One of the main uses of the ICE web pages is to access the library and publications database. The availability of this facility has been at best intermittent, and for the publication database, nonexistent since the summer.
The screen prints a notice 'enhanced service will be online by the end of October'.
One must ask why the service provided up to the summer was withdrawn without something satisfactory being provided in its place?
We naturally encourage students to become members and a key part of this enticement, particularly at this time of year when assignments, dissertations and projects are uppermost in their minds, is access to technical information.
The keyword search of the Proceedings had become the first port of call for students at all levels of study. Visual presentation of lecture material through web links is now commonplace and is replacing videos - a non-availability notice is not well received by students or staff.
By comparison, I have never experienced lack of access to the ASCE publications database. Maybe the ICE's co-operation agreement will identify areas where improvements in service to ICE members should be made.
John Manning (F), University of Greenwich email@example.com
ICE replies: ICE was forced to withdraw the Proceedings database facility because some serious security implications for ICE's library databases came to light.
A new and much enhanced web-based service is in development and should be launched by the end of the year. This new system will provide access to the papers themselves, as well as abstracts. In the meantime, the ICE library is continuing to respond to requests for information by phone, fax and email.
ICE takes a serious view of problems with the library online catalogue, but these have proved difficult to resolve because they are intermittent problems. We have taken steps to resolve the situation, and are confident that the online catalogue is now much more robust. We were understandably reluctant to withdraw the service temporarily and deprive members of its benefits altogether.
It is precisely with Professor Manning's aims in view that ICE and TTL are preparing to dedicate significant time and investment to expanding and enhancing online services to members in 2001 and beyond.
The co-operation agreement with ASCE is just one aspect of the Institution's commitment to using its expertise and information resources to build a bigger and better 'digital community' of civil engineers.
Hugh Ferguson, managing director, Thomas Telford Ltd, One Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA