BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS
Gilchrist A. (Ed.). Information science in transition. London: Facet Publishing, 2009. xxx, 401 p. ISBN 978-1-85604-693-0. £49.95.
This impressive volume with the title 'Information science in transition' lives up to its title and appearance. Though a superficial glance at the table of contents may raise a doubt: what transition? The authors are well known, acknowledged and established for a long time – more associated with classics if this term can be applied to an area, which emerged barely fifty to seventy years ago. Nevertheless all sixteen chapters deal with major changes that occurred during this period and face, Janus-like, the past and future of information science. Being active in the field for a long time, the authors themselves have participated in major events and stood behind many new ideas, theories, or applied developments. They bring into the discussion not only the literature of different periods, but also their own notes, experiences and impressions of the field. The old names and ideas are resurrected and followed up to present days, proving that the fundamental concepts and principles are not less important than daily pursuits. As for the future, all the authors make clear that there will be no lack of challenges or new information problems; however, there is quite a visible trend in many articles to doubt the vitality of information science itself. The same developments in information and communication of our society that have brought the concept of information science into being seem to work against it, because of so many more powerful research communities are involved in this area at present.
The image of information science is built throughout the text by introducing a variety of areas constituting different aspects of the discipline. The best are represented by the names of the contributors: David Bawden, Stella Dextre Clark, Tom Wilson, Blaise Cronin, Peter Willet, Elisabeth Davenport, Charles Oppenheim, Peter Enser, Wendy Warr, Mike Thelwall, Barry Mahon, Stephen Robertson, Peter Bath, and Eugene Garfield, with guest editorial by Brian Vickery (prepared in his 90th year!).
The book mainly covers the developments in the UK with an occasional glimpse at the USA and some other European countries. What I have found interesting is the coverage of the information science given in the volume. According to Meadows, information science covers two main directions (information retrieval and information seeking) and a lesser trend in bibliometrics and communication (p. 2-3). The volume itself includes only one article overviewing information seeking as a whole (by Tom Wilson) and several articles devoted to different aspects of knowledge organization and information retrieval; several also cover scholarly communication and bibliometrics topics. Only one is devoted to both national and organizational information policies (by Liz Orna). Thus, softer aspects of information science are represented more modestly in this publication in quantitative terms (although not qualitatively). As always, I felt quite proud that information science is covering this wide ground, which is pulled together by some fundamental concepts.
The final point one should discuss regarding this book is raised by the editor himself at the very beginning: Why publish a monograph of papers that have already appeared in journal format? Well, first, because it is so much more rewarding to hold a book than a journal issue, especially in a hard cover and with a common index at the end. A book also evokes a feeling of a whole, coherent thing, while a journal issue makes one regard the contributions as fragments isolated from each other. This is the first time I have realised this, because I have already read all the articles before the book came out. Because of the intrinsic links between the chapters of the book, which is absent from the journal, one reads each article differently and an image of the historical process within this specific area emerges as a result. As such, this volume adds value to already valuable material reflecting the development of information science. It will serve as a useful asset in the collection of any information science scholar and student.