Friday, September 28, 2007

ASAIB Newsletter, no. 24 September 2007

No 24, September 2007


1 ASAIB Award
2 AGM 2006 report back: Guest speaker Jillian Carman
3 AGM 2007: Invitation
4 Conference report backs 2007
4.1 ASAIB Conference: ‘Biography, the beautiful’, 8 - 9 May
4.2 SI Conference 2007, London, 13-16 July
5 Conference Alert 2008, 7 May
6 SI Conference 2009, South Africa
7 Item of interest: Karen Spärck Jones
8 Report on ISAP and on NISCBase
9 Book Reviews
9.1 How LIS professionals can use alerting services
9.2 Crash course in Web Design for libraries
10 Training

ASAIB calls for submissions for their prestigious annual award to be made in the categories of Bibliography and Indexing.

Entries (plus a hard copy of the work) should be sent to Mrs M Burger (ASAIB), Dept of Information Science, PO Box 392, 0003 Unisa by 1 February 2008.

Assessments will be made by an independent committee and the winners in each category will be announced at the ASAIB Annual Conference to be held on 7 May 2008.

2 AGM 2006 REPORT BACK: Guest speaker Jillian Carman

Uplifting the Colonial Philistine: Florence Phillips and the Making of the Johannesburg Art GalleryThe author Jillian Carman was a curator at the Johannesburg Art Gallery for twenty years. In 2005, she received the prestigious University of the Witwatersrand Research Committee publication award for her doctoral thesis, which gave rise to this book. From her wonderful morning talk at the AGM it was clear that meticulous research went into her book. Her study of the Johannesburg Art Gallery sheds new and refreshing light on Johannesburg’s Edwardian civic elite. We were offered, through the life of Florence Phillips and Hugh Lane, insights into the beliefs and attitudes in the art world. This was beautifully placed within the larger political, social and cultural context of the early twentieth-century.Uplifting the Colonial Philistine is a fascinating account of the complex circumstances in which the Johannesburg Art Gallery, including the museum building and its singular, avant-garde art collection, was founded in early Johannesburg, then a budding mining town. It describes the larger-than-life characters who brought the gallery to its grand launch in November 1910: Florence Phillips, wife of one of the Randlord patrons; and Hugh Lane, curator. Containing one hundred reproductions of the original art collection, this book explains the original context of the gallery’s founding and the networking between cultural circles in South Africa and abroad. It describes how the collection was perceived in London, its adaptation to suit ‘the colonial Philistine’ (as one London critic described its intended audience), and how the local community responded. It unravels the complex intertwining of personal and socio-political agendas that make up the fabric of the founding and reveals certain unexpected findings.

3 AGM 2007: Invitation


Our 2007 AGM breakfast is around the corner. All ASAIB members, friends, family and interested colleagues are welcome, but please inform us in advance of your attendance. This way we can ensure enough seats and eats!

Guest speaker: Stephen Gray, Series Editor of Penguin Modern Classics
‘Rediscovering our literary heritage’
Date: 15 November at 08:30 for 09:00
Venue: Hofmeyer House, University of the Witwatersrand
Cost: R55-00 per person
Book by 9 November: Madely du Preez tel 012-4296792


4.1 ASAIB Conference: ‘Biography, the beautiful’, Irene 8 - 9 May

Venue: GEM Hall in the GEM Village, Smuts House Museum, Irene

Eleven excellent papers were presented over the two days. Thank you again, to all our speakers. The titles of the papers were:
The importance and value of indexes and bibliographies in genealogies (Thys du Preez).
Human skeletal remains (Frank Teichert)
Fact, fiction, design and purpose in the lives of St Etheldreda of Ely (Prof Leonie Viljoen)
… of a lion and Eagle (who was Constable Charles William Eagle? (Charles Leach)
Florence Phillips, the colonial Philistine and the Johannesburg Art Gallery (Dr Jillian Carman)
Jan Smuts: the modern Proteus (Dr Janice Farquharson)
Soil once his own: the colonial and Christian world of Lebrecht Hans Ari: a Khoikhoi and Moravian convert, 1771-1864 (Prof Russell Viljoen)
Heraldry (Marcel van Rossum)
The romance of writing biographical articles (Maryna Fraser)
Life/Writing. Why biography matters in the 21st century (Jonathan Hyslop)
Bluebeard: historical, manifestations, biographical (Prof Henning Pieterse)

On the first afternoon we organised a visit to the Smuts House Museum, guided by Arina Kok, and the second afternoon delegates went on a nature walk to the Smuts Koppie, guided by Cheryl Dehning.

