Stewart Paton makes a number of points regarding Institution services to members outside London (NCE, Letters last week).
My colleagues and I recognise the need to provide an information service of value to all members regardless of where they live.
A central library service can be justified in an electronic age as never before, and we have been seeking to develop this as seen in the virtual library which provides online access to all ICE Proceedings papers, www. iceknowledge.com, and the 'Ask Brunel' service in MyICE.
We seek to answer all members' enquiries and despatch material within a working day. In statistical terms only about 10% of library work involves visitors, and many of those are coming in to view material that could not readily be lent or copied.
Charges for library services are broadly in line with those of other engineering institutions. Copyright law entails that a direct contribution should be made to the cost of the service by those receiving it but it is debatable whether £5.00 is sufficient to cover the cost of invoicing and processing payments. A minimum charge of £11.00 has to be made for copies used commercially as a result of recent changes in copyright law.
The refund of postal costs is voluntary and if waived the revenue lost would have to be recovered in some other way.
The reality is information costs money, and knowledge is expensive. We try to provide value for money service to all members.
Mike Chrimes, head librarian, ICE, 1 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA