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EEVL: 'Not a Success'

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Roddy Macleod embarks on a tendentious argument.

It is fairly common practice for anyone writing about a service or project with which they are involved to emphasise its benefits, popularity and plus points, and so perhaps the title of this article EEVL 'not a success' may seem a little abstruse and may even have grabbed your attention. If that's the case, let me explain what I mean by "EEVL 'not a success'".

I do not mean that EEVL [01] has been unsuccessful. After all, as a gateway to engineering information on the Internet, EEVL has attracted two million page views since it was launched in September 1996, and has secured funding into the immediate future as the 'E' part of the EMC Hub [02]. EEVL has gained a certain amount of acceptance, both within the academic community and beyond, as a service which helps people find useful engineering resources on the Internet, and in addition to its database of over 4,500 quality engineering resources it has developed several other services which have proved equally popular. EEVL's Engineering E-journal Search Engine [03] provides a way of accessing the contents of over 120 freely available e-journals, and the Recent Advances in Manufacturing (RAM) [04] bibliographic database now contains details of over 30,000 articles on subjects of importance to industry. In addition, EEVL also hosts a fairly crude but effective directory of USTLG (University Science and Technology Librarians Group) members [05], a surprisingly popular Bibliography of guides to engineering information on the Internet [06], two small specialist bibliographic databases on Liquid Crystals [07] and Jet Impingement [08], and an Offshore Engineering Information Service [09]. With such an array of services, and with a track record of usage, therefore, I think it is fair to say that EEVL has not been unsuccessful.

At the same time, however, I feel that it is equally fair to say that EEVL has failed to fulfil all of its potential, and therefore it could be said that it has not been a success. I would suggest that EEVL has not been successful in two areas: firstly, it has failed to secure sufficient funding to allow it to exist without direct monetary input from JISC through the RDNet [10], which is the aim of JISC for such services, and it has not been promoted sufficiently to its user community. Let me now look at both of these areas in more detail.

From August 1995 to July 1999 EEVL was funded through eLib: the Electronic Libraries Programme [11], and during that period it was always hoped that an exit strategy could be developed which would secure sufficient funding from other sources to allow the service to continue. Various funding models were reviewed, including the possibility of developing EEVL into a subscription-based service. That option was discarded mainly because of the expectation, within the networked community, that such Internet search tools should be freely available to all. Commercial sponsorship was also considered, and although EEVL has made some progress in this direction, it is a difficult track to follow for a project based in the higher education sector.

Although some praise has been received for EEVL's promotional efforts, most of its marketing has been undertaken on a small scale. EEVL has been featured in a number of publications, as can be seen from the EEVL in the Media [12] page, and at first glance that list of articles and press release items might impress. On closer examination, however, it becomes apparent that much of the press coverage has appeared in library and information journals. The LIS press is, of course, an important target for any information service such as EEVL, but it is not the only one. The majority of potential users of a service giving access to engineering resources will not be members of the information community. Where EEVL has succeeded in being mentioned in the engineering press, and in particular in engineering trade journals, in most instances these have consisted of small news items and brief extracts from press releases. Exceptions have included a regular feature in the monthly Industrial Technology [13] magazine, which has a circulation of around 25,000, and several articles which have appeared in various Setform engineering publications, but although these instances have been very welcome, the titles in question amount to only a small portion of the engineering trade press.

Various other promotional ideas have been tried, including giveaway EEVL pyramid calendars and a leaflet with a distinctive triangular design. For the last three years, 1,000 calendars have been distributed in January to UK information professionals and others on the EEVL mailing lists, and approaching 20,000 triangular leaflets have been sent out, mainly to university libraries. Last year, colourful posters featuring the EEVL logo were sent to members of the USTLG using a mailing list produced from the USTLG directory. It is hoped that these efforts have helped to spread recognition of the service, and the assistance of many science and engineering information professionals throughout the country for their unpaid distribution work has been much appreciated. Other promotional activities have included workshops held at various institutions, presences at a small number of conferences, including Online '98 and Tomorrow's World, regular mailings to different mailing lists, e-journals and newsgroups, submission of the EEVL site details to the growing plethora of search engines and directories, and contact with a large number of webmasters.

As one of the people responsible for coordinating EEVL's promotional campaigns, I can say that the planning and implementation of all of the above things has been both interesting and educational, but I cannot say that, combined, they have been successful. Why? Because out of necessity and due to the amount of funds available, the scale of the effort has been small. Whilst 20,000, being the number of leaflets distributed, might seem a reasonable figure, it is tiny in comparison to the number of students and staff in engineering departments in UK higher education institutions (over 150,000) or the hundreds of thousands of engineers in industry. It is a resulting unfortunate fact that many engineering academics and practicing engineers have simply never heard of EEVL.

