Information Sources and Collection Planning for Engineering

Information Sources and Collection Planning for Engineering

William Baer, Crystal Renfro
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1897-8.ch008
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This chapter will provide background for practicing librarians who have collection development responsibilities for engineering programs at academic institutions. Although it is intended as a resource for all engineering bibliographers, new librarians or those new to the technical fields may find it especially useful. Engineers (and engineering students) use information quite differently than other disciplines, and this can make collection development a daunting task. Furthermore, it is common for librarians with no background in engineering or technology to be assigned to manage the engineering collection. The information and tips contained in this chapter are meant to make this job easier.
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In his monumental paper on the information-seeking habits of engineers, Thomas Pinelli pointed out that in order to meet library patrons’ needs, librarians must first “become familiar with the information-seeking habits and practices of the user” (Pinelli, 1991, p. 5). He goes on to explain that when engineers are using information they are really seeking answers. The end is what is important to them, not the journey. If they do not have ready access to the information they will first go to colleagues (Lord, 2000), and then move on to searching the literature when other avenues are exhausted. In 2006, Williams and Fletcher analyzed citations from engineering master’s theses. Their study showed that while journals are used most heavily, books, conference papers, government documents, and other resources are also widely cited across several engineering disciplines. Websites also received a significant number of citations. This again shows that engineers are more concerned with the answers than which source they use to find them. Kirkwood (2009) found remarkably similar results in her study of civil engineering theses and dissertations.

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