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[techbooks] REVIEW: "Civic Space/Cyberspace", Redmond Kathleen Molz/Phyllis

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKCVCSPC.RVW 990416 Civic Space/Cyberspace , Redmond Kathleen Molz/Phyllis Dain, 1999, 0-262-13346-6, U$30.00 %A Redmond Kathleen Molz %A Phyllis Dain
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 1999
      BKCVCSPC.RVW 990416

      "Civic Space/Cyberspace", Redmond Kathleen Molz/Phyllis Dain, 1999,
      0-262-13346-6, U$30.00
      %A Redmond Kathleen Molz
      %A Phyllis Dain
      %C 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142-1399
      %D 1999
      %G 0-262-13346-6
      %I MIT Press
      %O U$30.00 800-356-0343 fax: 617-625-6660 www-mitpress.mit.edu
      %P 259 p.
      %T "Civic Space/Cyberspace"

      The title, the preface, and even the subtitle ("The American Public
      Library in the Information Age") all promise something to do with the
      new, and particularly networked, technology. While the book is
      readable, well-researched, and interesting as far as libraries go, in
      terms of information technology it singularly fails to deliver.

      Chapter one is a historical overview of American publicly funded
      libraries over approximately the last century and a half. The text
      traces changing time and society, but concentrates on a fairly
      constant debate about the library's role, particularly in the choice
      of materials: should the library pander to public taste and fashion,
      or seek to censor and uplift? The market, management, and money for
      libraries is examined in chapter two. The role of the US federal
      government is reviewed in chapter three, but this content does not
      appear to lead anywhere, is, in broad terms, something of a repeat of
      chapter two, and is, of course, of interest only to those in the
      States. Chapter three really only seems to be a lead in to chapter
      four, which looks at US action in relation to the much discussed
      National Information infrastructure. Apart from a disproportionate
      emphasis on pornography and censorship, the material lists bills,
      budgets, and organizations, with remarkably little practical
      application.

      Chapter five starts out by quoting a speech to the effect that it is
      time to stop being awed by the technology, and to get on with figuring
      out how to use and integrate it in society. The text goes on to say
      that libraries are in the forefront of this integration. The chapter,
      however, does not back up that assertion. While there is discussion
      of building new libraries, wiring libraries, and putting terminals in
      libraries, there is very little talk of actual use. In fact, the
      material on libraries and the material on networks even within this
      chapter seems to be segregated by paragraph. Certainly, I have
      lambasted any number of books for simply including "Gosh, look at what
      _______ Public Library is doing!" type lists, but even that seems to
      be missing in this one. How does the Web search engine relate to the
      reference division? Does it make sense to integrate links to FAQ
      mailbots in the catalogue? Can you download .WAVs to take home with
      your CDs? These questions may be minutiae, but they have more to do
      with integration than whether someone else pays for part of your ISDN
      line.

      Stripped of its claim to cyberspace, what is this book? It is a lucid
      account of the place of, and regard for, libraries in current American
      society. It is a reasonable compilation of US federal legislation
      that may affect libraries. It has very little to say about how
      libraries may need to change with respect to technology.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKCVCSPC.RVW 990416

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