Thursday 28 March 2019

Visit to TWI Ltd (The Welding Institute)

Post contributed by - Helen Snelling CLG Membership Secretary

On Wednesday 20th March 2019 a group of 10 of us set off after work from Cambridge to Granta Park to visit the library at TWI Ltd at the invitation of Alison Chew, a fellow CLG member.

The Library team at TWI (The Welding Institute) comprises six, soon to be seven members, a mix of both librarians and information scientists.  TWI has approximately 950 staff and just over half of them are engineers.  TWI – a non-profit company - has been based in Cambridgeshire since 1946, the first spin-out from the University and based originally in Abington Hall, where the sheds in the grounds were used for testing.

Information Scientist Alison Chew and Paul Jones, Library Manager welcomed us to the library and gave us some insight into the work of the Institute and the role the library plays.  There has been a library at TWI for over 80 years, and 30% of TWI income comes from publicly funded work.  Standards take up two-thirds of the library budget with many written by TWI following testing processes.  The library also plays a large part in the current NSIRC programme supporting 530 Master and PhD students over 10 years, and there is a shared programme with other Innovation Centres and Universities exposing students to Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs).

We toured the Exhibition space, showing the huge variety of welding, which was quite a revelation. Apart from metal welding which is the first thing that springs to mind, we saw examples of the technologies used to weld composites to metals, such as electron beam Surfi-Sculpt.  This is a bit like metal Velcro and can be used for joining metal to composite, such as on a racing car.  Basically if something has a join in it, it will have been manufactured using a specific sort of weld, so we saw examples on of welds attaching metal to bone (in replacement hips), or fabric joins in a high-performance swimsuit!  We saw videos of lasers being used to cut things up at the end of life – such as decommissioning of nuclear plants, where a robotic laser arm can operate with a high power beam density, and little contaminating fumes.

We were also shown a timeline charting the history of TWI  in The Street  - which stretches the length of a wide corridor with room to expand, promoting a good deal of exhibition space envy amongst our visiting group!

Back in the library, Alison explained about Weldasearch the which has been going since 1960 and houses in excess of 240,000 records.  It is a unique and valuable resource, but very labour-intensive.  The database is externally hosted with librarians as editors and a team of external abstractors.  Weldasearch commands a high level of trust, with complete, accurate and unbiased results compared to online search engines, and the library maintains a thesaurus of keywords used in abstracting.
An important part of the library’s work is to understand what the enquirer is trying to achieve, and the search and source expertise of library staff is invaluable here.  Library staff try to capture the true value of information by asking questions such as “did this enable you to develop your proposal?” or “Did it lead to you getting funding for it?”  Every member of the library team supports an industry sector such as the power sector.  They do a lot of 1:1 information literacy training with staff and student groups, and go out to work in different sections of the building.  They are doing more information searches than ever, but don’t have the budget to purchase all the full-texts that exist.

There is a huge emphasis on copyright and intellectual property.  There is a publications policy to make sure that TWI retains the copyright on papers written whilst someone is working there.  All papers have to be validated through the library before presentations and there is no open access policy.

A huge thanks to Alison and Paul for making us so welcome and for hosting our visit. It was interesting to see the difference between a library such as this and a purely academic library, but also to see the way the commercial and academic combine and complement each other.

                                                         Alison Chew, information Scientist, TWI Ltd.