Lastly, a special thank you to the ladies of the GEM Village for the wonderful catering.

4.2 SI Conference, ‘Golden Retrievers’, London, 13-16 July

This was the Society of Indexers 50th Anniversary Conference held at
Roehampton University. The conference programme, consisting of papers,
parallel sessions, workshops and visits was presented over four days. In the
evenings delegates had ample opportunity for socialising and networking. At the
conference banquet on Saturday evening, three awards (Wheatley Medal,
Bernard Levin Award, Betty Moys Prize) were presented.

The excellent papers covered the diversity of indexing issues from theory to
applications. The conference concluded on Monday the 16th, with a morning
devoted to publishing and editing. The two keynote speakers were David Crystal
(Honorary professor of linguistics, University of Wales Bangor) on ‘Language and
Indexing’ and John Sutherland (President, Society of Indexers) on ‘TLS
Correspondence: Whither the Index?’

As always, this SI conference was of high standard, well-organised and it was
wonderful meeting indexers from all over the world – Marlene Burger attended
the conference.



ASAIB Annual Conference 7 May 2008
‘Remarkable South African Women : Revealed Through Indexing and Bibliography’
Venue: EISA Offices, 14 Park Road, Richmond, Johannesburg

If you want to present a paper at this conference, please contact Marlene Burger tel 012-4296585.

More details will be available later

6 SI CONFERENCE 2009, South Africa


ASAIB, affiliated to the Society of Indexers, has been chosen to organise the 2009 international indexing conference in South Africa. This is a great honour and ASAIB has already started with preliminary work for this conference. The theme will be: ‘Africa Visited and Revisited’ (in an indexing context).

We would like to have as many as possible indexers attending the conference.

We will keep you informed about details on a regular basis.

7 ITEM OF INTEREST: Karen Spärck Jones
Jackie Kalley alerted us to a very interesting article on Karen Spärck Jones, who died on April 4 (2007) aged 71, in the We cannot reproduce the article here due to copyright restrictions, but it can be accessed at:
Who was Karen Spärck Jones? She was Professor of Computers and Information at Cambridge University and, from 2000 to 2002, a Vice-President of the British Academy. She spent more than half a century working on information retrieval (IR) and natural language processing (NLP), fields in which she influenced a generation of computing scientists.
She received numerous awards such as the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, and in 2007 the British Computer Society's Lovelace Medal and the Association for Computer Machinery/AAAI Allen Newell Award.

8 REPORT ON ISAP AND NISCBase (A Kotze, 2007-03-30)


The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) compiles and publish ISAP in terms of the National Library Act, 92 of 1998. ISAP is an acronym for the Index to South African periodicals. It is a subject index to articles in periodicals published in South Africa. Indexing of research journals forms the main part of ISAP. A number of periodicals on general and technical level (e.g. SA Food Review, Computing SA) and some popular magazines (e.g. Drum, Sarie) are also indexed for ISAP. Periodicals which are used in schools by learners and facilitators (e.g. South African Journal of Education, EnviroKids) were added for indexing in consultation with the Gauteng Department of Education.

ISAP went online in 1992. On-line entries now date back to 1919. The database is regularly updated with incoming records which the NLSA supplies on contract to database providers, e.g. Sabinet (South African Bibliographic and Information Network) and NISC (National Inquiry Services Centre).

ISAP has a record of being the most used indexing database on Sabinet, and the most used database on NISC’s South African Studies CD-ROM, which is made available internationally.

The NLSA’s Internet version of the ISAP database was launched in September 2000 as ISAPOnline.