Of course, EEVL's various promotional campaigns will continue, but what else can be done in order to make EEVL a success? How might the service secure non-JISC funding, and how might EEVL promote itself adequately to the large number of potential users? There must be great potential for a service such as EEVL, which is of relevance to the engineering sector, to tap into corporate sponsorship and advertising budgets. However, approaching engineering companies with cap in hand, and requesting financial contributions for a relatively small scale, and in some ways unusual (in that it is concerned with electronic information) service, is not an easy thing to do. EEVL has made such approaches, but they have sometimes been turned down after initial interest. It is possible that the approaches have been made to the wrong person or in the wrong way, but it is more likely that the companies concerned have been wary of investing in a service which they do not fully understand. Companies are not altruistic and have tried and tested methods of marketing themserves, and association with a Web-based resource discovery service will be a novel concept for many. And as far as marketing is concerned, promoting a service such as EEVL on the same scale as, say, a commercial search engine such as Mirago [14], which has a six-figure marketing budget, is clearly impossible.

However, EEVL is currently planning a new initiative which, it is hoped, may combine a potential for revenue raising from the commercial sector with widespread promotion through a number of outlets, both in the LIS and engineering trade press, and all at a relatively low cost. This will be EEVL's biggest marketing effort so far, and although it may not raise income in itself, it will hopefully help to forge partnerships with relevant companies. These partnerships might be exploited at a later date, or might even pave the way to alliances with other companies. The exercise will also bring the service to the attention of many new potential users. I do not wish to go into too much detail at the present time, as this initiative is still at the planning stage, but I will say 'look out for the EEVL Challenge' which may be running at the time you read this. The EEVL Challenge will take the form of a competition, with fliers advertising it to be widely distributed, and a number of prizes on offer as inducements for participation. Already secured for the EEVL Challenge is sponsorship or assistance from RS Components [15], ESDU International [16], Design Engineering Online [17], The Engineer Online [18], Newnes [19], BRIX (Federation of Master Builders) [20], EDINA (Edinburgh Data and INformation Access) [21], TWI [22], Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) [23], HotEcho [24], and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) [25].

If everything goes according to plan, it is possible that I may just be able to report in a future issue of Ariadne, that "EEVL is becoming successful". However, whether or not the EEVL Challenge itself is as successful as I hope it will be, it should offer a case study of an attempt by a JISC funded service to generate commercial partnerships and to undertake a large scale promotional exercise. One of the aims of the Resource Discovery Network (RDNet) [26] is to assist gateways, hubs and their partner organisations to develop business plans, and the Challenge may also provide experience and data for consideration and dissemination within the constituent parts of the RDNet.

References

  1. Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL).
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/
  2. EMC Hub.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/em c.html
  3. Engineering E-journal Search Engine.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/eese/
  4. Recent Advances in Manufacturing (RAM).
    http://www.eevl.ac.u k/ram/index.html
  5. University Science and Technology Librarians Group.
    http://www.eevl.ac. uk/ustlg/index.html
  6. Engineering Resources on the Internet: A bibliography.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/bibliog.html
  7. Liquid Crystal Database.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk /lcd/index.html
  8. JET Impingement Database.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/jet/index.html
  9. Offshore Engineering Information Service.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/offshore/
  10. eLib: Electronic Libraries Programme.
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/elib/
  11. EEVL in the Media.
    http://www.eevl.ac.uk/press.html
  12. Industrial Technology.
    http://www.industrialtechnology.co.uk/index.htm
  13. Mirago.
    http://www.mirago.co.uk/
  14. rswww.com
    http://rswww.com/
  15. ESDU
    http://www.esdu.com/
  16. Design Engineering.
    http://www.designen gineering.co.uk/
  17. The Engineer.
    http://www.theengineer.co. uk/
  18. Newnes.
    http://www.bh.com/newnes/
  19. BRIX, Federation of Master Builders.
    http://www.fmb.org.uk/
  20. EDINA: Edinburgh Data and INformation Access.
    http://edina.ed.ac.uk/index.shtml
  21. TWI: World Centre for Materials Joining Technology.
    http://www.twi.co.uk/
  22. Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
    http://www.rics.org.uk/
  23. HotEcho.
    http://www.hotecho.org/
  24. Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE).
    http://www.iee.org.uk/
  25. Resource Discovery Network (RDNet).
    http://www.rdnet.ac.uk/

Author Details

Picture of Roddy MacLeodRoddy MacLeod
EMC Hub Coordinator
Heriot-Watt University Library
Edinburgh
EH14 4AS

Email: R.A.MacLeod@hw.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.hw.ac.uk/libwww/libram/roddy.html

Article Title: "EEVL 'not a success'"
Author: Roddy MacLeod
Publication Date: 20-Sep-1999
Publication: Ariadne Issue 21
Originating URL: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/eevl/

Date published: 
23 September 1999

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.

How to cite this article

Roddy MacLeod. "EEVL: 'Not a Success'". September 1999, Ariadne Issue 21 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/eevl/


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