The Lesser of Two EEVLs?
Many of Ariadne's readers will already be familiar with the main EEVL (Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library) database of quality engineering resources, now containing over 2,400 searchable descriptions of, and links to, engineering e-journals, research projects, companies, mailing lists, directories, software, recruitment agencies, and so on. Many may also know that EEVL provides a number of additional services. There are plans to significantly extend the range and number of these additional services over the next year or so in order that EEVL becomes more of a gateway to networked engineering information, rather than simply a finding tool. Here are brief details of some of the things which are being planned.
Under discussion at the moment is the possibility of EEVL hosting a relatively large fully-fledged searchable bibliographic database in a specialist subject area. EEVL already hosts several small subject databases including a subset of the Recent Advances in Manufacturing  database, the smaller Jet Impingement Database , and the very specialised Liquid Crystal Database , all of which have been made available through the Library and Information Services Department at the Nottingham Trent University. The database under discussion is a lot larger, consisting of over 40,000 records, and it is hoped that it will be made freely available to all of EEVL's users. If the new database proves popular, it may be followed by others. Why should EEVL get involved in this area? Is it not best to leave bibliographic databases to the traditional large commercial online hosts? The answer is both yes and no. 'Yes' in that the online hosts are very capable of making available databases to large numbers of subscribers. 'No' in that they are not so good, firstly at making those databases available to casual, non-subscribing users, and secondly in making available smaller, more specialised databases. The large online hosts (which, through various recent manoeuvers seem to be becoming larger still) are commercial concerns and there are obviously sizable overheads involved in making any database available through their systems. A database which does not generate sufficient income may well end up being dropped. The usefulness of a particular database to a relatively small number of users may not, therefore, be a significant factor to the commercial hosts. Other specialised databases, of course, are never seriously considered by the online hosts. This may be an over-simplification of the situation, however EEVL sees a useful possible role for itself in both encouraging, and nurturing, specialised engineering databases. It may be that some databases cease to be available as a result of the amalgamation of hosts into the new EINS service, or it may be that there are bibliographic databases presently only made available within individual institutions. In all such cases, as long as they are of use to engineers, EEVL is interested in the possibility of making them available to a wider audience through the EEVL gateway. It should be noted that EEVL has only a limited role to play in this area, and has no ambitions of becoming an online host!
Another area in which EEVL sees potential for development is that of full-text indexes to particular subjects or types of resources. The UK Engineering Search Engine , an index to 34,000 UK engineering Web pages, is a very popular part of the EEVL service as it allows more focused searches than the large search engines such as Alta Vista, but no-one would suggest that in its present form it is a perfect information retrieval tool. EEVL is currently investigating alternatives to the Harvest software which underlies this index, and if no better solution can be found then changes may be made to the Harvest software itself. Once the system is more user-friendly, EEVL hopes to make available other indexes, perhaps along the lines of the Index Morganagus  full-text index of library-related electronic serials, except, of course, that engineering e-journals will be indexed. EEVL currently includes over 220 e-journals in its main database. A certain number are electronic versions of scholarly journals, but a larger proportion are electronic versions of trade journals. Examples of the latter which spring to mind include Chemistry & Industry Magazine , Underwater Contractor Magazine , Hot Echo: the Journal of the Scottish Software Community , and Dotelectronics , but many more are available. The print versions of engineering trade journals are sometimes indexed in databases such as the Trade and Industry Database, but many titles are not includedthere or elsewhere, or are indexed in sources which are not likely to be familiar to academic and practicing engineers. The electronic versions of these trade journals, which often include additional information to the print runs, are often not indexed anywhere. And yet, the contents of trade journals can be extremely important for engineers. Even in the case of the scholarly e-journals, many titles are not indexed in the traditional databases. There is, therefore, potential for EEVL to provide easier access to such resources in the form of a full-text index to engineering e-journals.
In a similar area, EEVL is investigating the possibility of providing a forum for publishers of e-journals to announce new issues. This has been tentatively entitled the Engineering E-Journal Issue Tracking Service (EEJITS), an acronym which may raise a smile on the faces of users north of the border. The need for such a service is plain from the frustration some editors experience when sending details of new issues to announcing services which will only post each URL once. or which refuse regular postings from the same source.
Recent contact with the Young Engineers Clubs  prompted EEVL to consider what more might be done to encourage potential or young engineers to visit the EEVL site. There is no point in duplicating the contents of the Young Engineers Clubs excellent website, which amongst other things points to resources of particular interest to schoolchildren who are considering a career in engineering, but currently under discussion within EEVL is the possibility of making available some articles or other material of a general nature about engineering as a discipline and career.
One of the first services to be made available through EEVL was the Engineering Newsgroup Archive , a search system which queries a 40 day archive of news articles from Engineering newsgroups. EEVL is considering expanding this service to include messages sent to engineering mailing lists.
A link to the Engineering Resources on the Internet: A bibliography  which lists books, journals, articles, and regular columns about engineering resources on the Internet was recently added from the EEVL home-page. Although a very minor feature, the bibliography was visited several hundred times within a week, and its initial popularity suggests that perhaps EEVL should consider providing more information about printed engineering material. Of course, a certain amount of this is already available through the Offshore Engineering Information Service , which lists publications and meetings dealing with a number of offshore engineering subjects. EEVL is investigating whether to expand coverage - perhaps provide lists of books on other engineering topics, or even links to publishers and retailers of engineering books.
Within a few months EEVL hopes to make available courseware in the form of a web-based guide to finding engineering resources on the Internet. EEVL is also considering the development of various customised services. These may perhaps include an alerting service which will inform registrants, by email, about new Internet resources in particular subject areas, and may even include, in the longer term, a database of experts in various engineering fields.
Not all of the ideas described above will, necessarily, come to fruition, but hopefully enough will reach the 'production line' to help EEVL further develop its services. Already, the statistics appear to show that the split of use between EEVL's main database and the additional services is running at around 50-50. Work continues on the main database, new resources are constantly being added to it, and older records are regularly updated, but from the above, who is to say whether that main service, or the additional services, is likely to become the lesser of the two EEVLs? What EEVL believes, however, is that each complements the other and that they go together to provide a useful gateway to engineering resources.
Author detailsRoddy MacLeod
Senior Faculty Librarian
Edinburgh EH14 4AS
Phone: (0131) 451 3576
Fax: (0131) 451 3164