Ausgewählte Bibliographien und andere Nachschlagewerke. 1974-1993

WESS Newsletter

Vol. 19, No. 2 (Spring, 1996)

Review by Roger Brisson

Schreiber, Klaus. Ausgewählte Bibliographien und andere Nachschlagewerke. 1974-1993. Generalregister zur gleichnamigen Rubrik in der Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie. Bearbeitet von Sabine Krauch und Klaus Schreiber. (ZfBB Sonderheft 61) Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1995. 344 p., 128 DM.

For 20 years Klaus Schreiber edited a section of the German library journal Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen and Bibliographie (ZfBB), devoted to a selection of reviews of reference works deemed of particular noteworthiness for librarians. This section became known by its heading in the ZfBB, “Ausgewählte Bibliographien and andere Nachschlagewerke,” or ABUN. Though it began as an experiment (it was modeled loosely on the ‘Selected Reference Books’ in College & Research Libraries), the value of these reviews was quickly recognized, and they went on to become an established part of the ZfBB. As the reviews began to accumulate librarians found it increasingly difficult to search for them effectively. Although they were included in the annual index for the ZfBB, Schreiber and the ZfBB’s editors were aware that a systematic listing of these reviews would enhance their accessibility and hence their continuing usefulness. A bibliography of all the reviews that appeared in the pages of the ZfBB since 1974 was planned in the late 70s, but it took much longer than many would have liked before finally appearing in print. This bibliography was first published by Klostermann in 1990 as an issue of the ZfBB’s Sonderheft monographic series1Schreiber, Klaus. Ausgewählte Bibliographien und andere Nachschlagewerk, 1974-1989, Generalregister zur gleichnamigen Rubrik in der Zeitschrift fur Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie. Bearbeitet von Sabine Krauch und Klaus Schreiber. Frankfurt am Main, Klostermann, 1990. vi, 196 p. (ZfBB Sonderheft 51)., and the work reviewed here is an updated revision incorporating the reviews up to 1993.

One may rightfully ask why, if it took sixteen years to publish the first edition, Schreiber would bring out a second edition after accumulating only four more years of reviews. Over the years Schreiber realized that the idea of regularly appearing reviews of library reference materials was of great value to librarians responsible for deciding on purchases that were often expensive and of a highly specialized nature. Finding the restrictions imposed by publishing the reviews as part of a scholarly journal too confining, he finally, in 1993, arranged for the publication of his own Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken (IFB) under the auspices of the Deutsche Bibliotheksinstitut.2Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken. Berlin: Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut, 1993- . Quarterly. This journal was reviewed by Stephen Lehmann in the fall 1994 issue of the WESS Newsletter (Vol. 18, No. 1). This quarterly journal followed the same editorial practices, format, and scope of the ZfBB reviews, except, of course, in the length and number of reviews. It was, thus, a logical consequence that Schreiber update the 1990 publication of the bibliography to include a listing of the entire run of reviews that have appeared in the ZfBB. This would in essence produce a closed bibliography, and hence an excellent working tool for finding the valuable reviews that Schreiber edited and in large part wrote himself for the ZfBB (It should be noted here that reviews still appear in the ZfBB, only now without any involvement by Schreiber).

While adding only four years of additional material, the revised edition is significantly larger than its predecessor. The first edition included a listing of some 900 reviewed titles in 196 pages. The later edition, greatly expanded to 344 pages, covers all the 1740 reviews for the some 1400 works reviewed by Schreiber in the ZfBB. The entries are alphabetically listed, and they include all the standard bibliographic information one would expect: author or editor, title, publishing date and other publishing information, number of pages, size, ISBN, and price. The volume, issue, date and page number of the ZfBB issue it appeared in is, of course, also included. Each entry includes two identification numbers: one is the number of its appearance in this index, and the other is a special database identification number (for use in the future if and when the reviews become available in machine-readable form). There is an extensive cross-referencing apparatus in the main bibliographic listing: acronyms, authors, editors, even popularly known names are cross-referenced to the formal title of the works, which is the primary point of access. A well-developed, separate subject index can be found at the end of the bibliography. Some confusion may arise, however, since this subject index is maintained independently from the reviews found in the ZfBB. Schreiber somewhat cryptically notes in the introduction that a few IFB reviews slipped into this bibliography, apparently because of the specific computing environment in which the files of his work are maintained. This has also led to the occasional `blind reference’ in the subject index, which in reality is a reference to a review that appeared in a later IFB review. Once aware of this minor problem, one will quickly discover that the finding apparatus is eminently useful for identifying a needed review.

The reviews found in ABUN under Schreiber’s editorship are of great value to North American librarians. While the reviews themselves are in German, the scope of the material reviewed is very broad and encompasses virtually all subjects. Most of the material reviewed is in the European languages, with a predominance of German, English, French, and Italian titles. Perhaps the most important criteria limiting selection are those circumscribed by the ZfBB’s readership itself: Schreiber systematically sought out materials that he believed would be of particular interest as reference tools for middle European academic librarians. A significant number of the titles reviewed are in the English language, and a great many are from North American publishers. As concisely written critical assessments (though many have criticized the preponderance of obscure acronyms), the reviews can be regarded as exemplary representatives of the genre. From the beginning they were intended to provide real guidance to librarians in evaluating reference publications, so they never became the polite, superficial glosses that characterize the reviews found in so many other journals. After a general bibliographic description of a work, reviews typically assess critically their value and usefulness. In following their purpose as a selection tool, the reviews developed an internal cross-referencing apparatus, where comparisons and accompanying citations were made with other similar material reviewed elsewhere in ABUN. This allows the reader to readily find reviews of material serving similar purposes. As the reviews cover material published as far back as the early 70s, many of them deal with material that is long out of print. The bibliography does not update either the availability or the current price of the works reviewed, and this does limit the value of the bibliography to some degree. The work is nonetheless of great value. While the primary interest in using ABUN for North American librarians would be for assessing the value of publications relating to Europe, the insightful, critical analyses of North American publications can also be very useful in assessing the value of such materials.

As many members of WESS now know, the reviews found in Schreiber’s Informationsmittel für Bibliotheken can now be accessed electronically on the World Wide Web. In a cooperative arrangement with Herr Schreiber, WESS is sponsoring and maintaining the corresponding English abstracts of the IFB reviews which are now available via its new server. For those who have come to appreciate either the Web-based German IFB reviews, or their corresponding English abstracts on WESSWeb, the newest edition of the index to the ZfBB reviews can be considered an excellent supplement to the ongoing work by Schreiber and the editors who have been assisting him. In this it provides an excellent means of gaining effective access to the earlier reviews of the ZfBB and, as a closed bibliography, it should be considered a valuable working tool not just for librarians involved in European studies, but for anyone responsible for selecting reference materials.