This thesis describes an investigation undertaken at Loughborough University of
Technology in conjunction with the British Library Document Supply Centre. The
overall aim of this research was to investigate and evaluate the operation and use of
the Ei Reference Desk, an integrated engineering information workstation developed
by Engineering Information Inc.. In addition to adding to the basic knowledge on
systems for information retrieval and dissemination, improvements to the Ei
Reference Desk and related systems were also identified.
The research comprised: production of instructional documentation for the
workstation; literature review; testing the workstation using evaluative research in the
form of questionnaires; comparison studies; and statistical analysis of results using
The literature review concentrated on the following: Engineering Information Inc.,
workstations, document delivery, telecommunications, and end-user searching. Two
questionnaires were designed: the first questionnaire was for test group members
using the full workstation facilities over a five month test period; and the second
questionnaire was for general library users using the workstation on an ad hoc basis
throughout the year. The main objectives of the comparison studies were to compare
the printed and electronic sources available to the researcher, and highlight some of
the advantages and disadvantages associated with the various retrieval methods. A
comparison was also made between the search results retrieved by both the
intermediary/librarian and the researcher/end-user.
The conclusions and recommendations draw together the main findings of the
research, and have been presented to reflect the: optimal operation for different user
groups and functions; impact upon the end-users and institution; value for managing
information; suitability and clarity of the user interface; technical robustness and
flexibility; and effectiveness of the document delivery options.
Overall, the Ei Reference Desk provided end-users with valuable access to
engineering literature. Recommendations for future development work include:
improved integration of modules and user interfaces; access to other software
packages; an easy to use and reliable order module; ability to link into existing
document supply services and communication networks; further developments in
electronic document delivery; and the integration of on-site library holding records.
A Master's Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.