Since the new millenium the need for ISAP to utilize available modern technology for furthering standardisation and validation of indexing increased dramatically. On the previous system the indexing software was outdated and the online system at NLSA used to process records was expensive, time consuming and unreliable. The indexing system did not operate in an interactive way with the processing system at NLSA and problems were repeated due to lack of features to control and support standardisation and data integrity.

After considering different options to improve ISAP, the NLSA accepted in October 2003, NISC’s offer to sponsor ISAP with the use of their NISCBase indexing and management software, with NLSA to cover expenses for customization, NLSA specific enhancements, training and related matters. NISCBase software is known as a relational system with powerful editing and database cleaning features. The more rigorous NISCBase data capture system was also in line with the need to improve standardisation and data integrity on ISAP.

Reporting here on preparatory issues for ISAP on NISCBase will focus on an indexing and library point of view at the NLSA and not on a system and programming point of view at NISC.


By March 2004 ISAP indexers had to have their machines upgraded according to required specifications for the NISCBase data capture system to be loaded on their machines. This was accompanied with a demonstration and initial training. Afterwards indexers could practice on a dummy NISCBase system and provide feedback and proposals to customize the system to the best advantage for ISAP indexing. Indexing for ISAP still continued on the old system while preparations for a changeover to a live NISCBase system were started at NLSA and NISC.


On the old system, the ISAP periodical titles were given on two separate databases, i.e. ISAP Main (with indexed records) and ISAP Journals (with periodical title information including see references, bibliographic and administrative notes on periodical titles). On the NISCBase system the periodical title information would be included in the publication history feature on one system only. A major preparation concerned the synchronization of discrepancies in periodical titles on the separate ISAP Main and Journals databases into one periodical list to be used on the NISCBase system. We aimed to bring in line ISAP journal titles with its required bibliographic description based on ISAP guidelines and its compliance with AACRII keeping in mind the need for balanced adjustment and technological advancement. Indexers, professionals in SANB and NISC staff and their production manual were important role players and sources of reference in this process. Decisions involved i.a. determining conventions e.g. for correct journal titles, continuity in reflecting correct changes in journal titles for applicable issues, linking of changed titles, the use of abbreviations or written out forms, correct spelling, etc.


The completed list of synchronized periodical titles arrived at NISC in October 2004. The data was converted, loaded and tested on a preliminary server version at NISC to be ready for my training on this version in Grahamstown in November. The training gave me a better idea of how the NISCBase system for ISAP would work and NISC also developed a better understanding of ISAP needs. With decisions made, it was kept in mind how best ISAP could be developed while trying not to compromise its inherent character.

With an increased understanding of the NISCBase software it became clear that with NISCBase allowing editing of delivered records only on the management system at NLSA and to have an intermediate editing function developed not being a viable option for NLSA, the subcontracting agreement with CSIR was at stake. Fortunately CSIR was in a process of reassessing their involvement with ISAP, which lead to a mutual agreement to have the NLSA /CSIR indexing contract for ISAP terminated by end of February 2005 in favour of improved record quality and a standardized process for ISAP. NLSA consequently either directly contracted previous CSIR indexers or used existing appropriate ISAP indexers to continue indexing done by CSIR.

Major issues still to be sorted out before going live on the NISCBase system were also identified for clarification with the Grahamstown visit.


The remaining issues for clarification included aspects like the following:

6.1. Download options from the server system for publication:
NISC needed a list of who downloads need to be created for, criteria and preferred formats for different database providers for NLSA to remain true to existing agreements on requirements for machine-readable record transfer. One example is the NISCBase indexing identity for Unisa that provides for a download to be generated of Unisa’s ISAP records done on NISCBase for importation in Unisa’s own database system.
After the changeover some download format problems were still experienced due to format needs not been clearly indicated beforehand.

6.2. Thesaurus terms (the list and terms used on ISAP):
6.2.1 The ISAP thesaurus list:
A proposal to consider replacing the ISAP thesaurus with the UNESCO or another appropriate thesaurus with changing over to the NISCBase system was looked into but decided against mainly due to the following:
- the UNESCO thesaurus would not be able to accommodate the comprehensive scope of subject fields on ISAP, e.g. the fields for technology, law and music are not well represented on a broad level of entry;
- the intrinsic hybrid character of the ISAP thesaurus to be used in combination with natural language keywords would have to be negated.

