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Engineering Librarians Play a Vital Role in Engineering Village Evolution

By Colleen DeLory and originally published in the Library Connect Newsletter - See Original Posting

Engineering librarian Jay Bhatt (far right) discusses various research options with Drexel engineering students.

There’s a saying that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. In the case of the recent Engineering Village (EV) update, this could be restated as the forthright librarian acquires the ability to reorder the facets. But action-reaction doesn’t begin to describe the ongoing partnership among librarians and Elsevier’s product managers.

Take Randy Reichardt, an engineering librarian at the University of Alberta who just celebrated his 30th anniversary at the university. He attended an Elsevier-sponsored breakfast meeting at the 1993 Special Libraries Association Conference in Cincinnati where, he says, “I ranted.” (Though after speaking with this personable man, I suspect it more accurate to say he was outspoken in providing feedback about the product.) And his “reward” for speaking up was an invitation to join the Engineering Information Scope and Coverage Committee, which he eventually sat on for six years and chaired for two.

Drexel University’s Jay Bhatt had a similar experience. Since he began attending the American Society for Engineering Education conference in 1998, where he belongs to the engineering division librarians, he began stopping by the Elsevier booth to offer his input on the search and discovery products for engineers. As an electrical engineer himself, he knew firsthand what users wanted. A long-time member of the ASEE’s Engineering Libraries Division, Jay received the division’s Homer I. Bernhardt Distinguished Service Award in 2010 after being nominated by his peers. He continues to visit the booth each year to see what’s new or offer suggestions, but the interaction doesn’t stop there.

Jay provided feedback on the latest release long before it was a functioning product. It started with some screenshots, then an office visit from the developers to go over the interface together, and finally a first chance to get at the functioning product. And channeled through librarians like Randy and Jay comes a host of others’ feedback as these librarians express the needs of their institutions’ faculty and students.

“It’s invaluable for us to get this kind of input,” says Steve Petric, EV’s senior product manager.  “We are so appreciative of the time, experience and talents our librarian development partners bring to the table.”

Jay and Randy concur that it’s a win-win for all parties.

“We are helping to improve the interface so that the thousands of researchers worldwide who use the Compendex database and EV product can do their research better,” Jay says, giving the example of the improved access to the alerts function in the new interface. “With the increased emphasis on undergraduate research and the research mission at many universities, keeping up with new research is more important than ever before. A lot of my students ask me to do presentations specifically on how to set alerts. Before it was not very visible and now it is much improved.”

“We’re highly encouraged to participate in anything that gives back to the profession,” Randy adds. “And by participating on an advisory board with your peers, your name gets out there while you contribute to shaping content and utility.” Randy was stunned to be recognized by these peers as SLA Engineering Librarian of the Year in 2011, yet his approach makes it no secret as to why he was chosen. He talks about the strong relationships he has built with students over the years and his faculty’s legendary support of the library. But the relationships don’t stop at his institution’s walls.

“I really appreciate the fact that Elsevier’s product managers have been so open to allow me to participate in offering suggestions to make the platform better,” Randy says. “They’re responsive. When you have that kind of relationship with the people whose product you’re buying, it’s a positive thing.”

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