A study of problems of documentation in Electrical Engineering is being carried out at the Vail Library of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This paper reports some of the preliminary progress. The periodicals used by electrical engineers have been studied by analysing the footnote references in six key journals for a year. A list of 308 source journals ranked in relative usefulness by the number of reference citations is given. One measure of the useful life of a paper is the time interval between publication of the paper and its citations as a reference. Fifty per cent. of the references analysed were less than 4 years old and only 5 per cent. of the total references were more than 25 years old. It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 papers of interest to electrical engineers published each year. The total number of such papers published since 1900 is estimated to be of the order of 250,000 to 500,000. Literature searching is aided by a number of abstract and reference publications. The possibility of mechanizing a portion of a library's activities by microfilm abstract machines of the Bush ‘Rapid Selector’ type is now being studied.
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