Open Journal Systems
World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. Edited by Robert Wedgeworth. 3rd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993. xvii, 905 p. ISBN 0‑8389‑0609‑5. $200.00.
In its third edition this useful handbook has taken a shorter name. The first edition (1980) and the second edition (1986) were called ALA World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. No reason is given in the editor’s Preface of the new edition for the deletion of “ALA” in the title. Although the second edition was considerably larger than the first (xv, 895 pp. compared with xxii, 601 pp.), the new one has grown only slightly. It does have a fresh feature: a 16‑page “portfolio of great libraries,” consisting of color photographs taken of five so‑called mega‑libraries. A convenient section of the first two editions, the classified list of articles, has unfortunately been omitted.
Much could be written about the general content of this volume, but the present review will focus primarily on the coverage Third World libraries and librarians. The editor states that “articles emphasize North America,” but does not say why that should be the case in a “world” reference book. Of the 437 contributors listed (with their affiliations and names of the articles by them), 121 are from developing countries; they are recognized experts on the library situations they describe. There appear to be individual articles on all the nations that have any library activity. In most cases, such articles consider the library history of the country; its national library service; academic, public, school, and special libraries; and the library profession, including library education. Statistical tables are included in many of the articles. The expansive, well‑constructed index of names, titles, and topics provides easy access to information that is distributed though many articles. Titles of articles are bold‑faced in the index, a useful embellishment.
In his review of the second edition, for this journal (TWL 1‑1) P.B. Mangla noted certain omissions that deserved consideration in future editions. There were no separate articles on bibliography, or librarianship in the developing countries, or comparative librarianship, or information systems. None of these has materialized. Indeed the treatment of those topics, in various articles appropriate to them, is curiously slight. For example, the article on information science occupies only six columns, and suffers from ineffective definitions (e.g., information systems are “systems that augment the human capacity for awareness”). Neither the author of that article, nor the author of the one on information science education, is able to define information science usefully, not to differentiate the field from library science. If these newer subjects are inadequately presented, older ones fare even worse: there is no article on printing, and none on publishing. A current article on librarianship itself would have been welcome, to replace an outworn essay on “philosophy of librarianship” that is unchanged from the first edition.
Since the choice of topics is crucial to the value of an encyclopedic work, it may be worth noting some odd decisions. Among types of library, there are lengthy treatments of law libraries (pp. 436‑452), and medical libraries (pp. 550‑556), but no articles for art libraries or music libraries. Among library associations there are entries for the Association of International Libraries (a nearly imaginary organization) and the Scandinavian Federation of Research Librarians, but not the Association of Recorded Sound Collections, (US) Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, Music Library Association (although the International Association of Music Libraries has an article), or the Special Libraries Association. Individual libraries are for the most part discussed in general essays about their countries or types, but New York Public Library has a four‑page entry: no other public library in the world has one. Harvard University is the only academic library with a separate article; apart from those in the US, UK, and France, no national libraries have separate articles. And no special library has its own article, either; so the situation is that no library in a developing country is the subject of a full entry.
It is awkward to decide which living individuals ought to be included in a reference work, and perhaps it is better to have biographies of deceased persons only. Certainly the choices of which living librarians to present in WELIS lack clear standards. A number of persons with modest accomplishments are given full articles and photographs, while library leaders of great distinction are passed over in silence. The omissions from the US and UK include Henriette Avram, K. G. Bakewell, John Berry, Dorothy Broderick, Arthur Curley, Clifford Currie, J. Periam Danton, Edward Dudley, William Eshelman, Michael Gorman, Denis Grogan, Peter Havard‑Williams, Norman Horrocks, Eric Hunter, E. J. Josey, Bill Katz, Tze‑chung Li, Maurice Line, Jean Lowrie, Eric Moon, Hans Panofsky, Wilfred Saunders, Peggy Sullivan, Alphonse Trezza, Rose Vormelker, Paul Wasserman, Hubert White, and Paul Winkler.
