I've just started the CILIP Chartership process and one of my aims is to explore the information world beyond academic libraries. I have some visits lined up over the next few months but I began last week with a visit to the library at TWI. TWI is, in its own words:
a global leader in technology engineering providing research and consultancy to its members
My tour began with an introduction to the information services section at TWI. Linda Dumper, the manager of the section, talked to me about one of her main responsibilities - copyright. The only thing that I really know about copyright is how much photocopying of material students are limited to so it was interesting to find out about another side of the issue. The research that happens at TWI obviously produces a wealth of information in the form of reports and papers. The information services section needs to make sure that not only do the authors of these reports respect the copyright of others but that copyright can be retained for any staff papers submitted to conferences or journals. Retaining the copyright for its research means that TWI can continue to provide the best service to its members. Linda also provides copyright training for staff and members, ensuring that the correct practises are followed.
Joanne Cooper and Catherine Foley gave me a tour of the library. Open to staff, members of the organisation and the public, the library provides the traditional information services that I am used to. In addition the library provides a document delivery service to its users, sending out copies of journal articles and other information. Engineering standards are an important part of the service offering of the library and they maintain an up to date selection for easy staff access. Materials are classified using an in-house system, much the same as my workplace uses. Items are classified by subject and then chronologically within that subject meaning that staff develop a thorough working knowledge of the collection and the subject. The library also maintains an industry news service with different staff taking responsibility for particular subject areas within engineering. As well as providing a valuable service to users this enables staff to develop a specialist knowledge of an area. This is a definite contrast to my work as a cataloguer which means that I have to know a little something about a lot rather than a lot about a specialised area.
Lee Pretlove talked to me about archives and records management. The research that takes place at TWI obviously produces a wealth of documents which need to be stored and and increasingly this is done electronically. There is an overlap between the records management process and traditional library services, which means that colleagues get to collaborate. Lee also talked about the need to establish a retention schedule for documents. Some of the research conducted at TWI is funded by grants which stipulate that the resulting reports have to be kept for a set period, but it is important to have a clearly defined retention policy for all documents. Good records management makes it possible to supply documents to users in a timely manner which reflects well on the information service. This process is also useful for staff who need to know where to find documents quickly and easily. To be a cataloguer I think you need to have quite an organised way of thinking so all this discussion of records management struck a chord with me!
Maggie Larbey gave me a tour of the MI-21 database of welding consumables, an important service provided by the information department. As well as being an excellent source of advice on which materials to use during the welding process, the database takes information previously only available in hard copy and creates a fully searchable electronic interface. Users can search by type and property in order to find the most suitable consumable for their need. The database is keyword searchable and provides links to further information. One of the things that I liked most about the database was that it covered both old and new materials. This is especially useful if repairing an old structure where older materials are hard to come by since the database can recommend equivalent modern products. The database also allows users to build comparison tables for inclusion in reports, a very useful feature which must save a lot of time.
Lastly, Margaret Connell showed me the Weldasearch bibliographic database. This database contains abstracts of over two hundred thousand articles of relevance to TWI users, with approximately four hundred added every month. The team, comprised of internal employees and external abstractors, search journals and the web in order to find items of interest. Abstracts are produced from either the article itself or an existing abstract and are edited to ensure consistency. Keywords are then indexed using the International Institute of Welding thesaurus. The database is updated once a month with a range of items which appeal to different segments of the user population and users can set up alerts to receive updates on areas that are of interest to them. This is something which I would I like to be involved in if I worked in a more specialised library but would be impossible with the range of materials my workplace receives under legal deposit.
It was fascinating to see a specialised library in action and my visit has given me a new appreciation of the varied range of tasks that they carry out. At the same time I can see similarities with the way that we operate in an academic library - we are both focused on the user and try to present a variety of information in easily digestible formats. Of course, I would hope that the above is true of all library services!
Many thanks to the staff at TWI Information Services for an informative and interesting visit.