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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

Reviewing Reference Resources

Dr. John V. Richardson Jr., Professor

UCLA DIS 245 “Information Access”

presentation outline
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
  • “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...
are there reviewing criteria
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
review functions chen galvin
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
review functions woodward
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
role of time lag
Role of Time Lag
  • Alerting must be prompt
  • 5-12 months or more
the reviewing process
The Reviewing Process
  • Publisher / Journal Book Review Editor
  • Reader Book Reviewer
creating a mrw
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)
mrw continued
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
mrw which should exist but don t
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
tiers of publishers
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)
reviews to assess reputation
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
reviews to assess reputation1
Reviews to Assess Reputation
  • SOURCE: Jordy, McGrath, and Rutledge, CRL March 1999
publishing output world wide
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)
united states publishing
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).
how many get reviewed
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
publisher s objective
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)
publisher s objective1
Publisher’s Objective
  • “A review is better than no review.”
    • Anonymous publisher
journal book review editor
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
review editor continued
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
review editor continued1
Review Editor continued:
  • Maintains a statement of reviewing policy (e.g., advance copies)
  • Sets deadline for review (two weeks to several months)
review editor continued2
Review Editor continued:
  • Reads review
    • Corrections--return to reviewer
    • Edits manuscript
    • May send advance review to publisher for comment on factual errors
reference reviewers who
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)
reference reviewers how much
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
too many positive reviews
“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.
elements of review
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
review contents
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
review closing
Review Closing
  • Direction of review should be clear by now
  • Need not give a specific recommendation
  • Author’s name, position, and institutional affiliation
research on reviewing
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).
types of reviews butler 1934
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”
schools of criticism
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
20th century schools
20th Century Schools
  • Impressionistic
  • Absolutist
  • Freudian
  • Marxist
  • Theoretical
  • Textual
  • New Criticism
  • Post-Modern movements
  • 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.
  • One objective truth
  • “unalterable” law
  • G. B. Vico (18th century) was initially an absolutist
  • New York Review of Books
    • social and economic factors
  • Materialistic reductionism
  • Analysis
    • ALA Booklist “Guidelines” (see 220 class Webpage)
    • Reprinted in Cheney and Williams’ FRS (1980)
  • Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America
    • descriptive or analytical bibliography. Methods of printing or book production generally and how these influence the text.
new criticism
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
  • Victor Shklovsky, Vladimir Propp, and other Russian critics (early 20th century)
  • plot structure
  • narrative perspective
  • symbolic imagery
  • Developed into structuralism in France
  • 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
role of reader and author
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
reader response theory
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.
develop your own style
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?
useful reviewing sources
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)
least useful reviewing source
Least Useful Reviewing Source
  • LJ,
    • most reviews
    • descriptive
    • makes recommendations for type of library
    • 6.7 month lag
  • SOURCE: Chen and Galvin, ARBA (1975)
favorable and unfavorable update
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.
ten most favorable lis journals
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
newspaper reviews
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.
sources of reviews indexes
Sources of Reviews (Indexes)
  • Book Review Digest
  • Book Review Index
  • Current Book Review Citations
book review digest
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 -+
book review index
Book Review Index
  • aims at completeness
  • 200+ journals indexed
current book review citations
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
other useful reviewing sources
Other Useful Reviewing Sources
  • RSR, “Landmark Reference Books” column
useful www resources
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://
even more www resources
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/
personally interested in reviewing
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
research on reviewing1
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
research questions
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
gentle reminder
Gentle Reminder!
  • Remove the disk from the computer now...