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Standards Sessions at SLA, Nashville, June 2004

:: At the 2004 SLA Conference in Nashville, I found most of my conference time taken up with Engineering Division board meetings, vendor lunch and breakfast meetings. As the Standards Chair of the Engineering Division and Aerospace Section, I was also responsible for coordinating and moderating two panels on standards.

Standards Roundtable: One of the two panels I moderated was the annual Standards Roundtable, which was a qualified success. Much hard work, and assistance provided by Cheryl Hansen throughout the year, paid good dividends, as eight speakers provided the latest news and information from their standards development organizations and documents/standards delivery companies. Participants included ANSI, ASCE, ASTM, Document Center, IEEE, ILI Infodisk, IHS Global, and Techstreet. With a good crowd on hand, many of the speakers were asked questions following the presentations.

Historical and Obsolete Standards: The other panel I moderated was on Historical and Obsolete Standards. The speakers were Claudia Bach of Document Center, and Jean Z Piety, Science and Technology Department of Cleveland Public Library.

Claudia began her presentation, entitled “The Standards Detective: The Search for ASA-A14.1 1948”, by advising that it is important to understand the mind of the engineer, in order to recreate “the scene of the crime”. The first clue is that the document is a result of a group, and groups can change their names and/or their mission, merge or disband. The second clue: a standard is written using a process, as follows: the idea, the committee, public review, association ballot, publication, and periodic review. The third clue returns us to the originators, in that engineers will have written the standard. As such, the numbers on the standard will have meanings.

One problem is that many repositories will not keep their old standards. Why use out-of-date information? The problem is, many engineers need access to the old standards, especially when working on projects in which they are required to know what standards were used at the time of construction. An example would be building or bridge rehabilitation.

The fourth clue is making use of “the usual suspects”. If you have a network established of “close relatives” (contractors, customers, and friends), “snitches” (fellow librarians and information specialists, committee members), and “the neighbourhood” (libraries and other repositories), maximize your use of it when necessary.

Jean Piety told the audience that when looking for historical or obsolete standards, it is necessary to enjoy “sleuthing”. When searching for old standards, remember other terms that might describe the document, such as code, regulation, specification, bulletin. The status of the standard is critical. Has it been withdrawn or declared inactive? Jean reminded us that standards with the designation “M” refer to the metric version. Standards with an “R” designation indicate that the standard has been reaffirmed, not revised. She cited conflict with other standards as one of many reasons a standard may be withdrawn.

Old standards are of interest to many different groups of users, including lawyers, expert witnesses, engineers, scrap dealers, students, instructors, designers, among others. Finally, she advised that format may also be a problem. Was or is the standard available as fiche, paper, CD, microfilm, or even online?

The two excellent presentations were followed with a short question and answer period. Thank you to Claudia and Jean for their hard work on behalf of all librarians interested in tracking down hard-to-find standards.

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