Report on USTLG Summer 2005 meeting, held at the British Library, St Pancras

Monday 13th June 2005

Report by Frank Parry

The 2005 Summer Meeting of the USTLG was held in the British Library which gave the group the superb opportunity to discover more about one of the world’s foremost collections of science material.

The meeting was scheduled for the afternoon but was preceded in the morning by tours of the British Library for most of the participants. Tour details took in the planning and design of the new library; admissions policy which has recently changed to allow freer access to undergraduates; retrieval of books in the collection and future storage plans – St Pancras is already nearly full; the impressive King George III collection displayed in the atrium which, when donated to the Library by George IV nearly doubled the size of the then young library; the Map Library with the rare Klencke map donated to the Library by the Dutch in 1660 and the various Science Reading Rooms.

To blog or not to blog? – using weblogs in libraries

Sue Manuel, IT Support Officer at Loughborough University

The afternoon schedule began with Sue Manuel, IT Support Officer at Loughborough University, who gave a talk entitled To blog or not to blog? – using weblogs in libraries. Sue described how blogs could be used as interactive tools for libraries acting as a central source of reference, bringing together in one place library staff who may otherwise find it difficult to meet and communicate with their colleagues. In the case study of Loughborough University, the blog is used to communicate new developments to the Information team, provide links to commonly used resources and information sheets, and an archive of postings which can be used to answer information enquiries. The study noted the successes of the blog, notably improved communication between staff, clarity and ease of use and ready access to important information. There were also some ongoing concerns such as the reluctance of some staff to check the blog or move away from email as the primary source of information. The study also noted the technical requirements in setting up a blog, such as the choice between web-hosted or installed software; lists of other blog services and studies; posting and maintenance protocols. Research has shown that the blog is well used and appreciated by most staff, with a steady, but manageable stream of postings.

Life Science Research Centre (LSRC)

Rachel Henning and Dr Eliot Randle, Infotrieve

The second talk of the afternoon was by Rachel Henning and Dr Eliot Randle of Infotrieve who described a new product called the Life Science Research Centre (LSRC). This is a web-based search and discovery tool designed for scientists and researchers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical areas. LSRC provides a platform where researchers can not only search for journal articles, patents, book chapters, industry news, web resources and drug and gene data, but also discover new relationships between their search outputs. Results display link-outs to subscribed material, an order facility from Infotrieve, web resources, open url and link resolvers. The ‘discovery’ aspect of the product is achieved by displaying scientific entities such as organisms, diseases and genes which are extracted from within the full text, and clustering which is a hierarchical grouping of commonly used phrases and concepts connected to the search terms employed by the researcher. LSRC can be customised for individual researchers and collaborative areas can be set up between groups who wish to share information and data. In addition to the sources used by LSRC, customers are able to set up expanded – or federated - searches using other databases. LSRC is the first of a series of planned platforms and will be followed one for chemical information.

The third planned talk of the afternoon was to have been by the British Library Intellectual Property team, but this unfortunately had to be cancelled.

British Library Science Reading Rooms

Mark Parsons, British Library

The last event of the day was an update on the operation of the Science Reading Rooms by Mark Parsons of the British Library. Mark outlined the division of the Science side of the British Library between the Business and Intellectual Property section, Science Reading Room 1 for Social Policy and Information Service and Engineering, Room 2 for Life Sciences, Medicine and Chemistry, Room 3 for Physics, Earth Sciences and Electronics. The Science collection is research based and, unlike other areas of the British Library, has open access shelves with up to around ten years of current material available. Material can also be ordered from Boston Spa with a turnaround of about 48 hours. Items can also be ordered offsite via the Internet. Readers have access to approximately 17,000 current serials and 4,500 e-journals. Bibliographic databases such as Compendex, Inspec, Chemical Abstracts are also available. The Business and Intellectual Property section has been designed to attract small and medium sized businesses and it is hoped to provide a centre for innovators and entrepreneurs. It has a collection of around 49 million patents and a sizeable collection of company reports, directories, newspapers, market reports. The Science Rooms have help desks which aim to assist readers with all their needs, though more complicated searches may be passed on to specialist research teams. The Research Service is fee-based and can be contacted at or by telephone. Mark and his colleagues then gave the meeting tours of the Reading Rooms and answered questions.

The meeting thanked all of the speakers, the organisers Moira Bent and Linda Davies and the generosity of the British Library for the use of their facilities and time.