The ISAP thesaurus was consequently updated (though not in depth) with additional terms that were missing, unnecessary or unused terms were discontinued and proposals submitted by indexers were considered. Updating was done according to the following approach and criteria:

The DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification) and to a lesser extend LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) were followed to determine hierarchical relations for narrow terms (NT), broad terms (BT), relational terms (RT), use for terms (UF), use terms (U) and scope notes (SN).
It was aimed to remain true to the broad disciplinary character that the ISAP thesaurus should represent which, together with natural language keywords underlie the hybrid functioning of this system.

A term was considered for inclusion where:
- A gap existed in the ISAP thesaurus and existing terms could not be used instead.
- A term (or variation thereof in the keyword field) counted 1000 incidences or more, together with considering the first mentioned.

Other factors that played a role in determining inclusion or omission of thesaurus terms for ISAP were:
- Where a proposed term sorted under an existing ISAP thesaurus term that is already on a NT-level and comparing it with the level of NTs for other existing ISAP thesaurus terms.
- The depth or extensiveness to which a subject area is divided in DDC and LSCH as compared to that of other subject areas.

The updated list of ISAP thesaurus terms is now used on NISCBase so that only correct and used terms are allowed to be picked from a drop-down list by indexers and at ISAP.

6.2.2 Thesaurus terms used on ISAP:
All thesaurus terms used on the ISAP database was checked and cleaned to reflect only verified terms as listed in the updated ISAP thesaurus. Non-listed thesaurus terms were moved to the keyword field where appropriate so that record content could be kept in tact.

6.3. Number of names in the author field and year notes field:
The decision to continue the use of 3 authors maximum with et al for more than 3 authors, is based on AACRII advising the principle of choosing one main entry for each item described that is supplemented by 2 added entries. The decision is also in line with the character of ISAP as a subject index.
A four numeric string is stipulated for the year format on NISCBase. Additional information relating to the year (e.g. dual year coverage) could be entered in the Year Notes field.

6.4. Mandatory fields for Input:
Mandatory fields were determined for the input screen to ensure that necessary fields are completed but also to enable indexers to interrupt their indexing without losing data already inputted and complete such interrupted indexing at a later stage during editing required on the edit screen for inputters.

6.5. W- and P-numbers for periodicals plus alternate and subsequent titles:
Periodicals section participated in explaining options when W- and P-numbers would be used for closed down, current, re-opened and merged periodical titles. The way alternate and subsequent titles were to be dealt with were also taken into account.
The publication history feature on NISCBase would be used to enable actions related to these aspects.

6.6. ISAP existing record numbers vs Record ID’s for ISAPon NISCBase and indexer identities:
The ISAP record number included values for an interlending library code, an indexer number and a record number consisting of subelements. These needed to be interpreted by NISC for all previous and current ISAP indexers, for the information to be converted and incorporated into the new system appropriately. On NISCBase, indexers were to be identified separately from the record ID’s.

With the resend of the complete ISAP database to database providers in January 2007 all initial ISAP record numbers were replaced with NISCBase record ID’s.

6.7. Indexers retaining old records as examples and records over multi-series:
With NISCBase, indexers are not allowed to retain their records after a download has been made. If examples of records are needed for future reference, indexers have to generate their own selected copies as needed in a Word or Note text file. To have changed the download function for indexers to keep their records, would have involved changes compromising for the NISCBase system. Similarly, an earlier incomplete record can not be retained to be replaced by a later completed record for a multi-series entry. The indexer has to keep record manually of chapters in a multi-series and can submit only one completed record. This is a clear example of a stricter indexing process to be followed as required by the software.


The clearing up of matters continued with teleconferencing, telephone and e-mail discussions.
By 14 November 2005 an ISAP project plan was drawn up in cooperation with NLSA IT and NISC with a timeline and requirements for completion and installation of the NISCBase data capture system for the production of ISAP on NISCBase after 31 March 2006

At NISC the NISCBase system was tested, manuals finalized, data converted and installed.

