June 22, 2005

Standards Roundtable at SLA Toronto Conference

:: On June 6, 2005, I moderated the annual Standards Roundtable session at the SLA Conference in Toronto. Despite having a room that was half the size requested, and one in which the convention centre staff actually put roundtables instead of rows of chairs, the session was a good one. With twelve speakers, it was a challenge to keep everyone within a 5-7 minute time limit, but all participants did their best to stay within their assigned time, which was appreciated. Feedback from the session was received, and included suggestions for improving the session for 2006.

Keith Martin of NIST was one of the participants, and he provided the following summary of the standards roundtable:

The Standards Roundtable met with a standing room only crowd. Twelve speakers representing the U.S. Government, Canadian industry, a UN agency, standards developers and standards vendors presented, followed by a vigorous question and answer period. Selected highlights from each speaker are presented here:
  • A representative from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Research Library discussed the standards and standard reference data available for free from NIST.
  • The Canadian Standards Association discussed their work with academic institutions to provide students access to standards and codes.
  • The Standards Council of Canada described itself as a Canadian equivalent of ANSI, with a mission to encourage standards use in Canada. The Council also accredits standards labs, and approves voluntary Canadian standards.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) develops nuclear safety standards, which may be downloaded from their site or purchased from standards vendors.
  • The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) noted that its ACSE 7 standard, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, has recently been updated.
  • The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) would like to hear from its library customers if they would prefer to get ASME standards directly from ASME or through a vendor, and why.
  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is working to offer redlined standards. ASTM International is expanding to cover standards in the areas of homeland security and biotechnology.
  • IEEE will add draft standards to the IEEE Electronic Library and also integrate “smart objects”, such as mathematical equations, into their publications.

  • From the standards vendors, Techstreet was purchased by Thomson, and ILI Infodesk has a new website and offers a 40% discount to academic libraries. IHS will soon offer historical SAE standards.
    Topics raised during the question and answer period covered digital rights management, document management software, and the availability of online taxonomies.
My thanks to Keith for providing his notes from the session.

February 7, 2005

Dialog Divides into Sci-Tech/Intellectual Property and Business/News

:: Today's ITI NewsBreaks has a few items of interest:

Dialog Divides into Sci-Tech/Intellectual Property and Business/News - "Dialog and DataStar will shift to Thomson Scientific & HealthCare. Its general manager will be David Brown, who will report to president and CEO Vin Carraher. The remaining units (NewsRoom, NewsEdge, Profound, LiveNews, and Intelliscope) will stay as part of Thomson Legal & Regulatory. Its general manager will be Ciaran Morton, who will report to president and CEO Steve Buege. The general managers will remain at their present physical locations—Brown in Cary, N.C., and Morton in London. The general manager title seems a bit of a comedown from their previous job titles of senior vice president and executive vice president, but Thomson’s take is that the titles reflect their new “wall-to-wall operating responsibilities.”"

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January 14, 2005

Searching for US Military Standards

:: I received a request from a graduate student in materials engineering, who is looking for a number of reports and standards, including these two MIL-STD's: MIL-STD 202 Method 208, and MIL-STD 883 Method 2003. I did a Google search, and found the weibull site, which provides links to the full-text of military handbooks and standards related to reliability.

Next, I sent an e-mail to the ELDNET-L and SLA-ENG discussion lists, asking for help. The response was amazing, as 33 librarians responded to my request for assistance, proving once again that these two discussion groups rock! :-)

The following sites were indentified as the major sources for military handbooks and standards:

  1. ASSIST Quick Search - "provides direct access to Defense and Federal specifications and standards available in the official DoD repository, the ASSIST database." ASSIST is the Acquisition Streamlining and Standardization Information System. The site stipulates that you must register for free access to the database. However, I did some searches using the Quick Search feature, and obtained documents without any problems.
  2. DODISS: DoD Index of Specs & Standards - via Public STINET (Scientific & Technical Information Network, from the Defense Technical Information Center: provides a fielded search engine, with full-text documents available for downloading. Some specifications and standards cancelled before 1986 may not be available. If you click through the STINET site, check DoD Index of Specs & Standards (DODISS) and uncheck the other databases. The fielded search is the most flexible. (Thanks, Charlotte!)
  3. Index of DSCC Mil Specs & Drawings - Defense Supply Center Columbus: this site provides links to documents managed at the DSCC, including US federal standards, handbooks, military standards and specifications. Also features a search engine.
Other links that direct users to some of the above sites include Online Documents (Specs & Standards on the Web), from the Defense Standardization Program, and the Find a Document page from the Defense Technical Information Center.

November 26, 2004

API and the Technical Data Book - Petroleum Refining - A Standards Rant

These days, among other things, I am writing the book chapter on petroleum engineering and refining, for the forthcoming title, Using the Engineering Literature, to be published by Dekker sometime in 2004. One of the titles I want to include is the Technical Data Book – Petroleum Refining, a major work from the American Petroleum Institute, which is a “critically reviewed compilation of the physical and thermodynamic data and correlations that are of most interest to petroleum refiners for process evaluation and equipment design.” (from the 6th ed, 1997).

I was searching the API catalogue to verify if the 1997 volume is the most recent edition. What I found was this:

Electronic Version of the API Technical Data Book
Improve the overall design and operations in today’s highly complex petroleum refinery process systems with the API Technical Database. Version 1.0 of the API Technical Database replaces the printed format of the popular API Tech Data Book with a modern Windows® interface that is so unique it is patented. This single-screen approach provides access to the latest API physical property estimation methods and the software is critically reviewed and approved by the API Technical Data Committee. Included is a database of property data for nearly 900 components, characterization of petroleum fractions, and petroleum fraction distillation interconversions. Users can quickly determine petroleum fraction physical property data such as critical properties, vapor pressure, density, liquid enthalpy, gas enthalpy, heat of vaporization, liquid heat capacity, gas heat capacity, surface tension, liquid viscosity, gas viscosity, liquid thermal conductivity, gas thermal conductivity, and heat of combustion. Temperature-dependent properties can be tabulated and graphed over any range, and distillation interconversions are displayed graphically. This data can then be exported for use in simulation and engineering software programs.
Contact EPCON International at 281-398-9400
or visit the EPCON website at:
That the API had decided to replace the Technical Data Book – Petroleum Refining, with a database is fundamentally fine with me. What is not clear, however, is whether this database, featuring over 130 API standard methods in pdf format, is being sold only as a product that may be downloaded to one computer. I have requested a demo download from EPCON, which has yet to arrive.

My feeling is that this is (yet) another example of an important standards developing organization (SDO) making a decision that benefits engineers, executives and technicians in industry, while ignoring their subscribers and users at universities and colleges, where future engineers, executives and technicians who will become many of their customers very soon, are being educated and trained. By moving this publication from print to a database that can be downloaded to one computer station, students are left out of the loop, essentially losing access to a valuable resource in engineering design, unless libraries can somehow run it on a local station. In the era of desktop delivery, this doesn't work anymore. Given that the only price I can find for the database is $5,000US/year, libraries would be very hard pressed on two fronts - accessibiity and cost - to justify its purchase.

Continue reading "API and the Technical Data Book - Petroleum Refining - A Standards Rant" »

June 24, 2004

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.

June 17, 2004

Web-Based Subscription Services for Standards - Review

:: Susan Bertoni recently asked a question on SLA-ENG: "has anyone have any experience with using the web based subscription services for standards such as ASME, ASTM, ISO, DIN?" Susan was asked to look into Techstreet. She inquired further: "Anybody using Techstreet or a similar service?"

Here is a summary of the recommendations and comments she received.

USA Information Systems
  • pay per view website
  • Your "sedan" with a few perks
  • order the standard as they need them, offers bookmarking and notes capability so when the staff go to order, they can tell if/when someone else in the firm has already ordered that particular standard.
  • A bit pricey but worth it.
  • Monthly usage reports
  • Used for individual standards when necessary
  • Now using pdf downloading software with a locking feature that doesn't allow any file transfer
  • Use for AWWA and Hydraulic Institute Standards - subscription service that they offer is a little complex but allows us to control who accesses the standards.
  • Happy with Techstreet
  • Have a deposit account with TechStreet but don't use the subscription service preferring to order standards from them on an as needed basis.
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Library
  • Good standard collection and can help get standards that aren't available elsewhere
Boolean Research
  • Milwaukee Information Broker has access to a standards collection at a library near her office. She asks $20/hr plus costs.
  • Have web based subscription for AWS standards. Good service and works well.
  • Uses it for ASME Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code and NFPA with prepaid deposit account.
  • Your "Hot rod" with all the perks but expensive
  • Covers more of the organizations that are of interest to us (GM, Ford, etc.)
  • Have had good luck with IHS
  • IHS representatives have been good to work with.
  • Wide variety of industry standards
  • Routinely uses IHS Global for standard delivery
  • Used service for about three years and it is well used
  • For an annual membership fee, you can get 50 or 100-packs of ASTMs downloadable on demand
  • Offers a set number of downloads per year accessible by anyone in our company
Susan Bertoni
Engineering Librarian
F.L.Smidth, Inc.
Phone 610 264-6742
Fax 610 264-6554
E-mail susan DOT bertoni @ flsmidth DOTcom
Visit our web site at