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ICE’s library looks into the future of knowledge transfer

The start of 2009 provides an opportunity to reflect on my department’s [ICE’s Knowledge Transfer] achievements in 2008, and its desires for the future.

Knowledge transfer today is increasingly concerned with the e-delivery of information. A century ago my predecessors would concentrate on the selection of printed material, operating in the knowledge there was no other alternative source.

Today, while printed material remains important as the enduring archive of scientific and technical knowledge, it is only one of many media for the storage and dissemination of information. We now have to look at audiovisual material – digital images, online presentations, website downloads – it is a more challenging environment than before.

The ICE library has been able to purchase e-access to most of the academic journal titles it holds, right back to their commencement of publication. The issue of copyright has precluded us so far from making them available directly to members via the website, but this will be in the next phase of digitisation when current financial constraints are relaxed.

We have, however, made a number of digital offerings available this year: The McGraw-Hill Digital Engineering Library, EBSCO’s Environmental files and most recently some of Taylor and Francis’ e-books. All will be available via the library page.

The library catalogue in its new form has been available for over a year and has been a great success, with many members ordering and renewing their books online. Over 10,000 members have used the service in the last year. While members continue to telephone and visit the library, email enquiries are now the preferred method of contact, and most of our replies are now electronic as so many of our resources are now digital.

Digitisation of our audio-visual resources is progressing, and we are now awaiting the digitisation of 1,000 slides from the 35mm collection, which we plan to make available in the next two months. While digital librarianship represents the future, the ICE’s role as a repository of the best in civil engineering knowledge continues to be significant.

The library’s archivist last year had her busiest year ever in terms of enquiries and visitors. We have also contributed to the launch exhibition at HMS Belfast and the forthcoming exhibition at Tower Bridge.

The 60th birthday of Géotechnique provided an opportunity to identify gaps in our collections and fill these, most recently with De Kozony’s 1820s’ research into earth pressure, and Carl Friedrich von Wiebeking’s account of suspension bridges of 1832. Wiebeking had obtained information from Thomas Telford and offered him a copy of his books, but when Telford collected them from the London supplier the key section had not yet been published.

Other acquisitions have already been featured in NCE. Two long term publication projects saw milestones achieved in 2008. The first was The Motorway Achievement series, supported by the Motorway Archive Trust, which was completed in 2008, with the associated regional volumes to be completed in 2009.

The trust has had considerable success as well in identifying and saving archives related to the construction of motorways, some of which are on display in One Great George Street. The second project to reach a milestone is The Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers. It saw its second volume published (1830- 1890) and work has commenced on the third.

Thomas Telford is planning to make content available electronically this year. Knowledge provision to ICE members is our key activity, and I would be delighted to hear suggestions for service improvements moving forward.

  • Contact information for the ICE’s library can be found at: knowledge_library with your ICE membership ID and password

  • Mike Chrimes is the ICE ‘s head of Knowledge Transfer

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