This month I look at books to help librarians in the technical aspects of their jobs. Read these books to learn about the principles of computer-based training, develop Web pages using database technology, demystify and apply P3P technology, and go forth and conquer with enhanced systems librarian skills.
Michael Allen's Guide to e-Learning
by Michael Allen
Pages: 328 pp.; softcover
Available from: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030;
800/762-2974 or 317/572-3993; www.wiley.com/business
This excellent book, written by the man who founded Authorware, the popular software for creating electronic instruction applications, provides a wealth of common sense and practical ideas for anyone involved in training. It is not a step-by-step guide on creating an e-learning application. Rather, the author focuses on the principles and methods involved in getting a learner motivated and eager to learn.
The first half of the book is a justification for e-learning, which is loosely defined by the author as any type of computer-based training, whether it is on a CD-ROM or delivered over the Internet. Allen points out that many e-learning applications fail due to a lack of involvement of the appropriate people at the right time, including senior management. Too many applications, he laments, are simply re-purposed content thrown into an electronic environment. Other failures can be caused by a lack of identification of what the required outcome is. What exactly do you want the user to be able to do after the training?
The second part of the book focuses on the principles of good instructional design, with many examples. The author repeatedly points out that motivating the user to learn is the key to all success. Putting tasks in context and making interesting activities will help a user want to learn more. He points out that the technology is not what makes e-learning a success: The content in context, with technology as an enabler, does this.
If you are involved in any kind of training, even if it is not computer-based, you will gain by reading this book. The focus is on how to engage the student and keep them motivated and learning, which are principles that apply in all areas of training.
Database-Driven Web Sites
edited by Kristin Antelman
Pages: 133 pp.; softcover
The Haworth Information Press,
10 Alice St., Binghamton, NY 13904-1580;
800/429-6784 or 607/722-5857;
Edited by Kristin Antelman, associate director for information technology at North Carolina State University, this short book contains nine profiles of successful database-to-Web applications in a variety of academic libraries and one state government library. The projects varied in scope and budget, but most made use of open-source software to keep the cost down. Someone at the library who was actively involved in doing the work wrote each profile, so the focus of each chapter is quite different. Some focus on the political and cooperation aspect, some on the technical, some on the benefits, and so forth.
The most interesting aspect of this book is learning how each library chose a different path and software to accomplish more or less the same outcome. A few chose ColdFusion for their database applications, but others used Zope, iDriver, customized software, and even bibliographic management software to get information up on the Web.
The articles in this book are just long enough to give you a glimpse of what was done in each library probably because in the long-established Haworth tradition, it's a reprinting of a journal issue (Internet Reference Services Quarterly, v. …