At the NLSA an SQL server had to be acquired and installed to run on a dedicated server, PC’s of all relevant staff were networked to this server with the SQL client installed on these PC’s and logons created.
An extra ISAP staff member with the required level of indexing and editing expertise was appointed at NLSA in February 2006 to assist with editing and database cleaning.

An additional NLSA/NISC agreement on NISC providing a database maintenance plan and disaster recovery plan for the ISAP on NISCBase database server and system was also concluded to ensure ongoing software maintenance and protection of the ISAP database.

From March 22-31, 2006, the ISAP NISCBase server system on the dedicated SQL server was installed at NLSA and tested, the ISAP NISCBase Input system was installed on all indexers’ machines, training on the Input system was provided to indexers and relevant ISAP staff, who also received training on the server system including workflow protocols.

From April – December 2006 followed an intense period of learning and adjustment with ISAP indexing. Run time errors, misunderstandings and technical problems had to be observed, accurately reported preferably in writing and then followed and cleared up. Sometimes, a solution could only be arrived at after several options were worked through. Much patience, endurance, mutual professional support and advice and also a sense of humour saw us through this teething period. Indexers and relevant staff at NLSA, NISC, including Sabinet and other outside database providers all participated in working towards a successful end result.

During this period both the inputters and servers system were upgraded.

While the indexing software and environment underwent a radical change from the previous ISAP indexing set-up, the indexers’ change was to adjust to the new software. Apart from additionally appointed ISAP staff and availability of NISC staff to provide support, the human indexing expertise previously used with ISAP is still active and producing albeit in a technologically changed environment. Without underestimating technological advancement, one would like to point out the value of previous and continued human expertise and potential, which also forms an integral part of a reliable and powerful environment for ISAP.

The supply of updated records was sporadically interrupted during April – December 2006, mainly due to sorting out a problem with the record download format and tallying on the new system of indexer record totals with month end totals to coordinate totals for invoicing. We are happy to say the last two download supplies in 2007 were successful without format problems. NISC’s support and Sabinet’s patience in this matter is appreciated.
Sending a complete copy of the ISAP database with a total of 522644 records in February 2007 was a further step in resolving discrepancies in download record totals supplied and received, which would also support correct invoicing.


Improvement of ISAP on NISCBase can be described in terms of activities shared by NLSA, NISC and the indexers.

8.1. NLSA:
8.1.1 Correctness of periodical title: with periodical titles and appropriate issues been correctly accessioned at NLSA, the use of variant forms for periodical titles by indexers and at ISAP is prevented
8.1.2 Uniqueness of indexing: prevention of duplicating indexing is supported by the tightly controlled NISCBase system with unique indexer identities linked to accessioning and editing processes.

8.1.3 Up to date completeness of periodical title history and linking of relevant periodical titles: Having to update periodical titles with changed title information (e.g. previous, successive or merged periodical titles) before accessioning can continue, ensures up to date completeness of periodical titles’ history;

8.1.4 Formats for record transfer are programmatically secured based on database providers’ needs;

8.1.5 Indexer training was extended and intensified to support additional standardization of inputting records;

8.1.6 Quality control of incoming and existing records is regularly and continuously done;

8.1.7 Staff component: Additionally appointed ISAP staff, the training of all ISAP staff together with input and cooperation by NISC staff adds to an improved ISAP product;

8.1.8 A secure technologically advanced and interrelated IT component: effectively controlled interaction between inputters and server systems together with folders and program systems provides for a standardized product in a compatible format. Upgraded software is also supported by the NLSA contract with NISC for IT maintenance, backup and disaster recovery plan.

