Fundamentals of Technical Services. By John Sandstrom and Liz Miller. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2015. 213 p. $64.00 softcover (ISBN 978-1-55570-966-2). ALA Fundamentals Series.

This latest monograph in the ALA Fundamentals Series continues the series’ mission of providing a broad overview of an area of library science. Written by a Cataloging Librarian and an Acquisitions Librarian from New Mexico State University Library, Fundamentals of Technical Services communicates the conceptual practices clearly and succinctly. The tone of writing clearly conveys the authors’ enthusiasm and passion for technical services and emphasizes the crucial role that technical services staff play in providing access to resources through purchasing, cataloging, physical processing, and authority control.

This book begins with a chapter describing the management of technical service departments, followed by a chapter on library systems. The subsequent six chapters follow the general workflow of technical services: “Collection Development,” “Acquisitions,” “Cataloging,” “Physical Processing,” “Authority and Catalog Maintenance,” and “Collection Management.” Each chapter provides basic foundational knowledge; lists of key terminology with clear definitions, trends and issues related to each chapter’s subject; and recommended print resources for further reading. As is stated multiple times thorough out the text, this is an introductory text, and as such, does not contain vast quantities of historical information. Though the book can certainly be read through in its entirety, each chapter could be consulted distinctly as a surface introduction to that area of technical services, supplemental to more substantial works.

The introduction explains that it was intended for use by library science students and as a resource for staff or faculty whose positions have been reassigned to technical services departments. The latter audience is strongly emphasized. The initial section in each chapter is titled “Before you Begin” and instructs readers to answer questions about their library’s current practices, to collect institutional policies, or to identify staff attitudes about a subject before reading the chapter. It is unlikely that a graduate student would have access to this information.

Each chapter contains reading aids that display concepts graphically or elaborate on associated topics. Sidebar texts are included for related concepts such as library security systems in the chapter on Physical Processing, or listing tips for holding effective meetings in the Managing Technical Services chapter. Diagrams of basic workflows included in both the Acquisitions chapter for monograph and serial acquisitions and in the Cataloging chapter for the cataloging workflows for physical and electronic materials display concepts that would have been tedious to explain solely within the text. The book also includes four well-written yet brief appendixes about specific cataloging-related topics: “Content Standards” outlines RDA and its differences from AACR2; “Classification Systems and Call Numbers” depicts the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems; “Subject Term Lists” describes the utility of providing subject access, and Library of Congress Subject Headings specifically; and finally “MARC Digital Format” describes MARC bibliographic and MARC holdings formats, with descriptions of selected common fields. Finally, the terminology and definitions found in every chapter are compiled into a glossary.

Each chapter concludes with a brief description of trends, and though these trends are those that are most current, they are handled with excessively broad strokes. Another idiosyncrasy of this book is the inclusion of incongruous statements: in a discussion of budget meetings the reader is cautioned to “keep your facial expressions neutral at all times. . . . Believe it or not, a poorly timed arched eyebrow can change the entire tone of a discussion” (47). At random, an individual Milwaukee Public librarian’s searches being redirected in her catalog are cited as examples of successful authority control (129–30), though there is no explanation of why she was mentioned or included. While neither of these comments is inappropriate, they lend a certain chattiness that seems inconsistent with the tone of the remaining text. One final small criticism is that the acronym OCLC is only explained using its initial usage and not the current fuller form (86).

Despite the uneven tone, all chapters were well-organized, accessible, and enjoyable to read; the chapters on Acquisitions and Cataloging were particularly well-conceived. I was very pleasantly surprised to find chapters that included discussions of both cataloging maintenance and collection maintenance, since similar texts frequently only discuss these areas in a cursory manner. The concluding “Collection Maintenance” chapter includes descriptions of activities that could involve staff from multiple areas of the library (i.e., not only technical services staff) such as the review of gift materials for possible addition to the library collection, deselection or weeding, the replacement of lost or missing items, disaster preparedness, and the repair of damaged library resources.

Finally, this book does not describe best practices or precise workflows because these could vary widely by library. While the components of technical services that are included in this text are certainly necessary in any technical services department, they may not apply in all situations or in all libraries, particularly those with smaller staff. This well-written, enthusiastic text provides a great introduction to the many aspects of Technical Services.—Julene L. Jones (, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, Kentucky


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