, but CILIP’s publishing arm Facet Publishing makes no mention of UK librarians’ equivalent duties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
But this aside, I was secretly glad of the book’s US origins: all those fabulous US library tours!