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Transportation Division Bulletin
Kaleidoscope: News of TRN Members

December 2004


Information Centre at Opus International Consultants

Making Ourselves Necessary

New books announced by Elsevier

Membership News


Information Centre at Opus International Consultants
by Dianna Roberts, Opus International Consultants, New Zealand

It may come as a surprise to most of you that one TRANLIB member lives almost at the bottom of the world, in New Zealand. Although I am unknown to all of you one of your number is a familiar name to me and that is Jerry Baldwin. His paper on Mn/DOT Library Accomplishments inspired me to do a report on our services that proved that our ROI is 9:1.

My name is Dianna Roberts and I manage the Information Centre at Opus International Consultants which is a multi-disciplinary consultancy heavily focused on highway engineering and maintenance.

The company I work for has about 42 locations in New Zealand but is growing globally with offices in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. The services that the Information Centre provides to all staff worldwide include indepth research, document supply, market intelligence, and support for practice interest networks. I am also responsible for the company’s intranet, OpusWeb, manage the processes for internal documents and maintain the external site www.opus.co.nz.

I am very fortunate that I report to an IT Manager who believes that content is nothing to do with IT and who is more than happy to leave that to me and my team. We seem to have a fairly unique situation in that the Information Centre does not need its own intranet or homepage as all of our services are scattered throughout OpusWeb. In fact, we have successfully infiltrated our parent organisation with a finger in almost every pie. I believe that the key to our continuance lies in being enmeshed in the company rather than being viewed as a separate entity that can easily be lopped off.

Although we are part of the British Commonwealth our focus is worldwide and we use a number of North American resources. We have been using Dialog for some 40 years, have been subscribing to ASCE journals since 1926 and also get most TRB publications. I also subscribe to Gary Price’s Resource Shelf, Tara Calishain’s Research Buzz and Mary Ellen Bates’ Tip of the Month.

Although many of the postings to TRANLIB are not directly relevant to me I am enjoying being a member. I also belong to the Australasian equivalent, Tranzinfo, so I feel I’m being kept fully informed on what is happening in the world of transportation libraries.

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Making Ourselves Necessary: Mining Opportunities in New Leadership and New Technology
by Bob Sweet, Head, UMTRI Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

My thinking about work, business, and life in general has been profoundly impacted (“We’re Talking Impact”) by considering the implications of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Make yourself necessary to somebody.” Doing so is the key, I’m convinced, to resolving issues of security, longevity, and productivity.

Two forces (around here, folks like to say “drivers”) that are bringing the UMTRI library face to face with seemingly unlimited opportunities to make ourselves necessary are the inauguration of new leadership and the inevitability of coming to grips with new technology.

In September, UMTRI welcomed its new director, Dr. Peter Sweatman, formerly chief scientist of the Australian Road Research Board and founder and owner of Roaduser Systems in Melbourne, Australia (see http://www.umich.edu/~urecord/0405/Oct04_04/07.shtml). Now, it has become axiomatic in the world of special libraries that to ensure the library’s success, it must become aligned with the mission and strategic direction of the organization and its prime decision makers. When an organization becomes infused with a fresh, new entrepreneurial spirit at the top, as has UMTRI in the person of Dr. Sweatman, known to us, in the familiar style that he prefers, as Peter, then the commitment to make ourselves necessary also takes on a freshness and a spirit of adventure.

Under Peter’s direction, UMTRI will be developing something that heretofore has been so far out of the traditional academic-research mindset as to seem blasphemous to some. I’m talking about a marketing plan. And, as the group with the primary responsibility for disseminating information about the Institute as well as gathering information from the rest of the world, we will be playing a vital role. Which brings me to the inevitability of coming to grips with new technology. But first, a digression.

