The Neal-Schuman Library Technology Companion: A Basic Guide for Library Staff, 5th ed. By John J. Burke. Chicago: ALA, 2016. 232 p. Paper $80.00 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-1382-6).

The aim of the Library Technology Companion is to be a portal to information about any kind of technology for staff or patron use that your library might need to achieve its mission. A resource of this type can be helpful in many ways: as a starting point for developing a technology plan, as a means of educating yourself about technology you are considering acquiring, as a roadmap for planning your own or your staff’s continuing education, or simply as a handy reference for the questions about technology that arise from time to time. Due to the rapid pace at which technology changes, one of the first things this reviewer examined was how current this new edition is. In that regard, this book really shines. An entire chapter, new to this edition, is devoted to makerspaces. This volume also provides good coverage of emerging trends, addressing questions such as “Should we keep buying DVDs or rely on streaming services?” Readers will find answers in a chapter aptly titled “The Death of Technologies.” The book concludes with an overview of technology trends to watch and suggestions about where to hang out (online) to stay informed.

Many of the people who make the technological wheels turn in our libraries every day aren’t so good at explaining it to the rest of us. But that’s not the case here. Burke’s talent for making his subject accessible is a real asset. He provides the answers readers seek without overwhelming them with unneeded information. Likewise, he engages with multiple topics rather than simply referring readers to the sources listed in the chapter bibliographies. A book described as a “companion” should serve as one-stop shopping, at least for the majority of questions that readers are likely to have.

Does Burke achieve a satisfactory balance between succinctness and depth of coverage? At less than two hundred pages, the book seems a bit skimpy. Most topics could have benefited from a fuller, lengthier treatment. For example, the chapter on social networking is barely five pages long, and one of the review questions at the end is, “Can you find an example of a social media use by a library beyond those offered in this chapter?” This reviewer’s response: “Yes, Mr. Burke, I can find lots of them. Let’s start with Facebook, which you didn’t even mention, and which is much more prevalent in libraries than Twitter, which you barely brought up at all.” The failure to capitalize on visual elements was another disappointment. Not everyone has time or the desire to read a lot of text; sidebars would have been a helpful way to organize information. Other than a few tables, the only visual elements breaking the monotony of the text are screenshots, and unfortunately, they serve no informational purpose.—Dana M. Lucisano, Reference Librarian, Silas Bronson Library, Waterbury, Connecticut


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