8.2. Indexers:
8.2.1 Indexers’ personal computer capacity was to be upgraded according to required advanced specifications for NISCBase software;

8.2.2 With more steps involved in inputting, indexing on NISCBase software is more time consuming than previously, but the result is a more standardized product in line with a controlled system. From April 2007 the NLSA has increased the tariff for ISAP indexing to reflect more realistically indexers’ actual time, expertise and effort;

Steps involving additional indexer input are e.g.:
- Additional verification of periodical titles and issues when inputting the Issue ID allocated with accessioning at NLSA;
- Additional content description is required e.g. for article type, taxonomy, abstract language;

8.2.3 Compulsory record editing is programmatically required before downloading of indexed records can be done;

8. 2.4 Managing of working copy updates, backups and downloads on program folders involve indexers in securing a controlled process during the compilation process of ISAP records.

8.3. NISC
8.3.1 An advanced technological environment and professional IT expertise at NISC has been secured with a contractual agreement between NLSA and NISC, to support the ISAP on NISCBase management system, inputters system, update versions, program IT components, maintenance, backup, disaster action plan and program training.


The changeover for ISAP to NISCBase software involved intense learning and commitment from participants.
The first year after the changeover has been successfully completed and announced as such at the official launch of ISAP on NISCBase 29 March 2007.
The role players are committed to continue producing a developing ISAP product.


9.1 How LIS professionals can use alerting services. By Ina Fourie. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2006. 178 p. ISBN 184334128X

Steven Cohen published a book Keeping current in 2003. In it he provided practical advice on how busy librarians can stay current while the Web keeps getting bigger and deeper. Cohen gives two reasons for why librarians need to keep current: monitoring news and resources for their profession and locating useful resources for their patrons. Keeping current offers the reader expert guidelines and insightful evaluations of software and products that help reference librarians do their jobs better, easier, and faster.

Other new publications published during the past few years aiming at assisting librarians in keeping current focused on being successful at the reference desk and on using the Web successfully to provide in their clients’ or users’ information needs. None of these publications, including the publication by Cohen, actually focused on the librarian’s own professional information needs. A very recent publication, How LIS professionals can use alerting services, by Ina Fourie is an exception. Like in the other publications, Fourie also looks at how LIS professionals can keep current, but, the focus is on how these professionals can monitor their own professional environment to remain current on events, trends and developments in their own personal fields of interest. With this approach Fourie hopes to widen LIS professionals’ concept of current awareness services (CAS) and to link the use of CAS to LIS professionals’ understanding of information seeking behaviour, and creativity and knowledge generation. Fourie also indicates (Chapter 5) that hardly anything is known about the information behaviour of LIS professionals, especially their information needs concerning alerting services, wondering how this would differ from other user groups.

The book is especially aimed at the possibilities offered by the Web to LIS professionals who do not otherwise have access to information resources such as academic libraries subscribing to services for LIS professionals, subscriptions to professional journals or membership of a selection of professional bodies.

In How LIS professionals can use alerting services, Fourie explores the potential of alerting services to help LIS professionals to enhance their professional development and to ensure a position in the roles they find exciting. It focuses on taking note of information, turning information into knowledge and using information in a creative and innovative manner. In doing so, she draws on the literature of current awareness services/alerting services, environmental scanning, LIS professional development, forecasting, learning theories, information behaviour, creativity, career planning, and time management.

Fourie starts off by looking at the concepts of current awareness services and alerting services by considering the early developments and the traditional rationale for offering these services. She also pays attention to ‘environmental scanning’ before differentiating between CAS/alerting services and retrospective searching. A more pragmatic view of how LIS professionals can consider their environment and make choices for where and how they will focus their awareness of developments then follows. Different types of alerting services that are relevant to LIS professionals are discussed in Chapter 4. Some examples of alerting services are noted and include websites specialising in alerting services, journal table of contents and journal table of contents alerting services; book announcements and online bookshops; electronic newsletters; discussion lists; weblogs and so on.

Fourie follows a more theoretical approach in Chapter 5 by looking at how LIS professionals can learn from studies on information seeking behaviour. Two issues are at stake in this chapter:
· Aspects that individual LIS professionals should note that could help them gain a better understanding of their experiences and feelings when using alerting services.
· Aspects that the profession should note in sharpening research on LIS professionals’ information seeking behaviour in order to offer more support to this user group.

