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Reviewing Reference Resources. Dr. John V. Richardson Jr., Professor UCLA DIS 245 “Information Access”. Presentation Outline. Introduction, Definitions and Functions Publishing - Reviewing Process Publisher; Journal Book Review Editor; “Book” Reviewer Elements and Types of Reviews

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Reviewing Reference Resources

Dr. John V. Richardson Jr., Professor

UCLA DIS 245 “Information Access”

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Presentation Outline

  • Introduction, Definitions and Functions

  • Publishing - Reviewing Process

    • Publisher; Journal Book Review Editor; “Book” Reviewer

  • Elements and Types of Reviews

  • Schools of Criticism

  • Useful/Least Review Sources

  • Specific Book Review Indexes

  • Needed Research on Reviewing

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  • “A quite exceptionally thankless, irritating and exhausting job.” -- George Orwell


    • from the Latin (“to see again…”)


    • art of judging; molding taste

    • connotes need to evaluate or assess...

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Are There Reviewing Criteria?

  • What is good? What is bad? What is the value of this work?

  • Implies the existence of laws, standards, criteria, or principles

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Review Functions (Chen & Galvin)

  • Three functions:

    • Alerting (LJ and many RUSQ reviews are notices)

    • Selection (Choice is designed to aid academic librarians)

      • use of symbols: + or - or +- or -+

    • Peer Appraisal (LQ reviews assist in P and T decisions)

  • SOURCE: Chen and Galvin, 1975

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Review Functions (Woodward)

  • Notification of the published literature

  • Current awareness of related fields

  • Back-up to other literature searching

  • Searching for alternate techniques

  • Initial orientation to a new field

  • Teaching aid

  • Feedback (appraisal)

  • SOURCE: JASIS 28 (May 1977): 175-180

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Role of Time Lag

  • Alerting must be prompt

  • 5-12 months or more

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The Reviewing Process

  • Publisher / Journal Book Review Editor

  • Reader Book Reviewer

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Creating a MRW

  • Initiation of idea (author or publisher: series or acquisitions editor)

  • Book proposal (rationale, subject and scope, approach, grade level, market, manuscript characteristics including camera-ready copy or not, competition, qualifications, schedule, tentative table of contents, and sample pages, if not entire chapter or two)

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MRW continued:

  • Negotiate contract (title, number of pages, index, royalties--10-15% net, advance, due date)

  • Publisher sets price, graphic design, and advertising including sending pr to book review editors, provides the author with galleys or page-proofs; requests the index be prepared; sends books to review media; and finally sends reviews to author

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MRW Which Should Exist But Don’t

  • Statistical Abstract of Europe

  • Directory of Specialists in Alternative Medical Fields

  • Historical Guide to Prices in the United States

  • Los Angeles Times Index, 1881 - 1971

  • SOURCE: “Great Reference Books,” SCAN (LAPL), September/October 1983, p. 8

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Tiers of Publishers

  • University Presses (i.e., Cambridge or Oxford; Chicago, Harvard, or Yale)

  • Trade Publishers (i.e., Academic, Elsevier, Wiley)

  • Specialty Publishers

    • for example, ALA, Bowker/Saur, Gale, Garland, Greenwood, H. W. Wilson, Haworth Press, Libraries Unlimited, McFarland, Oryx, Scarecrow

  • Vanity Publishers (pay to be published)

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Reviews to Assess Reputation

  • Based on a comparison of reviews of commercial and university press publishers in Book Review Digest and Choice:

  • number of reviews, de Gruyter (99) to Doubleday (1386)

  • price ($57.85 average; high, $158.89 for de Gruyter)

  • and quality (0--descriptive; 1--outstanding; 2--very good; 3--average, adequate, pretty good; and 4-- negative)

  • SOURCE: Jordy, McGrath, and Rutledge, CRL March 1999

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Reviews to Assess Reputation

  • SOURCE: Jordy, McGrath, and Rutledge, CRL March 1999

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Publishing Output World-wide

  • Monographic literature is growing world-wide

    • 269-285 K titles (1955)

    • 332-364 K (1960)

    • 521-546 K (1970)

    • 715 K (1980)

    • 842 K (1990)

    • 950 K* (2000) *(projected)

  • SOURCE: UNESCO or UN Statistical Yearbook, (year)

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    United States Publishing

    • United States monographic literature is slow growth (about 10%)

      • 42K titles (1980); 46K (1990); 50K (1993); 53K (1997)

  • SOURCE: Bowker Annual, “American Book Title Production, Books” (year).

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    How Many Get Reviewed?

    • Choice reviews about 6,000 titles a year

    • Calculate that in percentage terms of all books published

    • SOURCE: “Book Reviews in Volume Year,” Choice November 1985, p. 403

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    Publisher’s Objective?

    • To get attention

    • Judith Serebnick’s study of number of reviews (as opposed to direction) influencing purchase

    • Wants review and does not care so much about direction of review (either positive or negative)

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    Publisher’s Objective

    • “A review is better than no review.”

