1. (Peg) Allen, Margaret MLS-AHIP, Reviewer

Article Content

Building a Virtual Library


Ardis Hanson and Bruce Lubotsky Levin, Information Science Publishing, 701 East Chocolate Ave, Hershey, PA 17033, E-mail: [email protected], Web:, ISBN: 1-59140-106-2, Pages: 236 (indexed), Price: $79.95


As more information resources become available online, the dream of virtual access to knowledge-based resources comes closer to reality. However, those trying to access resources via Internet search engines are overwhelmed by information overload. The concept of virtual libraries is based on the identification, selection, and organization of information resources to meet the needs of the library's audience. This edited 2003 book is both a case study of how library teams worked to develop and implement a multicampus project within University of South Florida (USF) library system, and a review of the relevant literature supporting their decisions. The USF library system includes 5 libraries on 3 campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota. Two of the libraries in Tampa include the Hinks and Elaine Shimberg Health Sciences Library and the Louis De la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute Research Library. The USF student population includes many older students, and there is a significant commitment to distance education and 24/7 access to resources. Thus, this academic library serves a population with 24/7 needs similar to those found in the clinical environment. While the authors consistently speak of the academic environment, it is easy to see relevance to clinical environments beyond those served by academic medical centers.


The case studies demonstrate the value of a team approach that includes user groups in the decision making process. For example, Chapter III, "Libraries as Publishers of Digital Video," demonstrates how new technologies were used to create a "digital card catalog" that provides an online archive of mental health information in a streaming media format. The next chapter discusses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and data repositories, tools that are particularly valuable for research and population health issues. Distance education chapters speak to the importance of working with faculty and other clients, and those related to Web development address the iterative process of creating Web sites with users.


This work also does an excellent job explaining the role of copyright and licensure issues in the development of virtual libraries. Publishers, libraries, researchers, and authors need to work together to determine if the laudable goal of "Access to all, from anywhere" can be achieved within our current environment. Is access to research knowledge an inherent right, or can knowledge be owned? While the issues are debated, how can we provide the essential knowledge needed for evidence-based practice to all clinicians and their patients?


For those in nursing informatics, this book serves several purposes. First, it provides an excellent overview of the role of librarians and information science in developing virtual libraries. Second, it reviews the legal and technological issues involved in creating digital libraries. Third, it places these issues in historical focus, demonstrating how the library's role is changing in the 21st century. Finally, it provides examples of positive changes that can be made with current technology, using a team approach that includes both librarians and client groups.


I found this book of interest especially because this same team approach was emphasized in the "Evidence-based Nursing Practice: Needs, Tools, Solutions" symposium held at the Medical Library Association (MLA) Annual Meeting, May 3, 2003. Co-sponsored by the Interagency Council on Information Resources (ICRIN, and the Nursing and Allied Health Resources Section (NAHRS/MLA,, this symposium demonstrated the need for improved nursing access to knowledge-based information, and offered information on current tools for providing access to nursing knowledge. All of the "solutions" presented by the final panel demonstrated the importance of nurse-librarian collaboration, working together as members of interdisciplinary teams to find answers.


For those interested in further reading on the team approach to knowledge-based information, the MLA symposium proceedings are available online at