Surviving the negative side of alerting services is the focus of Chapter 6. In it Fourie addresses the question of how information professionals can solve their own problems with information overload as well as other problems associated with alerting services. The final chapter attempts to pave the way for awareness of fields of theories that may be useful by considering a few actions LIS professionals may find useful in enhancing their ability to successfully put information to use.

An appendix listing useful Web addresses, an extensive bibliography, which can support academic discourse prompted by especially the final chapter, and a good index, concludes the publication.

Ina Fourie can be congratulated with this very practical and thought provoking book. It reads easily and is based on sound academic principles. How LIS professionals can use alerting services is a publication no LIS professional interested in putting information to work and becoming alert to his/her professional challenges can be without.


Cohen, SM. 2003. Keeping current: advanced internet strategies to meet librarian and patron needs. Chicago: American Library Association.
Owen, TB.2003. Success at the enquiry desk: successful enquiry answering every time. 4th ed. London: Facet.

Reviewed by Madely du Preez
Dept of Information Science
[To be published in Mousaion volume 25 number 1 2007]

9.2 Crash Course in Web Design for Libraries. By Charles P. Rubenstein. Crash Course Series. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 196 pp. Soft cover ISBN 1591583667

Librarians communicate with their patrons and staff in many ways, including Web pages posted on the World Wide Web and intranets. Yet planning, HTML coding and publishing web pages can be a daunting task to most people. Charles Rubenstein’s exciting new book Crash course in Web design for libraries gently introduces Web design and publishing, and takes reader on an adventure into the creation of a Web site for the fictitious/mythical Red Rose Library ( )

Rubenstein developed the Red Rose Library web site as an example of a library’s website. It provides many of the services available in a normal library and which librarians would like to feature on their libraries’ web sites. In the text of Crash course in Web design for libraries, Rubenstein guides readers, through the development of a variety of pages for the “Red Rose” library; in creating their own Web pages. And by linking these pages together, in creating a Web site that will function internally on the library’s intranet or which can even be posted on the Web. The book is filled with tips and techniques on how to present ones library through the broadcast medium of the World Wide Web.

The text is intended to be used as a stand-alone, user-friendly workbook for individuals who have no programming background but have an interest in the rapid development of professional looking web sites. The examples in Rubenstein’s book were created using Microsoft WordPad™ (Version 5) and viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer ™ (Version 6) in the Microsoft Windows ™ XP environment. The focus is on the creation of HTML pages useful in libraries and information centres using the hypothetical Red Rose Library as a demonstration site.

The task of Chapter 1 is to give readers the tools to jump right into creating a Web page so that they don’t have to wait too long before they have their first page up and running. The rest of the book is designed to ease readers into good design of Web pages using common HyperText Markup Language (HTML) techniques without expensive software. Rubenstein first uses Microsoft Word™ with its built-in word to Web converter, and then creates HTML pages using Microsoft WordPad™ and simple HTML elements to “tag” the information. Microsoft Internet Explorer™ is used as the standard Web page viewer or “browser’. Using these two methods of creating web pages, allows Rubenstein to explain the effectiveness of both methods in web page creation.

Apart from teaching HTML coding, Rubenstein also describes how to use tables creatively in a web site and include forms for patron interactivity – like the inclusion of a Sudoku puzzle. In conclusion, Chapter 10 looks at a variety of techniques that could be used to further enhance web pages. These include adding image maps to create navigation bars and hypergraphics, as well as adding marquees and transitions to web pages. Web page accessibility for patrons with limited sight and how to optimize search engine use to get web pages noticed by vendor search engines such as Google.

Crash course in Web design for libraries is an easy to follow guide in web page design. It is filled with creative ideas in planning and designing a successful web site. It will be a handy reference for busy webmasters who need to refresh their memories when they make additions or deletions, or add new material to their web sites. It may even be used as a handout when presenting a workshop on web design.

Reviewed by Madely du Preez
Dept of Information Science
University of South Africa
[To be published in Online Information Review 2007]


ASAIB had several training sessions during the year in Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. These workshops were well-attended. There will be another workshop in Pretoria in November, but the dates and venue are not available yet. Contact Marlene Burger tel 012-4296585 for more details.