Monday, February 27, 2012

Reviewing: books, articles, websites, exhibits, and presentations.

What’s the purpose of reviewing various media and presentations, physical and digital? For librarians and archivists, reviewing is a way to share our opinions about the content, authority, and importance of produced works. Those reviews are important for collection development, for making lists of “read-alikes” for readers’ advisory, or compiling subject bibliographies. We cannot read everything that comes into the library, nor can we even look at all the titles that are available for selection.  Even if we went to the bookstore every day, we would not be able to look through all the books that are published every month. It’s too big a job. On top of that, we are not all subject specialists. We must rely upon the expertise of subject specialists and scholars to review books for their content and their quality.  As librarians, we need to be able to write an abstract of a book or journal article, to review the same for their importance to the field, both librarianship and the academic field. To do that, we need to think about how each title fits within the field and helps shape the field.

One approach to reviewing is to put together a list of questions you would like to ask the author about what he or she wrote. I always imagine what the questions I would ask if we went for coffee and I wanted to get to know the author better through her book. Why did he approach the topic in this manner? What was missing or unclear? Did the conclusion make sense? There are so many excellent questions to ask. One thing to keep in mind while reviewing is that it’s the text the author wrote that you are considering, not what you wanted them to write. I always get stuck at this issue.

One thing to remember when you write review and analyze books and articles is to draw in other literature and authors to support your arguments. Don’t just comment based upon your own attitudes and feelings. Including other resources makes your arguments stronger and helps provide a context for the materials you review.

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