IEEE Moves Article Library Online
A massive body of scientific periodicals has been transported from steely file cabinets to the digital age.
The Member Digital Library (MDL) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) went online in January. It's the culmination of a 3 year design and development effort.
Readers get instant access to at least 300,000 technical articles, 120 periodicals and 1,800 sets of conference proceedings. The IEEE gets a new revenue model for selling reprints.
And the IEEE's printer partners get to keep cranking out the organization's periodicals and technical documents the old fashioned way: on paper.
"There are issues that preclude dropping paper," says Barbara Lange, IEEE's director of publications. "Academic institutions feel the need for access in perpetuity, and print is the archive method librarians are comfortable with. We're being driven by what our members want."
Individual members also want to keep their connection with print. "The membership still has desire for physical, tangible stuff," Lange says. "[They also want] things they can file away."
Still, the availability of the massive Member Digital Library has sparked a decrease in print subscriptions, Lange says, while the number of digital subscriptions keeps going up.
Lange credits the IEEE's revised subscription model. Rather than bill members a large lump sum annually or piecemeal per document, access to MDL is billed monthly. Members can search, view, print and file up to 25 documents a month.
CONTENT BOILED DOWN
MDL also goes beyond previous IEEE search capabilities in both depth and breadth. Members previously had to hit up to 37 IEEE sites, depending on the publication and information they were after.
The MDL puts an end to that, consolidating the Institute's many search engines into one. Now, one search spans the stored content of all the IEEE's constituent societies. Members say the centralized access alone is worth the monthly subscription fee.
"I'm finding useful things in other societies' transactions, and this is enabling me to speak more competently with my colleagues from other disciplines, like software engineers or systems engineers," says IEEE member Jeff Bull, senior director of hardware development for TruePosition Inc., in King of Prussia, Pa.
Bull also likes the ability to store his purchased documents online, another service included in the flat monthly rate. "Instead of having hard-copy transactions stack up on my credenzas, I can just go online and get access to the information when I need it," Bull says.
With about a terabyte of information to put online, building the MDL required IEEE's publishing group and IT department to work closely together.
The publishing organization has its own IT department that handles editorial, design, workflow and prepress computer systems. Then there's the IEEE's main IT department, which runs the organization's Web sites and business infrastructure.
MDL's development drew from both IT teams. It was augmented by an outside Q.A. vendor. The project went according to schedule, Lange says, thanks to clearly defined technical requirements spelled out early in the game.
The project's on-time delivery also benefited from the procurement strategy. While the system was built by the IEEE's programming team, they relied on software already owned by the organization. Programmers didn't have to learn anything new, which avoided training delays.
In the end, MDL welds Verity Inc.'s Ultraseek search engine with E-Meta Corp.'s E-Rights for authentication and VeriSign Inc.'s e-commerce software.
The IEEE also put intense price-pressure on hardware vendors to drive down costs. One aspect of their approach: buying used computer servers from bankrupt dot-coms in the New York metropolitan area. They also recruited experienced but unemployed dot-com programmers, paying them less than was normal during the Web's heyday.
- Jeff Angus