lrts: Vol. 57 Issue 2: p. 131
Book Review: Sudden Selector’s Guide to Biology Resources
Anne M. Sleeman

Anne M. Sleeman Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, Maryland

The Sudden Selector’s Series provides assistance to librarians who are assigned subjects for collection development with which they are unfamiliar. These two new guides in biology and chemistry are particularly welcome for librarians like me with an undergraduate degree in English. The authors have written these guides for those who possess only a basic understanding of library reference needs and an elementary understanding of the sciences (Brown, xv).

The guides are essentially annotated bibliographies; the authors pair excellent introductions to their topics with selected references for further information and exploration. The guides are clearly written and well organized, although there are variations in their structure. Each begins with an overview of its science, including a description of the organization of literature in the discipline. The guide to chemistry provides an overview of chemists and how they approach information, followed by chapters on collection analysis, current awareness tools, the print literature, chemistry research tools, approval plans, and general advice. The guide to biology includes chapters on election tools, databases, and current awareness sources.

The guides feature both print and digital resources. The authors also include data repositories, additional specialized resources, and literature databases. There are a few dated materials in the guide to chemistry, such as Lehninger’s Principles of Biochemistry, the fourth edition, which was cited although a fifth edition was published in 2008. In the guide to biology, some databases are marked “free,” some databases are marked “subscription,” but others are unmarked, rendering their status unclear (Shrode, 20). This confusion is but a minor problem—the number and types of resources reviewed in the guides, including websites such as the Tree of Life web Project, Google Scholar, and a selection of wikis, are impressive.

As both guides deal with scientific inquiry, they address current research and how to keep up with trends in biological and chemical research. Brown notes that “applications of chemical principles to other scientific disciplines define today’s research” (3); Shrode indicates that “a high degree of interdisciplinary crossover is evident in the literature” (2). One current trend addressed by both authors is the increasing availability of open access (OA) journals, though Brown notes that chemistry has been slower to adopt this new publishing model (43). Both authors provide lists of open access resources available in their disciplines and provide suggestions for how to monitor developments in the OA arena.

The assumption in both guides appears to be that the reader will work at a large institution. There are uneven efforts to make the content relevant to other sorts of institutions. For example, Shrode specifies conference proceedings in biology as a genre that public librarians may want to skip (6). Links to recommended sample library guides (Shrode, 9) are all from large institutions; examples from smaller academic and community colleges would have made a nice addition. Brown lists Library of Congress classification ranges for main subdivisions of chemistry (3–5), but does not provide Dewey equivalents until page 71. The annotations provide an avenue for those readers from smaller or specialized libraries to learn which resources are appropriate for them. For example, Shrode points out that the Encyclopedia of Life includes information suitable for the general public (60). Both authors include resources at a variety of levels and organize them into helpful categories; those resources in the broad categories may be useful in many different libraries.

Advice is interspersed throughout both guides. Brown includes a full chapter of general selection advice that includes useful tips such as the average time chemistry books remain in print (82). Also noteworthy is the useful appendix of core journals in chemistry (85–92). The list of core journals in biology is found in chapter 2 of that guide (Shrode, 25–35).

The authors of these guides provide a great service for those suddenly assigned to select materials in biology and chemistry. Their expertise and enthusiasm for their respective disciplines are evident in their writing. Shrode and Brown are the mentors you wish you had at your institution. This reviewer is using these guides to compare her library’s biology and chemistry collections to the lists of recommended resources for a general understanding in these fields. These guides provide an excellent review of how the literature is organized in biology and chemistry, which will enable readers to better search for answers in these subjects when reference questions arise.

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