Fewer than 30 persons from the developing countries have articles, so there is no point listing omissions. Suffice to say that the individuals included are fully worthy of the honor, but that many others—especially those recently active internationally and in major publication efforts—should have been given equal attention. A number of them wrote articles for WELIS, indicating not only their importance, but the fact that information about them was easily available. American and British librarians of significance to Third World librarianship form another group that was neglected. George Chandler, Dorothy Collings, Asa Dickinson, William John Harris, John Harvey, Frank Hogg, William V. Jackson, Howard Lancour, Eleanor Mitchell, Stephen Parker, Marietta Daniels Shepard, Frances Lander Spain, and Robert Stueart are among those overlooked. Indeed an article about WELIS editor (and IFLA president) Robert Wedgeworth would have been appropriate.
As we have indicated, there are individual entries for all the countries of the library world, including the developing nations. We thought it would be useful to see how the third edition of WELIS has updated the information of the second edition in the Third World country articles. In general, the country articles have more recent statistics on population, and many have new or updated tables that give key data on libraries of various types. The tables are in every case improvements over those in the second edition. The only problem with them is that sources are not always given; or the sources given are not clearly identified (can “author” be a source citation?). For some reason, tables were omitted for certain countries in this edition (e.g., Indonesia, Madagascar, Saudi Arabia). Less updating is evident in the texts of most country articles. Some, like Bangladesh, are unchanged. Others have a line or two mentioning some event of the late 1980s. A few, like India (by P.B. Mangla), Jamaica (by Stepheney Ferguson), and Nigeria (by the late B.W. Nwafor—his death not noticed in the list of authors) have been thoroughly redone to represent the current situation.
A pervasive weakness of WELIS, in the material on developing countries and elsewhere, lies in the bibliography in the volume, and the scanty citations at the ends of articles almost never present the core titles of their topics. It is typical for a few citations given to be weighted toward contributions by the article’s author. References are incomplete in terms of imprint data, a curious lapse in an encyclopedia by and for librarians; many of the references could not be verified in standard sources or—with the information given—located in a library. For certain articles there are no reference citations at all (e.g., Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa, Thailand) although it would be simple to supply a fair number of useful titles for any of them.
Photographs are found on nearly every page. When these are portraits, or views of library exteriors, or general views of reading rooms or other distinctive interiors, they are of value. When they show a person sitting in front of a computer, or students in a classroom, we wonder whether the space could have been better used.
A final concern about WELIS is its treatment of the nations in the former USSR. The Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991, and the encyclopedia appeared in 1993; there was not much time to deal with changes in the library situations of the new nations. Still it is curious to find an entry for the USSR, and none for Russia. An editor’s note at the USSR article explains that there was no time to gather new material on most of the countries of the former USSR (except for Estonia, Lithuania, and Ukraine). It would have been appropriate, nevertheless, to acquire what information has become available—through IFLA sources, or direct correspondence with active librarians—and to provide updating on this enormously important development, even at the cost of some delay in production of the volume.
To sum up: WELIS is a good compendium of library information, the best one‑volume source we have. The third edition gives updated statistics in most cases, and slightly updated text. A wider scope of inclusion for individual librarians would be desirable in future revisions, along with a more balanced presentation of the main topics in the profession. A general bibliography would be welcome, and full imprint data is needed in the reference citations. Those citations ought to be more numerous, and ought to present the core literature of their topics.
Penelope Papangelis is Assistant to the Editor, Third World Libraries. She has a B.A. from Harvard University, a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and an M.L.S. from Rosary College. She has been a research assistant at the University of Illinois Medical School, and a freelance translator.
Guy A. Marco is Editor of Third World Libraries. For biographical information see TWL 1‑2.
© 1994 Dominican University
Papangelis, Penelope and Guy A. Marco. “Book Reviews: World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services” Third World Libraries, Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall 1994).