Peter Brophy, Jenny Craven & Margaret Markland, (Eds.) Libraries without walls 7. Exploring 'anywhere, anytime' delivery of library services. London: Facet Publishing, 2008. viii, 255 pp. ISBN: 978-1-85604-623-7. Hbk. £44.95 (CILIP members: £35.96)
The Centre for Research in Library and Information Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has conducted a very successful series on conferences on the subject of 'libraries without walls' since 1995 and I imagine that it will probably keep going for some time, in spite of the recent retirement of the Director of CERLIM, Professor Peter Brophy.
Following the Introduction by Peter Brophy, the remaining twenty-three chapters cover a wide range of topics. Leaving aside a couple of papers that seem to say very little and hardly justify their place in the proceedings, along with another on how universities treat their international students (which seems out of scope) and another that deals with how JISC's Resource Discovery Network became Intute (interesting, but doesn't have much to say on the topic of the conference), the biggest group of papers deals with information literacy aspects of digital libraries.
In this group, Nancy Graham (University of Birmingham) deals with implementing and evaluating the use of 're-usable learning objects' in a project at Birmingham; Glass and Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan) deal with information literacy audits at Manchester Metropolitan University; Smart and Hunt (University of Salford) explore the delivery of information skills training through electronic environments, using, specifically, Live Classroom (which now seems to be called Wimba Classroom); and Sirje Virkus (Tallinn University and a member of our Editorial Board) looks at the development of information literacy in open and distance learning institutions in Europe.
There is some overlap here, since a paper by Secker and Price (London School of Economics and Institute of Education, London) deals with enhancing the experience of distance learners with social software - specifically CiteULike, social bookmarking (delicious.com), and includes a brief section on information literacy. Ethical issues in providing library services to distance learners are disussed by Needham and Johnson (Open University, UK and Athabasca University, Canada). The issues dealt with relate mainly to equal treatment with on-campus students and matters of privacy and intellectual freedom. The eight guidelines offered would provide a useful basis for thinking about these issues.
The second largest area covered by the papers appears to be the evaluation of digital library services. This is the subject of three papers: one by Siatri and colleagues (various Greek institutions) on evaluating a 'digital cultural map' service offered by the city of Veria in Greece; a second by Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan) on the application of 'Quality Attributes' in evaluating electronic services - the attributes are: performance, conformance, features, reliability, durability, currency, serviceability, aesthetics, perceived quality and usability; and, finally, the third paper, by Craven and Griffiths (Manchester Metropolitan, again) is on assessing the accessibility of Websites - a project you can find out more about at its own Website.
The remaining papers are something of a mixture, covering aspects of data resources, information retrieval, Denmark's electronic research library, the role of public libraries, among others. There is also a keynote address from Christine Borgmann, exploring the role of libraries in the chain of scholarly communication.
All in all, there is some interesting material here, something for everyone, in fact. A number of the papers disappoint, in not going very deeply into their subjects, but perhaps leaving one asking for more is not a bad strategy!
The collection will interest those involved in e-learning and information literacy most, perhaps, with one or two of the papers of value to those more generally concerned with digital library developments.
Henry G. Porter