What Do Users Really Think? There Are Many Ways to Determine the Effectiveness of Networked Services. (Book Review)

Article excerpt

Evaluating Networked Information Services: Techniques, Policy, and Issues ASIST Monograph Series

Edited by Charles R. McClure and John Carlo Bertot

Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 2001

ISBN: 1-57387-118-4

344 pages

$44.50

Evaluation is a hot concept these days. Grant proposals require an evaluation component, and schools test their students to see how they compare to standards. So it's no surprise that we all want to evaluate our information services. Of course, this can be harder than you might think. Reducing bias and making sure we find out what the users really believe rather than what we want to hear can be difficult. In the case of networked electronic services, it may be hard to even figure out who the users are, let alone what they're doing and how successful they are at finding information. If you're really interested in learning more about this topic from a research perspective, Evaluating Networked Information Services: Techniques, Policy, and Issues is a must-read.

Editors Charles R. McClure and John Carlo Bertot are professors at Florida State University, where they run the Information Use Management and Policy Institute. Both have conducted extensive research in the area of information policy and use. They have worked on U.S. government grant projects and have developed new measures for library performance standards, focusing on electronic resources and networked services. Both are also independent consultants. McClure and Bertot decided to edit this book after co-chairing the American Society for Information Science (ASIS) May 1999 Mid-Year Meeting, "Evaluating and Using Networked Information Resources and Services." Rather than publish conference proceedings, they "invited attendees to submit chapters based on presented papers and panels" for this book.

As McClure and Bertot note, "There is still considerable debate and discussion as to key definitions for networks, networked services, evaluation, and assessment in a networked context." Because of rapid technological changes, they suggest that we shouldn't really try to pin down exact definitions. Evaluating Networked Information Services is meant to appeal to a variety of information professionals, from academics to network operators. In their introduction, McClure and Bertot list several key issues they hope the book will address. These include the evolving context of evaluation, new methodologies for network evaluation, cross-discipline education and training, publicizing the importance of evaluation, combining technical and social-evaluation research, and the need for additional research. The contributed articles are organized into five themed sections. Unfortunately, these themes are only delineated in the introduction--the table of contents and the page headings don't list them. …