January 15, 2007

Using the Engineering Literature, Bonnie Osif, ed - A Review

.: Happy New Year everyone! I am pleased to report on a very positive review for the book, Using the Engineering Literature, edited with love and care by the amazing Bonnie Osif at Penn State. (Having a chapter in the book myself has nothing to do with my enthusiasm!) :-)

The review by Roddy MacLeod appears in the Internet Resources Newsletter, n146, December 2006. Roddy writes:

As Bonnie Osif, the editor of this impressive work, points out, quality information retrieval skills are often lacking in the engineering profession. The publication of Using the engineering literature will hopefully go some way to rectifying this situation, and will help those within, and without, the profession to discover and exploit the many information tools that exist – some of which are at present unfortunately underused.

This book is targeted at practicing engineers, engineering librarians and library school students. It consists of twenty chapters, written mostly, but not exclusively, by engineering librarians in North America, and amounts to 614 pages, including an excellent 65-page index. Each chapter covers a sub-discipline within engineering, apart from the first two (which provide an Introduction by the editor, and a chapter covering general engineering resources). The remaining chapters consist of an introduction to the sub-disciplines in question (Aeronautical and aerospace engineering, Agricultural and food engineering, Architectural engineering, Bioengineering, etc) and a full analysis of the most important information resources by format.

The basics are covered very well. There are hints on searching library catalogues (relevant Library of Congress subject headings are suggested). The main abstracting and indexing services are listed and described, as are subject specific databases, bibliographies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias, handbooks, textbooks, journals, websites, search engines and portals, conference proceedings, reports, gray literature, professional associations, data compilations, standards and yearbooks.

A lot of work has gone into compiling this book, and the resulty is an extremely useful reference work which should be purchased by all libraries serving engineers of any kind.

© 2006 Heriot-Watt University

My thanks to Roddy on behalf of Bonnie, my chapter co-authors and myself for this very positive review. Roddy writes, "A lot of work has gone into compiling this book", and having experienced this first hand, I can tell you he knows of which he writes. I put more work into my chapter (on petroleum engineering and refining) than on anything else I have ever written. It was well worth the effort, however, to be able to give something back to the world of engineering libraries.

The book is also mentioned briefly in ASCE News, v31 n9 September 2006. The review suggests that "It is hoped that this publication will guide all ASCE members, whether students or practicing engineers, to resources that will enhance their work and studies."

December 5, 2005

The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia - Brief Review

.: The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia, is an ambitious three-volume set published by ABC-CLIO. This encyclopedia is a "major expansion of the RUSA-award winning predecessor", History of the Internet: a Chronology, 1843 to the Present, by Christos J.P. Moschovitis, Hilary Poole, Tami Schuyler, and Theresa M. Senft. The 312 page title was one of the ALA's Reference and User Services Association's 2000 Outstanding Reference Sources. Rather than increase the size of the previous single volume, the editors and authors chose to separate the issues, history, and biography components into their own volumes for the 2005 edition.

Volume I: Biographies, was written by Laura Lambert, and contains 41 entries on 44 personalities critical to the development of the internet. Those chosen for inclusion are not limited to pioneers associated with technological developments only: for example, Lambert includes biographies of science fiction writers William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, lawyer and professor Lawrence Lessig, and of course, Marshall McLuhan. Other entries include noted hackers John T. Draper (Cap'n Crunch) and Kevin Mitnick, Napster founder Shawn Fanning, and the usual suspects: Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreesen, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, et al. Each entry is from 4-7 pages, and includes suggestions for further readings, works by the subject if available, books and articles about the subject, and related websites.

Volume II: Issues, was written by Chris Woodford, and has 35 entries on a wide range of topics, including: Activism and the Internet, Cookies, Cyberterrorism, Data Mining, Digital Libraries, E-books, Education and the Internet, Hackers, Internet Broadcasting, Online Communities, Open Source, P2P Networks, Spam, and Wireless Internet. At 283 pages, this is the largest of the three volumes, with entries between six and ten pages in length. For each entry, Woodford provides background, a brief history, trends, and controversies and responses. Sidebars include additional information. For example, the E-books entry includes sidebars on E-ink and SmartPaper, and E-book Horror Stories. Blogs did not warrant their own entry, but instead are included in the section, Journalism and the Internet. I was surprised that social software components such as instant messaging, social bookmarking and tagging, wikis, photo sharing, online interest groups, social networking, user forums, RSS, and even search engines such as Google and Yahoo, receive little coverage in this volume.

Continue reading "The Internet: A Historical Encyclopedia - Brief Review" »

September 6, 2005

E-STREAMS Needs Book Reviewers

:: From an e-mail posted to COLLDV-L:

I am looking for reviewers with expertise in science, engineering, medicine, or agriculture to review monographs for E-STREAMS: Electronic Reviews of Science & Technology. Publishers are anxious to have their books reviewed in E-STREAMS At the present time, I have over 600 books waiting to be reviewed.

Please contact me for further information if you are not already familiar with E-STREAMS. The more reviewers, the better. I am able to handle as many as are interested. E-STREAMS is a collaborative venture between H. Robert Malinowsky, University of Illinois at Chicago, and YBP Library Services.

H. Robert Malinowsky
Professor and Manager of Collections Development
University of Illinois at Chicago Library
hrm AT uic DOT edu

August 29, 2005

Brief Review: Information Sources in Engineering - 4th Ed, Edited by Roderick A MacLeod and Jim Corlett

:: The fourth edition of Information Sources in Engineering1, published in 2005 by Saur, and edited by Roddy MacLeod and Jim Corlett, has finally arrived on my desk. It is a massive work at 683 pages, and is part of the series, Guides to Information Sources.

The third edition of this title, edited by KW Mildren and PJ Hicks, appeared in 1996, and was divided into three sections, totalling 36 chapters: primary information sources (reports, standards, patents and patent information, journals, conferences and theses, and product information), secondary information sources (abstracts, indexes, bibliographies and reviews, electronic sources, and standard reference sources), and 27 chapters on specialized subject fields such as stress analysis, robotics and automated manufacturing, and thermodynamics and thermal systems. The fourth edition of Information Sources in Engineering expands somewhat on the primary and secondary information sources, while condensing the specialized subject fields of engineering to the more traditional disciplines such as chemical, civil, environmental, materials, mechanical, and so on.

The book opens with a chapter on engineers and their information needs. Martin Ward provides a useful introduction to engineers, covering their role in society, themes and aspects common to engineerings, and comparisons with scientists. He addresses theory and practice, and gives extensive coverage to the engineering knowledge base, examining its contents and the engineers' use of knowledge resources. I was surprised to find no references to the Tenopir and King book, Communication Patterns of Engineers2, published in December 2003, or to Thomas Pinelli's article, "Distinguishing Engineers from Scientists - The Case for an Engineering Knowledge Community"3, which appeared in the Vol. 21, No 3/4 2001 issue of Science and Technology Libraries. Perhaps neither was available before the chapter was completed. Regardless, no mention of either article does not detract from Ward's excellent introduction.

The twelve chapters that follow discuss in detail different categories of primary and secondary engineering information sources, including: journals and e-journals, reports, theses and research in progress, conferences, patents, standards, product information, electronic full-text sources, abstracts and indexes, bibliographies and reviews, internet resources, reference sources, and professional societies. Such an approach exposes the reader to the wide variety of categories and formats covering primary and secondary engineering literature.

The final fourteen chapters cover the main subject areas of engineering: aerospace and defence, bioengineering/biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical/electronic/computer, engineering design, environmental, manufacturing, materials, mechanical, mining and mineral process, nanotechnology, occupational safety and health, and petroleum and offshore engineering. The most extensive subject coverage is provided in the chapters on aerospace and defence (43 pages), civil (39 pages), materials (45 pages), and mechanical (54 pages long.) These and most other chapters include information on specific resources such as handbooks and manuals, indexes and abstracts, standards, directories, monographs, important journal and serial publications, statistical information, etc.

The length, style and content of each category and subject chapter varies. This should not surprise the reader, as the following is stated in the preface:

As with previous editions, contributions have not been subjected to restrictive editing, and the individual style of contributors have thereby been retained.
As a result, chapters do not comform to a editorial template or standard layout, which some readers may find a wee bit frustrating at times. For example, some chapters are primarily lists of resources, others mix discussion and commentary together with resource lists, and others feature mostly commentary.

One chapter warranting further mention is the one on materials engineering. The first 17 pages of this chapter cover in great detail the processes used by engineers to find material data. The authors, both engineers, explain that material data needs evolve in two ways. At the start of a project, the engineer needs "low-precision data for all materials and processes", whereas near the end, the need shifts to accurate, precise data for one or a small number of materials, where a richness of detail is needed. The authors discuss material data needs for design, screening and ranking for data structure and sources, supporting information for data structure and sources, and ways of checking and estimating data. The data sources for materials and processes are listed in the appendix, an extensive 26-page bibliography, listing titles in hard-copy, database, and Internet formats. Subject coverage includes pure metals, ferrous and non-ferrous, ceramics and glasses, composite materials, woods and wood-based composites, and natural fibres and other materials.

Information Sources in Engineering, 4th edition, is a worthwhile edition to the reference shelves of any library whose collections and services focus on one or more engineering disciplines.

(NOTE: I must mention that I am a contributor to the forthcoming title, Using the Engineering Literature (edited by Bonnie Osif), having written the chapter on petroleum engineering and refining. No comparisons were drawn between the two titles, which would have been impossible anyway, as I have not seen the other chapters of the book, which is to be published in the near future by Dekker.)

  1. MacLeod, Roderick A, and Jim Corlett, eds. 2005. Information Sources in Engineering. 4th ed. München: KG Saur.
  2. Tenopir, Carol, and Donald W King. 2004. Communication Patterns of Engineers. New York: IEEE Press, Wiley Interscience.
  3. Pinelli, Thomas. 2001. Distinguishing engineers from scientists: the case for an engineering knowledge community. Science and Technology Libraries: 21 (3/4), pp.131-163.
- Randy Reichardt

March 24, 2005

Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School - Comment By Carl Selinger (Author)

:: Recently I posted a short review of Carl Selinger's new book, "Stuff You Don't Learn In Engineering School: Skills For Success In The Real World." Carl read the review, and submitted a timely comment regarding the importance of information and research skills:

As the author of "Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School," thanks for the great review! Also thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt ... I think that information and research skills -- while of course critically important -- are not really "soft" skills like the others covered. But we are on the same page: I'm now covering other skill areas not in the book in continuing articles in IEEE Spectrum, and the 1/05 web-only article on "Drowning in Data" deals with information overload & keeping up ... and emphasizes the importance of staying current in your field, and gives a few tips on researching issues.
I thank Carl for the response, and very much appreciate that he will be covering skills such as research and information gathering in his forthcoming IEEE Spectrum columns. Well done!

March 14, 2005

E-STREAMS v8 n2 February 2005

:: The latest issue of E-STREAMS: Electronic reviews of Science & Technology References covering Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Science , is available in pdf and html formats.

March 3, 2005

Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School

:: Carl Selinger, an independent consultant in various industries including aviation and transportation, has written a timely book for engineering students called Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School: Skills For Success in the Real World 1. He is also a contributing editor to IEEE Spectrum, writing the career strategy column for the magazine. Twelve of his career strategy columns were subtitled with the same title as his book, as part of a professional development series for younger engineers.

Stuff You Don't Learn In Engineering School covers a lot of ground for a 178-page book, and is designed to help the new graduate prepare for life in the corporate engineering world. Its purpose is to help new engineers learn the important "soft skills" they will need to succeed and grow in the workplace and beyond. Topics covered include writing, speaking and listening, making decisions, getting feedback, setting priorities, being effective in meetings, understanding yourself and others, working in teams, learning to negotiate, being creative, workplace ethics, developing leadership skills, adapting to the workplace, coping with stress, and having fun.

What's missing, of course, is research and information gathering skills. Are such skills not critical to the success of the new engineer, or simply not considered "soft skills"? Words like "library", "database, and "research" do not appear in the index. Mr Selinger holds two engineering degrees, and has extensive college teaching experience, and as such, must be aware of the major research tools of the engineering profession. I wonder why he chose to exclude this important component of the engineer's professional career from his book? Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School is peppered throughout with quotations from engineers Mr Selinger has met through his seminar series. The first quotation reads:

What you don't know will hurt you and hold you back. - Consulting engineering at Cooper Union Seminar
My question to that engineer is: would "what you don't know" include a lack of knowledge and awareness of major engineering information and research resources? Ron Rodrigues, in his article, "Industry Expectations of the New Engineer" (requires subscription to view), lists numerous reasons why developing strong research skills and expertise in using online databases would help the engineering working in industry 2. These include finding licensable technologies, checking to see if an experiment has been done already, identifying research frontiers, locating and creating patents and other intellectual property, developing new products or upgrading existing ones, improving processes, solving equipment-failure problems using root cause analysis, and many more.

Perhaps Mr Selinger does not consider research and information gathering skills to be "soft", and I want to give him the benefit of the doubt until informed otherwise. However, new engineers need to be aware of the information resources that serve their profession, and how to use them. In his 2001 article, Mr Rodrigues notes that "Engineering literature is growing exponentially and beginning to move more quickly towards a digital future." In 2005, this is a reality, as publishers are making their indexes and abstracts, for decades available only in print, now available online back to Year 1 of publication. These include Compendex, Inspec, SciFinder Scholar (Chemical Abstracts), NTIS, and many others.

If and when Mr Selinger decides to publish a second edition of his very timely and useful book, I hope he decide to include a chapter on research and information gathering skills. Meanwhile, do consider adding this title to your engineering collection. Since first becoming aware of it, I have mentioned the book in every information resources session I teach in mechanical, chemical and materials engineering.

1. Selinger, Carl. 2004. Stuff You Don't Learn in Engineering School. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press; Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Interscience.

2. Rodrigues, Ron. 2001. "Industry expectations of the new engineer." Science & Technology Libraries 19(3/4): 179-188.

January 18, 2005


:: Nuts. I've missed mention of the last two or three issues of E-Streams, the YBP-sponsored online review journal of new reference works in engineering, science, agriculture and medicine. My bad. For users of GOBI 2, YBP has added an ISBN link from E-STREAMS entries to the GOBI 2 login page. A Baker & Taylor link is also provided.

October 5, 2004


:: The v7 n9, September 2004 issue of E-STREAMS is available, in HTML and PDF formats.

September 1, 2004

E-Streams Aug 2004 Issue Now Available

:: E-STREAMS provides "Electronic reviews of Science & Technology References covering Engineering, Agriculture, Medicine and Science", and is a collaborative venture between H Robert Malinowsky of U Illinois Chicago, and YBP Library Services. The latest issue, v7 n8 August 2004, is available for viewing, in HTML or PDF format.