      • Anonymous publisher

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    Journal Book Review Editor

    • “Gatekeeper” -- decides what to review

    • Paid/unpaid position

      • Scholarly journals do not pay this position

      • Professional service; national visibility

      • Shaping taste in the field

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    Review Editor continued:

    • Maintains a file of reviewers (resumes) and their interests

    • Determines length of the review based on space and importance

      • LJ, 150 words; LQ, 1100 words (review essays, 2500); NYRB, 1500 words

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    Review Editor continued:

    • Maintains a statement of reviewing policy (e.g., advance copies)

    • Sets deadline for review (two weeks to several months)

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    Review Editor continued:

    • Reads review

      • Corrections--return to reviewer

      • Edits manuscript

      • May send advance review to publisher for comment on factual errors

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    Reference Reviewers: Who?

    • Who are they?

      • Library school educators (F. N. Cheney holds record: 5,819 “Current” in WLB and 2,044 in “Recent” RSR).

      • Practitioners

      • Non-librarians (Choice policy)

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    Reference Reviewers: How Much?

    • Compensation:

      • Copy of book, CD-ROM or software

      • Review in print (national audience); line on resume

      • Copy of the journal or offprints of review

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    Too Many Positive Reviews?”

    • “A sample of 300 reviews shows they

      • tend to be too positive (not really critical)

      • tend not to evaluate or compare

      • tend not to be reliable

      • tend to provide recommendations that don’t follow evaluations”

    • SOURCE: Sweetland, James H. "Reference Book Reviewing Tools: How Well Do they Do the Job?" In The Publishing and Review of Reference Sources. Ed. by Bill Katz and Robin Kinder. New York: Haworth Press, 1986. The Reference Librarian 15.

  • SOURCE: Fialkoff, LJ 119 (January 1994): 90.

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    Elements of Review

    • Bibliographic Citation (aka house style)

      • may be provided by journal

      • reputation for exactness or sloppiness

    • Price of Reference Books

      • 17 MRW are increasing faster than CPI (1981-1984)

      • “Pricing us out of the market,” AL July/August 1985, p. 506-507.

    • Contents

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    Review Contents

    • Catchy opening (NOT “This book…” or “The author…”) such as an idea of interest

    • Thesis

    • Main points (3)

    • Additional points; own ideas

    • Objections and shortcomings

    • Relate to other works

    • How does it change our concept/approach to topic

    • Snappy close

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    Review Closing

    • Direction of review should be clear by now

    • Need not give a specific recommendation

    • Author’s name, position, and institutional affiliation

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    Research on Reviewing

    • Age and

    • Professional experience as well as

    • Present and past institutional affiliation

      • of author and reviewer

      • influence the direction of the review

    • SOURCE: Snizek and Fuhrman, Am. Sociologist (1979).

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    Types of Reviews (Butler, 1934)

    • Descriptive

      • contents; list of table of contents; shorter reviews are more likely to be merely descriptive

    • Evaluative

      • analysis; longer review; “verbosity is no automatic indicator of excellence.”

    • Incidental essay

      • springboard for some topic

    • Orientation

      • historical; comparative; lengthy; LQ “Review Essay”

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    Schools of Criticism

    • Older Tradition

      • Longinus: strong feeling is necessary; blow you away all at once

    • Historical Critical Approach

      • criteria are relevant only to that particular period

    • 20th Century

      • influence of psychology and technology

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    20th Century Schools

    • Impressionistic

    • Absolutist

    • Freudian

    • Marxist

    • Theoretical

    • Textual

    • New Criticism

    • Post-Modern movements

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    • Immediate personal reaction

    • Sole purpose of art (books) is to move one’s being. Purpose is emotion. Books, CD-ROM, or software for review must grab you.

    • “Alienation effects”--justifying not reading the book

    • Book as prop. Entertainment value.

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    • One objective truth

    • “unalterable” law

    • G. B. Vico (18th century) was initially an absolutist

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    • New York Review of Books

      • social and economic factors

    • Materialistic reductionism

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    • Analysis

      • ALA Booklist “Guidelines” (see 220 class Webpage)

      • Reprinted in Cheney and Williams’ FRS (1980)

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    • Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America

      • descriptive or analytical bibliography. Methods of printing or book production generally and how these influence the text.

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    New Criticism

    • AKA objective, cognitive, or ontological school

    • Often associated with John Crowe Ransom (The New Criticism,1941)

    • Looks at form of literature which provides the meaning and value; individual work is the unit of analysis

    • Scientific as opposed to the historical context approach

    • Combines the Freudian and Marxist

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    • Victor Shklovsky, Vladimir Propp, and other Russian critics (early 20th century)

    • plot structure

    • narrative perspective

    • symbolic imagery

    • Developed into structuralism in France

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    • Jacque Derrida in France (1960s)

    • Examination of methodology

    • Involves a questioning of the many hierarchical oppositions

    • In order to expose the bias (“the privileged terms”) of those tacit assumptions on which Western metaphysics rest

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    Role of Reader and Author

    • Reader may write to editor/reviewer

    • Author may write to editor/reviewer

      • disavowal of work

      • respond to criticism (see P. W. Filby’s October 1989 AL article about his book which received 19 favorable reviews and one periodical which labelled it “Not recommended.”)

