Book Review

Debons, Anthony. Information Science 101; Scarecrow Press: Lanham, MD, 2008, $50.00 (Paperback). 241 pp. ISBN: 0-8108-5289-6.

To begin, a disclaimer: this reviewer has never taken a course in either library or information science. However, over his multi-decade career in technical information searching, he has taken many training courses on database usage and related topics and has published in these areas. Therefore, this review is written with searchers, users, and subject specialists in mind. At least two reviews have appeared (1, 2), one favorable, one not.

As could be expected from the title, the book is aimed at students, both high school and college freshmen, as an introduction to the very broad field of information science (IS) and with an eye to a broad description of the jobs and careers available within the field. Chapter titles include introduction to information; professional identities and opportunities; IS: nature and function; the ADIK system (defined below); how do we acquire data, information, and knowledge (DIK); movement of DIK, transmission; the computer; decision making—problem solving; communications; ergonomics and IS; value and quality of DIK; security, privacy, ethics; future of IS/knowledge sciences.

The primary subject and associated processes discussed is the ADIK system: augmented data, information, knowledge. This system bears a strong resemblance to the numbers/ data/ information/ knowledge/ wisdom continuum often used by the reviewer in presentations on searching and database usage (and not original with him). Relations of all of these concepts with each other and their ubiquity in society and daily living are particularly good, especially the distinctions between information and knowledge.

Since this is a broadly based introduction, some of the many subjects are covered in a more elementary fashion than might be desirable at a higher level of education, background, or training. The index is not as thorough as it could be for effective use. Abbreviations are often neither defined in the text nor indexed. A few pioneers in the field are identified along with brief biographies but many notables are not. Gerard Salton and his work are notably absent. Citation searching is briefly described but Eugene Garfield is only mentioned with a footnote and, unlike the others, is not indexed.

Several related topics are discussed superficially and are not particularly up to date. For example, the basics of data transmission are discussed, but satellite transmission is inadequately described only in terms of GPS while DSL is not even mentioned.

Artificial Intelligence is briefly described but could use more elaboration. Value and quality of DIK are discussed but not in terms of relevance, recall, or sheer volume. The last relates to Google and other search engines which do not appear at all. Costs are discussed only in terms of provision of information from libraries, and Open Access and Publishing do not appear. Thesauri and concordances are absent. End user vs. mediated searching needs more material, especially in these days of SciFinder, Google, etc.

Granted, this is an introductory text, but in addition to the above, several aspects of information retrieval of interest to those of us in the chemical information field are either absent or inadequately described. Meaningful descriptions are lacking for databases, their construction and use; computer based retrieval; relevance vs. recall; text, graphics, and structures; indexed vs. text or search engine searching; and of course, the 800 pound gorilla, Google.

The author, Anthony Debons, is emeritus professor at the School of Information Sciences, Univ. of Pittsburg. It can be assumed that this book is compiled lecture notes for one of his courses. Educators can probably find portions of this book usable in their course and other instruction. However, I believe that many of us would like to see more depth on a many of the topics. Information Science 102, 502, anyone?

References

  1. Zins, C. JASIS&T; 2009, Dec2009, Vol. 60 Issue 12, p2600-2602, 3p
  2. Hutchinson, A. R. Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries; Oct2009, Vol. 47 Issue 2, p278-278, 1/6p

Robert E. Buntrock
Buntrock Associates
16 Willow Drive
Orono, ME 04473
207-866-7930
buntrock16@myfairpoint.net

Software to publish news website