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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2002

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Book Reviews

Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users through the Web: A How-To-Do It Manual for Librarians

Beth A. Roberts
Agricultural Sciences Librarian
University of Maryland Libraries

Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users through the Web: A How-To-Do It Manual for Librarians by Donnelyn Curtis, ed. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc. New York. 2002 . 260 pp. $55.00 (ISBN 1-55570-436-0).

Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users Through the Web: a How-To-Do It Manual for Librarians, edited by Donnelyn Curtis, is part of a series of How-To-Do-It manuals for librarians from Neal-Schuman publishers. Ten librarians from the University of Nevada, Reno compiled the manual. Each of the nine chapters can be read as a stand-alone segment or as part of the larger work. Each segment is a complete introductory guide to a particular topic. The manual includes a {companion web site}. The companion site is a list of links to information covered in the manual as well as paths to more information on the various topics. The site is divided into chapters and topic areas. It is easy to follow and is up to date as of this writing.

Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users Through the Web: a How-To-Do It Manual for Librarians is an easy to read, practical guide to the process of improving library services to remote users. According to the authors, "remote" can mean anyone who accesses the library virtually, even if they are in the same building. The chapters in the book are unified by a common ideal; that of library as portal to information as opposed to owner of information. These concepts are described in the first two chapters. Indeed, the authors view the concept of the library as a physical place to house (mainly) print materials as increasingly archaic. Our patrons want, they say, not a catalog or "menu" of possible sources, but the actual content, the "bowl of noodles" delivered to them wherever they are.

The following chapters expand upon this notion and offer practical solutions for implementing these ideas. For example, the authors address ways to increase the virtual "gate count" to our libraries. (In other words, increase usage of our online facilities.) They give practical suggestions for doing so, such as explaining how adding keywords to meta-tags can help users find the site. They also give examples of ways to market your library's web site.

The next few sections cover subjects like electronic references services and document delivery in the electronic environment. The section on electronic reference services includes software recommendations for chat services and includes screen shots to give you a clear idea of what some of these services look like to the patron. In this chapter they give sample coding for various functions such as basic coding for forms. The coding they provide for a form with an ASP handler is too long to be useful in this format unless you go to the companion web site and can cut and paste the coding from one of their links. Their discussion of instructing users remotely naturally moves into covering the issue of electronic authentication. It covers ways to determine identity that are not so obtrusive as to be a deterrent, yet are effective. The final segment covers the concept of maintaining an "E-presence" for your institution in order to increase public awareness of the library and its services. This "E-presence," if effective, can draw more donors to us and hopefully facilitate the donations process.

The book includes figures, an index, URLs, chapter overviews, and references. It also includes screen shots and HTML coding in an appendix. This manual is likely to be of most interest to libraries just getting started with providing various virtual services. It is also useful to any library looking to expand its vision of what a virtual library looks like for today, and the future.

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