      • policy of publishing letters and responses

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    Reader Response Theory

    • A kind of Aesthetics of Reception

    • German critic Wolfgang Iser and other proponents

    • which examines readers’ responses to literature in a cultural and historical context.

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    Develop Your Own Style

    • Reference books are what they are?

    • Is there an interior, individual, or practical meaning?

    • Is there a deeper meaning? Something hidden?

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    Useful Reviewing Sources

    • LQ, 4th most, longest reviews, orientation reviews, and critical reviews. 10.8 month lag

    • WLB, best time, 5.4 month lag

    • Booklist, second best time, 5.8 month lag

    • RQ, 6.4 month lag

    • ARBA and

    • C&RL, 3rd most titles, more unfavorable

    • SOURCE: Chen and Galvin, ARBA (1975)

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    Least Useful Reviewing Source

    • LJ,

      • most reviews

      • descriptive

      • makes recommendations for type of library

      • 6.7 month lag

    • SOURCE: Chen and Galvin, ARBA (1975)

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    Favorable and Unfavorable Update

    • Study of Periodical Abstracts-Research II (PAR II) of 1600 journals:

      • January 1986 (69.4% favorable) to September 1992 (71.8%), reviews are becoming more favorable (Table 2)

      • Shorter reviews are more favorable (75.3%) than longer ones (64.4%) (Table 3)

      • Humanities (72.4%) more favorable than social sciences (69.1%) than sciences and technology (68.5%) (Table 5)

    • SOURCE: Greene and Spornick, JAL (November 1995): 449-453.

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    Ten Most Favorable LIS Journals

    • Wilson Library Bulletin (now defunct)

    • Booklist

    • Library Journal

    • Choice

    • School Library Journal

    • Publishers Weekly

    • New York Times

    • New York Review of Books

    • RQ (now RUSQ)

    • TLS

    • SOURCE: Greene and Spornick, JAL (November 1995): 449-453

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    Newspaper Reviews

    • TLS--wide ranging, authoritative, thoughtful, well-written

    • NYT--strong influence. Esoteric. Boring

    • Washington Post (“Book World”)--most interesting and enjoyable

    • USA Today--imaginative in selection of reviewers

    • SOURCE: “Choosing the Best of the Book Reviews,” LATimes, 11-13 December 1985, part V.

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    Sources of Reviews (Indexes)

    • Book Review Digest

    • Book Review Index

    • Current Book Review Citations

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    Book Review Digest

    • 1905 -- present

    • oldest index in continuous existence

    • journals indexed depends upon BRD subscribers

    • title listed if it gets two or more reviews

    • +/- has been used: +, -, +-, or -+

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    Book Review Index

    • aims at completeness

    • 200+ journals indexed

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    Current Book Review Citations

    • volume 1, January 1976 -- present

    • compilation of reviews which have already appeared in the nine other Wilson indexes covering more than 1,000 periodicals

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    Other Useful Reviewing Sources

    • RSR, “Landmark Reference Books” column

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    Useful WWW Resources

    • Indiana University, Writing Tutorial Services: "Writing Book Reviews":

    • "Ed’s Internet Book Review":

    • A Book Review Pathfinder: "Book Review Resources at Bobst Library": http://

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    Even More WWW Resources

    • "FAQ for":

    • Student-written reviews (middle school): "OGRE: The Orange Grove Review of Books": ~ogwww/reviews/ogre.html

    • "OncoLink: Books and Book Reviews" (Cancer): psycho_stuff/books/

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    Personally Interested in Reviewing?

    • Watch journals for notices

      • LJ, C&RL, JAL have requests from time to time

    • Obtain a brand, new book

      • write a review

      • send it to editor as an example

    • Write the editor

      • send sample

      • send current resume

    • Find someone who already reviews to recommend you

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    Research on Reviewing

    • Arthur B. Connor Jr., “A Select Review and Comparison of Library and Scholarly Reviewing Sources,” MLS Specialization Paper, UCLA, 1982.

    • Replicate it as your MLIS Thesis

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    Research Questions

    • Researchable Questions:

      • Are prices still going up? Replicate earlier study in AL

      • Time lag and how to Decrease It

      • What MRW are Needed? Replicate SCAN study

      • Who are the reviewers?

      • Does the direction of the review influence purchase?

      • Update Chen and Galvin’s study of useful reviewing sources

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    Gentle Reminder!

    • Remove the disk from the computer now...