How do librarians find titles to order for the library? Requests from students, staff, faculty, and others are carefully considered. Sometimes, we purchase prepackaged collections of books; this is particularly true with ebooks. Our online ordering system provides us with lists of relevant titles to select from. Major journals in many disciplines have a regular section of book reviews that can be very helpful, as can subject-oriented review databases like PsycCritiques for Psychology. But one of the best selection resources for librarians is Choice, a monthly review journal published by the American Library Association. The reviews are short and pithy, often only a paragraph long, but they cover a broad range of academic subjects. Choice reviews not only books, but also relevant websites and databases. You can find Choice from the Library’s home page by clicking on Databases, then clicking on C, and then clicking on Choice Reviews Online. You can browse the current issue, or search many thousands of reviews going as far back as 1988.
So what good is Choice for someone who isn’t a librarian? Well, you might like to see if there’s a review for a book you’re reading. If you’re interested in a particular subject – the Cultural Revolution, for instance – you might want to find what other books on the subject have been recommended over the years, such as Andreas’ Rise of the Red Engineers. And one thing I use it for myself is holiday and birthday shopping: for instance, I know someone very interested in submarines, and it’s a great help to be able to enter ‘submarines’ in Choice and get a nice set of reviews to choose from. (By the way, Choice Reviews Online is a database where phrases like “Cultural Revolution” really must be placed within quotation marks to avoid getting everything that happens to have either cultural or revolution in it.)
Another review resource is Library Journal, although it’s not quite as completely review-focused as Choice. But Library Journal covers some popular public library subjects that Choice doesn’t, such as romance, mysteries, cookbooks, do-it-yourself titles, audiobooks, and videos. Library Journal is not a dedicated database in itself like Choice is, but you can find it in Academic Search Premier. On the Library’s home page, click on Databases and then click on A, and then click on Academic Search Premier. When the database opens up, there will be a list of Search Options beneath the search boxes, one of which is Publication; type Library Journal in that box to limit your searches to that particular journal. Then to find reviews, enter whatever terms you like in the search boxes, such as a genre like romance, or an author like Louise Penny, or a subject like – yes – submarines!
If you’d like to browse print issues, both titles are in our Journal Collection (although our Choice subscription was stopped in 2010 in favor of the online version). Both Choice and Library Journal are worth a look, no matter which format you prefer.