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.

On Background Reading for Library and Information Science

There is never less to read – only more. I sometimes use those historical quotes in my lectures which show how famous people throughout time also felt they lived with too much information, and that our concerns about there just being too many books are hardly new. I offer the usual advice of the need to be selective, and emphasise that the ability to choose reading materials is a fundamental skill for the information worker. I would go further, and argue that it is a fundamental skill for all – but already I am veering off into the waters of information literacy, when all I want to do is to say something brief and informative about background reading for library and information science.

This post is for those of you who are joining one of our LIS masters courses this September, or those who are interested in learning a bit more about library and information science as a subject. I don’t mind if you are going to study LIS at a different institution – these personal recommendations should still work.

The most important book
Obviously our own “Introduction to Information Science”. I am a shamelessselfpromoter, and will often wear sequins to get attention. But, the book has emerged from around 60 (combined!) years of thinking and writing about information science; what it is, how it relates to library science (and other related subjects), its main components, protagonists, its past, present and future, and how it can be presented within the context of an academic masters course.

Neither DB nor myself imagine our book to be the last word in information science. It is not the first either! Rather we set out a contemporary landscape, and signpost many other resources and references. Since we signed off on the text, vowing ‘never again etc.’, we have thought of far more to add – there may be a second edition – but at least for the forthcoming academic year this will do for starters. The chapters do not correspond exactly with modules offered on the City courses – there are more modules than topics we cover. The content (listed below) does however, reflect what we believe to be the current core of Library and Information Science, and it should therefore be of interest to anyone who, for whatever reason, finds themselves concerned with LIS:

1: What is information science? Disciplines and professions
2: History of information: the story of documents
3: Philosophies and paradigms of information science
4: Basic concepts of information science
5: Domain analysis
6: Information organisation
7: Information technologies: creation, dissemination and retrieval
8: Informetrics
9: Information behaviour
10: Communicating information: changing contexts
11: Information society
12: Information management and policy
13: Digital literacy
14: Information science research: what and how?
15: The future of the information sciences

I should add that we are privileged to have a collection of forewords to the book, all written by internationally famous LIS professionals, and obviously friends of ours.

Other background reading
I am often asked to recommend background reading, or ‘summer reading’. I love making these suggestions as it gives me a chance to enthuse about things I have read in the past, or just come across recently. I enthused about James Gleick’s “ The Information” for about a year before it was published.

My short-list of four for this summer is shown below – although I am always changing my mind according to what comes to my attention. Ours is not a dull subject, nor one that is short of lovely new volumes. I have a lot of books. I think one of the key attractions of LIS for me is that information communication spans each and every subject, so there is usually something tempting, even if you are into cult fanfiction and rarely step away from  Archive of Our Own. The task here is to be brief yet inclusive – although anyone else will give you a different selection. And you are completely free to undertake your own voyage around the catalogues and byways to fit your own intellectual preferences once you get started.

I haven’t included journals, conferences, great bloggers or folks to stalk on twitter – wait until you get the course reading lists for those.

  • Briggs A and Burke P (2009). A Social History of the Media: from Gutenberg to the Internet. 3rd Edition. Polity: Cambridge.

This will get you thinking about how information communication works in society, and its tenacious relationship with publishing.

  • Chowdhury G G et al. (2008). Librarianship: an introduction. Facet: London.

This is the book to start with if you would like to compare our view of LIS with another one. Gobinda Chowdhury is an excellent writer of textbooks and you can add anything of his to your bookshelf with confidence.

  • Floridi L (2010). Information: a very short introduction. OUP: Oxford.

The philosophy of information informs our decisions and work with the field of library and information science. This book is the best introduction to the concept that I have read.

The ‘very short introduction’ series from OUP is addictive and it is likely that you will come away with a small collection. Here is another:

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

If you are nervous about having to understand how a computer works – this will reassure you – and this is more than enough for now. Remember, computers are pervasive. There is nowhere to hide from technology, especially in LIS.

Do you want more? My collection on LibraryThing
There is always more.  If you are joining us in just over a month then you can simply wait for your reading lists and lecture notes, but if you are impatient and greedy for books then you may wish to take a look at my LIS collection on LibraryThing. and

LibraryThing is an application which allows you to create a catalogue for your own personal use, or perhaps for a small business, library or information unit. It is also ‘social’, in that it allows you to connect with like minded souls in a variety of ways; you can share your catalogue with others, you can in turn share theirs, and find out for example, more about a particular work, who has also added it to their collection, how to order a copy, swap a copy, discuss a copy etc. There is plenty of information on the LibraryThing website, so I won’t reproduce it all here, and indeed, although I would never want to live without my personal catalogue, I have to say I probably don’t use as many features as I could.

The link to my profile on LibraryThing above, takes you to a page explaining the background to my collection – i.e. that it contains the LIS books I am familiar with and use. I tag those which I use in class, so if you are in the right frame of mind, you can search for a course code to see what’s coming up … I list the course codes in my profile.

(Limit course-code searches to the comments field if you understand field limiting)

When using the search function, remember to enter terms into the lower box, to search my catalogue, rather than the upper box, which searches the whole LibraryThing universe.

Try also searching for “library-science” or “information-science” (limit to the tag field if you know what this means). This will bring up some relevant books to fill in your free time.

The catalogue is again a personal view of LIS – other documentalists will have a different selection – but many of the books will be found in any good LIS collection.

I started out with the intention of creating a LIS catalogue to accompany the modules which I teach – but then the addiction took hold and I began to add all the other books in my house. This is an ongoing pursuit. If you like book-stalking, you can browse through all my other stuff – but there is no need to if all you want is a masters in library science.