Understanding Information Systems: What They Do and Why We Need Them

Find on LibraryThing.Find on WorldCat.
ALA Member: 
$ 59.40
Item Number: 
ALA Editions
  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the Author

In a world awash in data, information systems help provide structure and access to information. Since libraries build, manage, and maintain information systems, librarians and LIS students are often propelled onto the front lines of interactions between library users and technology. But what do librarians need to know to best meet their patron's needs? What exactly are information systems and how do they work?

Information expert Ratzan uses plain language, humor, and everyday examples like baseball and arithmetic to make sense of "information systems" (computer hardware, software, databases, the Internet). He also explores their characteristics, uses, abuses, advantages, and shortcomings for your library. Fun exercises and appendices are provided to illustrate key points in the book and measure understanding.

You can be a technophobe and still learn about systems and subsystems to represent, organize, retrieve, network, secure, conceal, measure, and manage information. This expert sourcebook addresses both theoretical and practical issues, and is complete with exercises, examples, terms, and charts that help clarify concepts to make your information system a success.

Part 1: Describing Information

What Is an Information System?
What Is a System?
What Is Information?
Working Definitions of Information
Information Distortion
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 2: Representing Information
The Cumbersome Decimal System
The Simple Binary System
Converting Binary to Decimal and Back Again
The Hexadecimal System
Number Humor
How Did the Romans Deal with Fractions?
Prefix and Postfix Representation
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 3: Organizing Information
Fundamental Information Structures
Who Wants Short Sorts?
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 4: Retrieving Information
The Nature of Information Retrieval
Boolean and Beyond
Vector Methods (Simplified)
Fuzzy Information Retrieval
Inverted Files
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 5: Networking Information
Network Topologies
Bridges, Switches, Routers, and Gateways

Part 6: Securing Information
Physical, Data, Server, Backup, and Network Security
First Line of Defense: The Lowly Password
Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Logic Bombs, and Other Nasties
A Dangerous Script
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 7: Concealing Information
Codes and Ciphers
Key Issues
The Unbreakable One-Time Pad
Symmetric (One-Key) Cryptography
Asymmetric (Two-Key) Cryptography
The Secret History of Public Key Cryptography
Other Cryptographic Systems
Steganography: Hiding Information in Plain Sight
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 8: Measuring Information
Bibliometrics: Measuring the Printed Word
Sabermetrics: Measuring Baseball Information
Web Metrics
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 9: Counting Information
Counting Tools
Counting Methods
Counting Things
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 10: Numbering Information
Prime Cuts
The Intriguing Nature of Pi
Pascal's Triangle
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 11: Managing Information
Characteristics of a Successful Information System
Building a Successful Information System
Why Things Go Wrong
Costs and Risks

Part 12: The Computer as an Information System
How Big Is an Exabyte?
Data Compression: Reducing Redundancy
Information Issues in the Background
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 13: The Internet as an Information System
Basics of Internet Protocol Addressing
Addressing Schemes
The Internet Metaphor Project
Is Internet Access a Privilege or a Right?
Other Internet Issues
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 14: Music as an Information System
The Nature of Music and Sound
Tuning Information Systems
How Many Tones Belong in a Scale?
Making Cents of It All
Melody Machines
Fundamentals of Music Information Retrieval
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 15: Interpreting Information: Numbers as Meanings
The Numerology of 666
Exercises and Research Questions

Part 16: Counterintuitive Information
Not Quite Paradoxes
The Trouble with Infinity
Exercises and Research Questions

Which Librarian Has the Server?
The Square Root of Two Is Irrational
Who's on First?

Answers to Selected Exercises



Lee Ratzan

Lee Ratzan earned his Ph.D from the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS) of Rutgers University. He is a system analyst at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and was formerly at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Laboratory and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He has taught the Information Systems/Library Technology class for the MLS program at SCILS over many years and has presented over a hundred Internet related training sessions to librarians as part of the SCILS Professional Development program. He was a columnist for Byte Magazine, the Newark Star Ledger, the Wilson Library Bulletin ("The Internet Cafe") and has written articles for Information Research, The Unabashed Librarian, The Nation, The Humanist, Chance,Unix Review, Windows NT Systems and Linux Journal. His other activities include teaching Beginner Swimming for adults for the American Red Cross, writing computer mysteries and jogging with classical music. He has two wonderful children, Jill and Aaron.