Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online. (the Alert Collector)

By Zabel, Diane; Altschiller, Donald et al. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online. (the Alert Collector)


Zabel, Diane, Altschiller, Donald, Wenzel, Sarah G., Reference & User Services Quarterly


There is little written, virtually nothing recently, on sources for finding book reviews. Although finding book reviews is one of the most frequent motives for reference questions, the library literature contains very few guides on this topic. Only a handful of such articles were published in the last thirty years, and this material is very selective, not annotated, and mostly outdated. "Finding Book Reviews in Print and Online" is an important contribution, informing and alerting collection development and reference librarians to a wide variety of current and retrospective sources. This guest-authored column is unique in that it contains both print and electronic sources. In addition, the article provides useful annotations and contains an informative summary on the history of book reviews. This column serves to update and enlighten librarians about continually changing reference sources.

The authors have years of experience helping patrons find book reviews, and both frequently serve as reviewers. Donald Altschiller is the History Bibliographer at Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University and is responsible for selecting materials in all fields of history, except African and ancient. Altschiller serves on the Editorial Board of Reference Books Bulletin and is also a reviewer for CHOICE, American Reference Books Annual, and Library Journal. He has worked at the libraries of Harvard, MIT, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Altschiller has an MLS from the University of Rhode Island and a BA from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Sarah G. Wenzel is the Reference Coordinator for the MIT Humanities Library and subject specialist for foreign languages and literatures. She also selects in general reference and library science, as well as representing the Humanities Library on the systemwide Networked Electronic Resources Decision Group. She previously served as Modern Foreign Languages and Linguistics Bibliographer at Boston University. Wenzel has an MA in French Studies and an MS in Library and Information Science, both from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her publications include the following article in the July 1999 issue of Library Quarterly: "From Revolution to Evolution: The Transformation of the Bibliotheque Nationale into the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, through the Lens of Popular and Professional Reports." Wenzel is also the author of three entries in the International Dictionary of Library Histories, a reference work edited by David Stam (Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001). She also reviews for Reference Reviews Europe. Wenzel's research interests are in international librarianship, especially France. Additionally, she is an active member of the Western European Studies Section (WESS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries. She edits the WESS Newsletter and chairs the Paris 2004 Conference Program Planning Committee. Wenzel has served as the cochair of the ACRL/New England Chapter Publicity Committee since 1998. --Editor

   Critics are sentinels in the grand
   army of letters, stationed at the
   corners of newspapers and reviews,
   to challenge every new
   author.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

   Unless a reviewer has the courage
   to give you unqualified praise, I
   say ignore the bastard.--John
   Steinbeck

To paraphrase the Book of Ecclesiastes, of the making of book reviews, there is no end. Even the literature on book reviewing seems to constitute a considerable subgenre. A recent database search, for example, yielded more than three hundred periodical articles just on this topic, and the gamut of views ranged from Longfellow to Steinbeck with many more in between.

According to Diderot's Encyclopedie, the Journal des Savans (1665) was the first journal invented to assist those "too busy or too lazy to read books in their entirety." While book reviews first appeared in literary publications in early seventeenth-century England, the Edinburgh Review (1802-1929) is generally cited as the first publication to introduce modern literary book reviewing. …

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