Summer Reading for Library & Information Science


photo by @lynrobinson cc-by

For those of you planning to study for a masters in Library or Information Science, LIS, here are some suggestions for background reading in preparation for your course. Although I am writing from the perspective of those of you intending to enroll for the academic year 16/17 with the Library School at City, University of London, [#citylis], it is possible that my recommendations may be of wider interest; to those studying elsewhere, or for those of you who are just interested in what LIS is all about.

My last ‘summer reading’ post was four years ago. Over that time, our course content has developed, along with the nature of information and communication processes, and our understanding of library and information science as a discipline and practice. Whilst the texts that I suggested in 2012 remain valid, new publications are always appearing, and existing texts to which I have not yet paid attention often find their way into my field of vision.

The intention here is twofold. Firstly to offer a personal, ‘capsule’ selection of printed books, (although some may be available in electronic format), which will cover LIS from the broad perspective, the big-picture if you like. Throughout the course we will provide more specific reading lists, including: books, papers, websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, videos, podcasts, artworks and places to visit. My idea here is more interdisciplinary, showing the reach and depth of our discipline, and its continued relevance to society today. It is not necessary to read all the books, and each one stands alone perfectly well, although I have described them in an order of understanding the complexity of LIS.

My second aim is to say something about our use of social media at #citylis, and to suggest some internet resources as starting points for those of you new to digital communication processes.

The Books

Intro to Inf SciBawden D and Robinson L (2012). Introduction to Information Science. Facet: London

In spite of the deluge of novelty, some texts remain seminal and I will start by mentioning Introduction to Information Science, which I co-authored with David Bawden, as an accompaniment to our classes in 2012. The text remains a solid place to start if you need an overview of the sort of topics and concepts that are covered in courses relating to library and information science. The text has been very well received, and is now used internationally as a basis for understanding and framing the discipline. We give many ideas for further reading and pathways for following-up with areas you find interesting or especially relevant. The topics listed are covered in my previous post, but you can see the content from the link to the Facet Publications site.

Intro to InformationFloridi L (2010). Information: a very short introduction. OUP: Oxford

The success of OUP’s ‘very short introduction’ series marches on. This series has the enviable, dual status of being both informative, and collectable. It is impossible to stop at ‘just one’ and I find myself drawn by the physical aesthetics of the little volumes to regularly add one more to my set. In this context, I would like to mention again two of the other texts from my last post. These volumes cover respectively the two concepts that are central to our courses: information, and its processing by computers. There are many books which cover information and computing, as neither of these subjects is unique to LIS. These books however, offer an approach suitable for readers from a wide variety of backgrounds, with an interest in information and its communication from a semantic perspective.

Firstly, information. Luciano Floridi is well known for his work on the philosophy of information, which informs our work within library and information science as a discipline and practice. This volume considers the nature of information, and the social and ethical implications it raises.

51UULOTow+L._AC_UL115_Gleick J (2011). The Information. Pantheon

If you enjoy the concept of information from Floridi’s ‘very short introduction’, you might like to read James Gleick’s wider story, “The Information”.


sc0004ffe2Magee B (2016). The Story of Philosophy. Dorling Kindersley

If you would like a wider introduction to Western Philosophy, try “The Story of Philosophy” by Brian Magee.



9780199586592Ince D (2011). The Computer: a very short introduction. OUP: Oxford.

Secondly, the computer. The LIS sector has been inseparable from technology for around 20 years now, although many information professionals still feel anxious when faced with understanding the mechanisms by which information is processed. Darrel Ince’s book offers reassurance, in explaining how a computer works, and importantly, why we need to know. The book is short, with a social focus, and technological pain will not last long.

9781783300419Dempsey L (2014). The nework reshapes the library. Ed. Varnum K. Facet: London

Having embraced the technology, Kenneth Varnum’s 2014 edited volume of Lorcan Dempsey’s writing, The Network Reshapes the Library provides good follow-up reading on how technologies are changing the work of the library professional. Dempsey writes on a diverse range of topics, covering library organization, services and technologies, and the evolution of the library to embrace the learning and research needs of inhabitants of the 21st century.

imagesWright A (2014). Cataloguing the World: Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age. OUP: Oxford

The modern information age, underpinning our library and information services today, is often attributed to the work at the turn of the 19th century by Paul Otlet. Alex Wright’s book Cataloguing the World: Paul Otlet and the birth of the information age is a wonderful telling of the story of humankind’s longstanding and continued effort to collect and organize knowledge, and Otlet’s part in this.

Otlet’s prescient understanding of the varied nature of documents was coupled with his work on the UDC, Universal Decimal Classification. The process of describing documents now embraces digital as well as physical items. Cataloguing and classification codes used to describe physical entities laid the foundations for modern day metadata; data about data, which is used to described and index the digital world.

9780262528511Pomerantz J (2015). Metadata. MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jeffrey Pomerantz book Metadata describes the origins and types of metadata, how it is used, and why it exists.



9781783300105Tattersall A (2016). Altmetrics: a practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics. Facet: London

Looking further into the digital world, we encounter new methods of scholarly communication and dissemination of information. For those of you with an interest in digital scholarship, Andy Tattersall’s new book: Altmetrics: a practical guide for librarians, researchers and academics focuses on research artifact level metrics which go beyond traditional journal papers to include book chapters, posters and data sets. The book covers the history of altmetrics, and looks at how library and information professionals can facilitate new approaches to learning and sharing knowledge.

books as historyPearson D (2012). Books as History. British Library: London

Finally, for those of you who came for the books. Take a look at David Pearson’s Books as History, and James W P Campbell’s The library: a world history (photographs by Will Pryce). In case you were wondering if LIS is the right discipline for you, pictures speak a thousand words.


9780500342886_26164Campbell W P and Pryce W(2013). The Library: a world history.  Thames and Hudson: London




All of the books listed above should be available from the smashing City University Library for anyone who is already registered. If you need more inspiration, please take a look at my LibraryThing catalogue, where you can see books tagged for the modules I teach, or for LIS related topics in general. There is some background to using my catalogue on my profile page.

Social Media

At #citylis, we are unapologetically digital. Whilst the documentation of our physical/analogue world will always be an essential tenet of LIS, we cannot ignore the digital processes and entities which are now pervasive in our information society. During the course, we will take the opportunity to examine what this means for LIS, and discuss how the digital realm relates to the physical.

Accompanying the contemporary shift to a culture which is as much digital as physical in many parts of the world, has been a change in the processes of scholarly communication; a change in the ways in which knowledge is created and shared. The tradional, print based dissemination pathways are evolving into new highways of digital scholarship. Although there is much to be worked out before the traditional forms of publishing are completely superseded, we encourage all our students to  understand the factors for change in communication, and to gain experience in working digitally. Our starting point will be to introduce two popular social media channels: tweeting and blogging.

Many of you will already have a Twitter account, and some of you will be familiar with blogs. For those of you new to these practices, we will run a social media 101 class at Induction (this year on 23/09/16). If you are keen to get a head start, you may like to check out:


WordPress: (video)

Writing for Research:

The Lost Infrastructure of Social Media:


For further information about Induction, please check your email if you are a new #citylis student, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @citylis. We have a blog, where you can read about our alumni, news, research and events. If you have any further suggestions for summer reading, please add a comment.