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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Valerie C Sweeney, BFA, MLS (Duquesne University)
Description: Each chapter in this book begins with a two-page essay by Charles Anderson touching on an issue he sees as relevant to the reference librarian today. Each chapter finishes with a record of Peter Sprenkle's time on a reference desk in a public library, originally recorded for publication as posts on Sprenkle's blog, RefGrunt.
Purpose: The authors state their purpose as "paint[ing] a clear picture of the field," "provid[ing]...support for" librarians, and reminding administrators what life is like for their reference librarians. The essays purportedly address contemporary issues in reference librarianship, but the book covers no new ground and in fact rehashes a lot of unnecessary old ground: should the library also function as a coffee shop/Internet café/bookstore; the everything-is-free-on-the-Internet patron assertion.
Audience: It is written for reference librarians or, at least, it's written in a way that leads me to believe that the authors think reference librarians read this sort of book for fun.
Features: The book would have been better left as a blog and the journal articles which it appears it started out as. The book was published in 2006, but the blog entries date from 2003 and feel dated. I realize not every public library was on the leading frontier of technology and so perhaps they are working out a lot of the kinks, but how many Internet sign-ups and server crashes can you make fun of before it gets wearisome? This is the primary problem with the book — the original blog made for fun reading when you had a few minutes of downtime. It's always nice to know you are not the only librarian answering endless bathroom and printer questions. But chapter after chapter of it, in a supposedly professional book, gets boring quickly. The book makes for fine pick-up/put-down reading, as long as you are not expecting anything that can be used to better your reference librarian skills, or help solve some of the issues of the day.
Assessment: This is a forgettable book. It's written well enough and, as I said, the blog entries can be amusing in little bits. But I wouldn't recommend adding it to a collection for any sort of professional development purposes.