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J Med Libr Assoc. Apr 2006; 94(2): 230.
PMCID: PMC1435858

Improving Internet Reference Services to Distance Learners

Reviewed by Beatriz Varman, Assistant Director for Public Affairs and Information Services Librarian

Improving Internet Reference Services to Distance Learners.
William Miller and Rita M. Pellen, editors. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Information Press. 2004. 219p. Soft cover, $29.95. ISBN: 978-0-7890-2718-6. Hardcover, $49.95. ISBN: 978-0-7890-2717-8. Copublished simultaneously as Internet Reference Services Quarterly, v.9, nos. 1/2, 2004.

Improving Internet Reference Services to Distance Learners, copublished simultaneously as Internet Reference Services Quarterly, volume 9, numbers 1/2, 2004, is an extensive compilation of experiences with distance learning services implemented at different institutions. The book serves as an excellent introduction and a practical guide for the librarian contemplating offering distance learning services. It includes an extensive overview and background information about the topic, while addressing specific issues such as faculty-librarian collaboration and efficiency in providing distance learning services using course management systems like Blackboard or WebCT. Librarians already providing distance learning services will also find helpful information for improving such services and will benefit from the experiences of their colleagues in this field.

The work consists of twelve chapters authored by twenty-two contributors, who are experts in their subject areas, and offers a wealth of information and experience dealing with distance learning issues. This reviewer found Markgraf's chapter, “Librarian Participation in the Online Classroom”; Viggiano's article on online tutorials for distance students; and Fisk and Pedersen Summey's discussion on marketing remote library services particularly interesting. Other chapters detail the experiences in implementing outreach and distance services at different US academic institutions, including four-year universities and community colleges, and for specialized user communities like firefighters and pharmacy students.

Markgraf discusses the importance of faculty-librarian collaboration in reaching distance students and introduces the concept of a “lurking librarian” who monitors online discussions related to students' library needs when using course management systems. This chapter also addresses the advantages of improving access for students, enhancing communication with faculty, and assessing services. Issues of privacy, technology changes, and librarians' time and commitment are also addressed, along with a discussion of key questions to consider prior to implementing a similar program.

In the chapter, “Online Tutorials as Instruction for Distance Students,” Viggiano examines the effectiveness of Web-based interactive tutorials as a means of providing library instruction. It provides a compilation of thirty-four reviewed tutorials, highlighting those with content specifically aimed at the distance student.

The promotion and marketing of library services are often overlooked. These services, whether on campus or off-site, will be underutilized if students are unaware that they exist. Marketing library services is especially important to students who do not have access to a “physical” library and may not be aware of where to go to fulfill information needs. The chapter, “Got Distance Services? Marketing Remote Library Services to Distance Learners,” by Fisk and Pedersen Summey provides a step-by-step approach to start promoting these services.

This book is an excellent reference tool for all librarians, especially those considering or in the process of offering distance learning services. In addition, specific subject-related information for firefighters and pharmacy students makes this book a valuable resource in these areas. Librarians will find excellent information on implementing distance learning services, strengthening faculty and librarian collaboration, improving access to library resources, and handling the challenges of online versus traditional instruction. The editors have done a great job compiling these articles. The content makes this book a valuable addition to any library collection and is highly recommended.


Articles from Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA are provided here courtesy of Medical Library Association
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