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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2002

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Book Reviews

Using the Biological Literature: A Practical Guide

Lutishoor Salisbury
Agriculture and Life Sciences Librarian
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Schmidt, Diane, Davis, Elizabeth B. and Jacobs, Pamela F. Using the Biological Literature: A Practical Guide. 3rd ed., rev., and expanded. New York: Dekker, 2002. 474pp. ISBN 0-8247-0667-6. $85.00 (Hardcover)

The current edition of this guide includes greatly expanded web resources in each chapter. The major web resources are up to date, and coverage is appropriate within each chapter. An associated web page ({}) provides access to all the major resources discussed in this publication.

Like the previous editions, this edition could be viewed as an annotated inventory of bibliographic and web resources. Chapters include Biochemistry and Biophysics; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Genetics, Biotechnology, and Developmental Biology (expanded from the previous edition to include Biotechnology and Developmental Biology); Microbiology and Immunology; Ecology, Evolution, and Animal Behavior; Plant Biology; Anatomy and Physiology; Entomology; and Zoology.

This edition includes an Index. Though no explanation of the Index is given, it seems to be exhaustive and accurate. It includes entries to authors of publications, titles of publications, and to the subdivisions within each chapter. The number next to an entry refers to a page and the page must be browsed to find the correct entry.

The section on Societies within each chapter in the 2nd edition is replaced with one on Associations with revised and expanded coverage in this edition. The Contents page no longer has sub-headings under the chapter headings. These sub-headings are included in the Index and may serve as an access point to the entries. The Introduction is also revised and enlarged and includes informative and expanded sections on biological research in Twenty-First Century and on Electronic Biological Literature.

The Chapter on Abstracts and Indexes serves as a companion to Chapter 2: Subject Access to Biological Information. This section includes descriptions of indexes and abstracts that cover general science or multiple subjects in biology. After the Introduction, this chapter lists 39 Indexes and Abstracts under the heading Current Awareness. This classification of databases as Current Awareness is not consistent throughout the chapters. For instance, Chapter 5: Biochemistry and Biophysics and Chapter 6: Molecular and Cellular Biology, list resources that could more appropriately be classified as Current Awareness under the subheading Indexes and Abstracts. These include titles like Current Advances in Protein Biochemistry; Current Contents/Physical, Chemical and Earth Sciences, Current Physics Index, etc. Current awareness is defined as "a system for notifying current documents to users of libraries and information services. It can take the form of selective dissemination of information (SDI), information bulletins, indexing services or review of current literature" (International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science, 1997). While this definition includes the notification of current information from indexing services, there are publications/databases designed specifically for this purpose. It would be difficult for an instructor to use the examples provided in this publication in a classroom situation to explain the differences between Current Awareness Sources and Discipline-Oriented Abstracts and Indexes. Throughout the text, there is need to distinguish between publications that are truly Current Awareness type material and those that are discipline- oriented comprehensive indexes/abstracts/databases.

The book is easy to follow and most of the materials are updated to late 2001. It is a very useful resource for collection development librarians and for graduate students who may want to become familiar with an area of Biological Sciences. Highly recommended for academic libraries.

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