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Civil Engineering in a Time of Change: The Response of the Institution of Civil Engineers Library

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

To Boldly Go... Engineering Librarians Explore New Connections with Users

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.326.1 - 22.326.11

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Paper Authors


Michael Mark Chrimes Institution of Civil Engineers

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Mike Chrimes was born on June 25, 1954 in Neston, Wirral, Cheshire (about 10 miles from Liverpool and Chester) where his family have lived since the early eighteenth century. After attending Wirral Grammar School he studied Modern History at University College, London. He then began a career in Librarianship with Liverpool City Libraries. He became interested in developments in Information Technology in Librarianship and attended a post-graduate course at Loughborough University of Technology.

In July 1977, Mike joined the staff of the Institution of Civil Engineers as Audio-Visual Librarian. In 1978, following the retirement of H C Richardson, the Librarian, Mike became Deputy Librarian and for the best part of a decade worked with Doreen Bayley, the Librarian, in improving services, notably retrospectively converting the Library Catalogues to one online catalogue (the first unified catalogue since 1895). This project was continued after Doreen’s retirement in 1987 with a single computerised index of all ICE publications, and the digitisation of all ICE journals – the first engineering institution in the world to carry out such a project. When the ICE building was refurbished c.1990 he planned the Library accommodation.

Early in his career at ICE Mike became frustrated by the paucity of historical information about civil engineering. He felt it hampered instant access to the collections. He began to lecture and write on the subject, publishing pieces in the Institution’s weekly magazine 'New Civil Engineer', and then 'History of Technology', the Newcomen Society 'Transactions', 'Geotechnique' and the ICE 'Proceedings'. He has acted as Secretary to the ICE Archives Panel Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers Project, writing a large number of articles. The first volume appeared in 2002, and the second will appear in 2007. He has written and lectured extensively on the history of civil engineering. The author of 'Civil Engineering 1839 – 1889: A Photographic History', he has edited four other books including 'The Civil Engineering of Railways and Canals' and 'Historic Concrete'. He is currently writing a paper on the development of geotechnical engineering prior to 1940. In October 2003 he contributed three chapters to 'Robert Stephenson: The Eminent Engineer', edited by Michael R Bailey (Ashgate, 2003). He has an interest in the economic aspects of the growth of civil engineering since mediaeval times, and is keen to promote an awareness in the contribution of civil engineers to economic growth among the general public.

Mike is currently Director (Engineering Policy & Innovation).

Mike is married and has two grown up children. He lives in Chingford, north east London.

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Civil engineering in a time of change: the response of the Institution of Civil Engineers LibraryRapid changes over the past decade in the UK public and academic library landscapes havebeen reflected in changes in special and learned society libraries. While the former sectorsbeen widely researched and reported on in the UK by JISC, SCONUL, MLA, etc., the sameis not true of the special engineering sector. In a period characterised by the disappearance oftraditional libraries and their partial replacement by knowledge management systems and anaïve belief in the power of Google, engineering societies have considered alternativeresponses to the emerging library world. With specific reference to the Institution of CivilEngineers, the UK’s oldest engineering library, the sustainability of these approaches isconsidered. While some UK membership bodies have turned exclusively to electroniccontent to support professional qualification, others continued with more traditional media.The Institution of Civil Engineers pioneered the retrospective cataloguing of its collections,and the indexing of all its publications. This was followed by the digitisation of all itsProceedings long ahead of, for example, the Royal Society of London. At the same timecollecting the archives of engineering firms has enabled the growth of its historic collectionsat a time when many companies have discarded their heritage.

Chrimes, M. M. (2011, June), Civil Engineering in a Time of Change: The Response of the Institution of Civil Engineers Library Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

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