Working from home is not a new concept, employees have had to juggle a plethora of other duties alongside their work. What is different this time is working through a global pandemic which has brought to light many new challenges. One way that the IET Library and Archives department have worked to meet these challenges is to use the technology we have to continue our services and reach out to new audiences. It has also been important to keep in touch with colleagues during this time of isolation so many of us have had to learn how to use video conferencing as a means of socialising as well as to keep on track with projects that would normally have been brainstormed in face to face meetings.
One of the biggest differences for us is not being physically near our collections. Despite this obvious barrier, technology has been indispensable. This has been greatly helped by the on-site digitisation programme we undertake within the IET Archives to scan, catalogue and store as digital files some of the records we work with regularly. This is all part of our preservation programme and creates a new format that can be used in publications, websites and exhibitions but has now become a means to remotely access as much of our collections as possible. We can readily access thousands of digitised images and descriptions on our online catalogue which has allowed us to carry on with an enquiry service and projects which were started before the lockdown.
Larger external digitisation projects have also been instrumental in providing online access to our collections such as directing researchers to the fully searchable, ‘page-turning’ digitised journal of the Women’s Engineering Society or finding early membership forms to help with family history enquiries.
In addition to our enquiry service we are continuing to put information out on our social medial channels, such as Twitter, Pinterest, online articles and blogs. Our aim has always been to reach wider audiences and share our collections with them but now this has become even more paramount during closure whilst people are looking for ways to continue their research.
Similarly, the IET Library has continued to provide access to thousands of ebooks, ejournals, magazines and reports which are available for members across the world 24 hours a day. Members simply need to login to the website to gain access to a wide range of resources across engineering, science and technology subjects. Library staff are on hand to help via email to use the Virtual Library and search for research articles and sources on specific subjects.
Follow us on Twitter @IETLibArch and Pinterest to see the amazing variety of our collections covering rare books, photographs, information about pioneering members and the history of engineering and technology from the 14th century!
By Asha Gage, IET Archivist