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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2000

Book Reviews

Guide to Information Sources in the Physical Sciences

Kitty Porter
Stevenson Science and Engineering Library
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tennessee
porter@library.vanderbilt.edu

Guide to Information Sources in the Physical Sciences. David Stern. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 2000. 227 pp. 1-56308-751-0. $65.00 cloth.

A typical science reference collection (if such a thing exists) will include guides to the literature of single disciplines as well as broader guides to the literature of science and technology in general. The field of physics already has an excellent, detailed guide edited by Dennis F. Shaw (1994). In his book, Guide to Information Sources in the Physical Sciences, David Stern did not set out to supplant existing guides. His stated intent is "to serve as a guide to the major trends and information resources in physics." It is his stress on these trends that makes the book different from all the others and gives librarians and physicists a valuable tool for plugging into the rapidly changing scientific information scene.

Stern begins with a discussion of what has been happening in the publication and distribution of physics information: the rise of the commercial publishers; the increasing cost of scientific publication; the introduction of electronic publications; and finally, the role of the library in the electronic future. For those not in touch with the controversies swirling around copyright and electronic course reserves, Stern provides an excellent overview, highlighting a few significant online tools for getting help in explaining the issues involved. The economic aspects of copyright are set forth in a useful chapter on document delivery, which covers traditional interlibrary loan as well as major document delivery services.

Today many scientists are turning to bibliographic management tools to handle their reprint collections. Stern covers the most common of these: EndNote, Reference Manager, and ProCite.

There are several chapters covering online resources, beginning with illustrated discussions of traditional electronic ones such as INSPEC, Current Contents and Web of Science. Stern also covers physics gateways, newsgroups, internet search engines, online teaching tools, and the variety of preprint (or print) servers that are playing increasingly important roles, first in physics, and now in other scientific disciplines.

The chapter on journals not only lists the key physics titles, but also discusses techniques for the evaluation of journals using the Yale Physics Department Faculty Journal Survey and the Yale Physics Journal Use Study as examples. In the chapter on monographic resources, there is a brief mention of resources for ordering books including library approval plans and online bookstores.

In keeping with the focus on electronic resources, the final chapter describes some new approaches to information discovery: enhancement of traditional Abstracting and Indexing databases, new initiatives for full-text distribution, and next-generation improvements in database searching. It ends with a discussion of logistical concerns that will have to be addressed to maximize the use of these new options. Most of the sections have suggestions for further reading, many of them containing links to example web sites.

As a nice contrast to the focus on the technological advances covered in the first eleven chapters, Stern closes his book with an annotated bibliography, "Important works in the development of physics, 1600-1900," by Kristine K. Fowler. This gives the work balance and reminds the reader not to lose sight of the past while embracing the present and future.

This is a very pragmatic book. The language is clear and straightforward, making it not only an excellent tool to use to evaluate a physics resource collection, but also a guide to help newcomers to the field to understand the information issues under debate today in many scientific disciplines.

References

Shaw, Dennis F. 1994. Information Sources in Physics, 3rd ed. New Jersey: Bowker-Saur.

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