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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2013

Book Reviews

The Busy Librarian’s Guide to Information Literacy in Science and Engineering

Tara Stieglitz
Data Services and Science Librarian
Grant MacEwan University Library
Edmonton, Alberta

Copyright 2013, Tara Stieglitz. Used with permission.

O’Clair K. and Davidson J.R., editors. The busy librarian's guide to information literacy in science and engineering. 2012. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries. 139 p. ISBN 9780838986196.

The Busy Librarian’s Guide to Information Literacy in Science and Engineering lives up to its name. It is a slim book that can be read in small chunks or as a whole making it accessible no matter how busy you are. The guide has chapters devoted specific disciplines including engineering, life and health sciences, chemistry, and nutrition. It also includes discussion of special topics such as patents and remote sensing. The selection of disciplines is unusual. Disciplines such as nutrition are not usually included in discussions of science and engineering while the book neglects common scientific disciplines like computer science, physics and mathematics. The neglect of those subjects makes the title slightly misleading.

The guide provides a thorough discussion of the Information Literacy Standards for Science and Engineering but it assumes the reader has some existing knowledge of the standards they are based on, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. Each chapter relates the standards to the specific discipline being discussed. One of the more helpful aspects of the book is that it covers information literacy standards that are published by discipline-specific professional organizations and accreditation bodies and it provides a framework for how a librarian can discuss information literacy competencies with teaching faculty.

Each chapter is written by a practicing subject librarian ensuring that there is a great deal of practical advice in the book. This structure also creates one of the book’s weaknesses. Some of the chapters are better written and more thorough than others and each chapter uses different section headings. Unfortunately this means that some chapters discuss useful things that are omitted in other chapters. For example, the chapter on chemistry (chapter 4) discusses appropriate information literacy topics for inclusion in a four-year chemistry program and appropriate resources to introduce to students at different stages in their studies. The life sciences and health sciences chapter (chapter 2), by contrast, makes a lot of baseless generalizations about biology students but does not provide any great insight into how to include information literacy at every year of their degree program.

This book is an excellent resource for new science librarians who want to get to know their disciplines better and it is a great reference for more experienced librarians looking to better familiarize themselves with engineering or the sciences. While the writing is uneven and the guide is a bit on the dry side it is a quick read and a helpful resource for anyone who deals with the information needs of science students.

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