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Review of Publications in Academic Essay Writing:
Rose, J. (2001) The Mature Student’s Guide to
Writing, Houndmills: Palgrave.
Greetham, B. (2001) How to Write Better Essays, Houndmills:Palgrave.
Crème, P. and Lea, M.R. (1997) Writing at University, Buckingham:
Open University Press.
Crossley (London: Sage, 2005)
Secker, Jane (2004) Electronic Resources in the Virtual
Learning Environment: A Guide for Librarians, Oxford: Chandos.
This book is in part a call to librarians, across the education
sector to open up a dialogue with educators and technologists
to ensure that the e-learning revolution does not leave the profession
standing on the sidelines with others questioning our relevance.
(Secker 2004: x)
This book, by Dr Jane Secker, is part of the Chandos Information
Professional Series of publications. Books in this series are aimed
at librarians and other information professionals, and, in the words
of the series editor, are designed to be practical, easy to read,
and authoritative in terms of current library thinking.
In the course of this publication, Secker is concerned with electronic
resources, e-learning, the increasing integration of digital libraries
and VLEs (virtual learning environments), the important contribution
which librarians can make to e-learning, and how e-learning impacts
upon their work. In view of the fact that the librarian’s
role has shifted to that of an educator, it is evident that library
and information professionals need to be actively engaged in e-learning.
Secker, whose professional and academic credentials are impressive,
is well placed to write a book on these issues. While her focus
is on the UK, developments in Australia and the USA are referred
to where appropriate. It is clearly written and well structured,
with each chapter providing a clear statement of its contents. A
list of references follows each chapter, and the book comes complete
with an index, a handy glossary and two appendices.
The author, at the time of publication, was writing from the enviably
privileged position of being employed in an organisation, The London
School of Economics, which recognises that ‘e-learning and
libraries are connected’ (Secker 2004: ix). However, while
she contends that collaboration between the ‘e-learning and
library communities’ is crucial, she is quick to point out
that the essential process of collaboration between the two aforementioned
communities isn’t universal in education (Secker 2004: ix).
Her book is designed, therefore, to give hope to those librarians
who work in organisations where this link hasn’t yet been
discerned by non-library staff. Similarly, she argues that e-learning
isn’t something that library and information professionals
should be fearful of, urging them instead to actively embrace the
opportunity provided by ‘the electronic environment’
to ‘exploit and extend their role in learning’(Secker
2004: 159). Hence, she adopts a positive and encouraging tone in
each chapter in order to show fellow library and information professionals
how they can contribute to e-learning.
The first chapter, which is intended to provide a ‘context
for the integration of library resources with virtual or e-learning
environments’ (Secker 2004: 1), outlines the development of
the digital library since the 1990s. Therein she emphasises the
undoubted impact which ICTs (information and communications technologies)
have had on library work and discusses various important digital
library initiatives like eLib (The Electronic Libraries Programme)
launched by the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee). Most
importantly, she delineates the components of a digital library
that can be used in e-learning, namely library portals, electronic
reserves, digital repositories, e-books, e-journals, reading list
management systems and e-print repositories. These value added content
digital library services are specified to demonstrate the usefulness
of librarians and digital libraries in the e-learning environment.
Chapter 2, which covers e-learning and the digital library, is
interesting especially when the author suggests that many librarians
may struggle if called upon to give a precise definition of the
term e-learning. This is hardly surprising, since, as we learn further
on in the chapter, the term e-learning has varied meanings. Here
she presents a body of research which supports her thesis that e-learning
is ‘highly relevant to librarians’ (Secker 2004: 49).
In Chapter 3 the author examines the impact of information literacy,
e-literacy, and e-learning upon the library and information professionals.
Once again, the important role of librarians is stressed, while
the danger of librarians becoming marginalised by e-learning developments
is highlighted. Thus she argues that professional library skills,
like information literacy teaching (which must be integrated), cataloguing
and classification are all relevant, transferable skills in the
e-environment (Secker 2004: 53—56). Information literacy or
e-literacy training is presented as being particularly vital in
order to educate the Google generation and help patrons navigate
the increasingly complex digital information environment. Secker
does concede, however, that promoting information literacy to academic
staff can be challenging. Nevertheless, she urges librarians to
keep up to date and to be proactive in promoting their relevant
skills, in order to remain relevant to library patrons in a world
where the relevancy of libraries is being increasingly questioned.
She concludes by summarising some practical ways in which librarians
can become involved in e-learning.
Chapter 4 deals with the complexities of copyright and licensing
with a special emphasis on electronic resources (including the Internet).
Notably, the reader is cautioned that ‘it is a mistake to
believe that copyright does not exist on the Internet’ (Secker
2004: 84). The chapter is promoted as being highly practical, and
indeed it does provide a useful overview of this whole area. Irish
readers will need to familiarise themselves with Irish copyright
law, which isn’t dealt with here. Other elements of interest
in this chapter, include a discussion of website linking, and the
issue of copying images from the Internet which should be carefully
noted by academics. Finally, Secker, whilst admitting that most
librarians aren’t trained lawyers, contends that they still
have an important part to play in giving advice concerning copyright
to academic staff.
The fifth chapter provides a useful, though sometimes complex overview
of technical standards, specifications and access management, to
the non ‘technologically savvy librarian’ (Secker 2004:
105). While it is intended as a quick guide, it makes for somewhat
heavy reading in parts.
Chapter 6 details four case studies covering UK initiatives in
Higher Education that illustrate ways in which librarians have become
involved in e-learning. The fourth case study which examined information
literacy and the VLE at Imperial College London was particularly
stimulating. However, much food for thought is provided in the preceding
three case studies which treat electronic coursepacks in a VLE,
online resource lists and the integration of library resources into
the VLE by the use of a library area respectively. On an aesthetic
note, the few screen shots included in this chapter, should have
been enlarged and printed in colour.
If you learn nothing else from this thought provoking book, you
will at least come away from having read it with an awareness of
the author’s repetitive argument that librarians mustn’t
be left behind in the e-learning revolution. However, considering
the fact that the book is clearly aimed at librarians, this argument
smacks of preaching to the converted. Similarly in the otherwise
useful ten-step plan for the action orientated librarian eager to
get into e-learning, contained in the concluding chapter of the
book, Secker advocates that librarians should attend non-library
conferences to network and promote the central role that the library
profession plays in the learning process. It is a pity that she
didn’t extend this contention further by recommending that
her professional colleagues publish such arguments in non-library
publications. Similarly the subtitle of this book, while in keeping
with the explicit brief of the Chandos Information Professional
Series, may deter non librarians from reading it, despite the fact
that it contains much information that is relevant to academic and
learning technology staff. Overall, this book could have been shorter,
with more practical examples included despite the author’s
proviso that ‘wherever possible, examples of both research
and practice are provided’ (Secker 2004: x). These quibbles
aside, however, the book will be of benefit to any library and information
professional who is new to the area of e-learning.