A few months ago, one of our foremost research scientists, one Dr. Michael Sivak (see http://www.umich.edu/~urecord/0102/Oct01_01/27.htm), came to me with a galley proof of a journal article he had written. In it, one editor had written a note to another editor, instructing him to obtain a DOI. “What’s a DOI?” asked Dr. Sivak I told him that I didn’t know. But I also told him, in my infallible, make-myself-necessary kind of way, that I would find out. So I went to www.sla.org to search back issues of Information Outlook. When I discovered that DOIs, digital object identifiers, had been discussed as early as 2002, I felt my tail tucking itself between my legs. I had to wonder how many other technological advancements that are shaping our profession had passed by my radar screen. I resolved at that point that I would not be caught sleeping at the switch when new technologies come racing through the station.

And this brings me back to Peter’s marketing plan. One of the first things he asked to have put in place is a means to get UMTRI news out in a way that would be much more current than our quarterly UMTRI Research Review (see http://www.umtri.umich.edu/library/review.html). Fortunately, we work in an environment of extremely aware, up-to-date, tech savvy researchers and other geeks. So, during a discussion of how we might build an Institute knowledge base and integrate it with our website (see http://www.umtri.umich.edu) I was made aware of how RSS feeds work and how we might put one to work as a way to disseminate current news on a weekly basis. We began to hold weekly, Friday-morning RSS meetings with network administrator Robert Schultz, the outcome of which is a brand-new, shiny RSS “channel” that makes UMTRI news newer than we ever thought it could be before (see http://www.umtri.umich.edu/umtri/rss.html).

The floodgates are now open and we’re swimming hard to keep up in the current of new technologies. In an environment characterized by an unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit and a continual inflow of fresh talent that is highly trained in the latest technologies, our commitment to make ourselves necessary is creating opportunities to stretch in as many ways as we’re willing to go. On the intranet that we’ve built, we’re looking at how or whether a wiki might be the tool we need to allow staff members to communicate with each other on whatever they deem important or just plain fun. We’re also playing a key role in the makeover of UMTRI’s website. This means that, to ensure that it functions as a true knowledge base, we need to get up to speed on database-driven, content-management strategies, as well as making sure that it looks good. Another project involves creating a web-based database, using Inmagic’s WebPublisher Pro, which UMTRI authors can edit themselves and use to keep track of their publications from submittal to acceptance by a publisher to their ultimate publication. A new digital repository for those publications is in the works, too. UMTRI’s reports and other digital content are being used in a pilot project that employs DSpace software, which was developed jointly by MIT and Hewlett Packard (see http://www.dspace.org/). This project is an evolution of the digitization project undertaken between the UMTRI library and the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service, which has allowed us to present all UMTRI reports full-text online (see http://www.hti.umich.edu/u/umtri/).

Does committing ourselves to becoming necessary create a lot of hard work? Yes, a lot of very hard work. But what else are we going to do? There is no other way--absolutely none--to increase our value to the Institute or to increase our value as individuals than to make that commitment. It’s in our own, best self interest. And you thought being selfish was a bad thing.

Bob Sweet heads the library at UMTRI. Necessary UMTRI librarians Amy Brennan and Julia Daniel are also Transportation Division members.

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Membership News

New members of the Transportation Division

Patrick Dennin
Thomas Scientific
3501 Market street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Zachary Ellis
Federal Highway Administration
Strategic Communications
6300 Georgetown Pike
Rm F204
McLean, VA 22101-2296

Ms. Jessica A McGillivray
Babson Capital Management
1 Memorial Dr Fl 11
Cambridge, MA 02142

Dave Mitchell
Transportation Safety Board
2000 Promenade du Portage
4th Fl
Gatineau, QC

Ms. Sabina D. Tannenbaum
LTK Engineering Services
100 W Butler Ave
Ambler, PA 19002

New addition to Division member Ken Winter's family

Ken Winter and his wife Lyn are proud to announce a new addition to their family:
Jonah Reneau Winter, born August 17, 2004 in Wichita Falls, Texas, and weighing in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. Jonah is truly a child of the 21st century. He’s already got his own web page. Check it out at: http://www.jonahwinter.com/

Ken has been a stay-at-home dad for the past two months, and will be returning back to work full-time after the New Year. Congratulations, Ken and Lyn, & welcome Jonah! May the years ahead be filled with joy and happiness for all.

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