From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure:
Access to Information in the Networked World

Christine L. Borgmann

The MIT Press 2000
A book review by Danny Yee © 2001
It is not about publishing and it doesn't take a historical approach (Gutenberg gets only a few stray mentions), nor is it about the Global Information Infrastructure or information access over networks in general. From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure is actually about digital libraries. (Given the importance of titles and subtitles in indexing and cataloging, a topic Borgmann addresses at some length, the choice of such a poorly descriptive title and subtitle is surprising.)

Titles aside, I have mixed feelings about From Gutenberg. A good deal of its more general content seems to consist of saying the pretty damn obvious, in academic language and with citations. The more specialised material, on the other hand, is much more interesting, covering the institutional and sociological as well as the technical challenges facing libraries. Topics covered include metadata, cataloging and indexing systems, usability, public perception of libraries, coping with multiple languages and character sets, and archival and preservation, among many others. There are also some good case studies — most notably twenty pages on libraries in Central and Eastern Europe. Two topics I was disappointed to find only passing mention of are intellectual property and search engines (the latter, as the means most commonly used by Internet users to find information, surely deserve close attention by anyone concerned about progress towards a "global digital library"). From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure may not be the best introduction to digital libraries for the outsider, but it should be a valuable resource for those studying library science.

And once again for the search engines: digital library, digital libraries.

February 2001

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%T From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure
%S Access to Information in the Networked World
%A Borgmann, Christine L.
%I The MIT Press
%D 2000
%O hardcover, references, index
%G ISBN 026202473X
%P xviii,324pp