Previous   Contents   Next
Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Spring 2003

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Database Reviews and Reports

ViFaTec Engineering Subject Gateway

Thomas G. De Petro
Engineering Librarian
Texas A&M University

ViFaTec is the new engineering subject gateway service from the University Library/Technical Information Library (UB/TIB) of the University of hanover in Germany. A 1995 article describes the UB/TIB (DePetro 1995). ViFaTec is the short form of the German title "Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Technik" which translates as the "virtual library for technology" or the "technology virtual library."

[Opening screen]

In June 2002 the UB/TIB officially announced its ViFaTec gateway in America at the IATUL (International Association of Technical University Libraries) annual conference held at the Linda Hall Library and the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Martin Boemeke, a professional engineer and ViFaTec project member, made the announcement in his IATUL paper presentation at the conference, which is available the full text proceedings (Boemke 2002). It is important to note that Mr. Boemeke's perspective as an engineer makes ViFaTec unique. Indeed, two of his three ViFaTec colleagues-including the project leader, are also engineers1. This is what makes ViFaTec unique among the engineering subject gateways.

The ViFaTec service actually consists of five components: a "Subject Guide" to access selected information sources; a list of freely accessible literature identification databases; the "GetInfo" full text server jointly operated by the UB/TIB and its partner FIZ-Karlsruhe (which in turn is a partner of the American Chemical Society in the STN-International database services); the TIBORDER document delivery service of the UB/TIB collection; and a "robot-based search service which indexes the full-text of engineering related web sites."

The GetInfo as linked from the ViFaTec page, is shown below:

[Get Info Screen]

As seen above, GetInfo is presented by its producers, the TIB and FIZ-Karlsruhe, as "Your Access to Full Text in Science and Technology." GetInfo integrates the TIB Library's TIBORDER service, explained in the next paragraph, and FIZ's AutoDoc service in a single point. This integrated electronic document delivery service was even featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. It is stated on the "{About GetInfo}" web page that "GetInfo is a central port of call for searching and accessing the full texts of publications from relevant publishers as well as full texts of "grey" literature." As such it is a powerful database in its own right with the added bonus that it is free of charge, further indicated by the statement in the lower left corner that it is "Supported by BMBE" or the Bundeministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Germany's Federal Ministry for Education and Research. The "About" page further states that "GetInfo provides a one-stop-shop for a broad range of electronic documents in science and technology." The GetInfo service also "provides a one-stop-shop for a broad range of electronic documents in science and technology. The actual electronic document delivery services from GetInfo are fee-based, requiring registration and payment.

The TIBORDER page, shown below as linked from the ViFaTec site, first appears in German with a British flag again as the link to the English language version.

[Tiborder Screen]

It is worth noting that {TIBORDER} has been a Dialog-affiliated DIALORDER document delivery service supplier for years. Most sci-tech research libraries in the U.S. already have TIBORDER accounts for document delivery services from the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) at the University of Hanover.

It is the ViFaTec Subject Guide that is the unique component, as it provides "access to selected information sources for engineers." There are ten menu options, each with a browse option and a list of specific categories. Those ten options are: Engineering: Basics, Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Materials, Transportation, Energy, Electrical Engineering / Electronics, Chemical Engineering and Process Industries, Environmental Engineering, and Civil Engineering. These are a good starting point for engineering information seekers, providing access from the perspective of an engineer rather than from the perspective of a librarian.

The ViFaTec Subject Guide also has two versions, German and English, with the other version available by a language flag hot link. The English language version page is below:

[Subject Guide Screen]

To access the ten Subject Guide options and their subcategories one clicks on a selection and a list of sources is listed with descriptions and links. It is only fair to note that the ViFaTec Subject Guide favors European and German sources, but that is what makes it valuable, filling in a gap of sorts. It thus complements Elsevier Science's Ei Village 2, rather than competes with it in identifying relevant web sites for engineering information.

ViFaTec is a work in progress with additions and enhancements planned until the project end date of December 2003. As such, it also is open for suggestions, both for content and layout or function. For those wishing to contribute any type of feedback, Martin Boemeke can be contacted at He is fluent in English, friendly, and easy to communicate with. He is also an experienced engineer working in an academic library, a relatively common occurrence in Germany, where scientific researchers and professionals are employed as subject specialists, selectors, and bibliographers, or as in Martin's case, as project designers. He presents a rare opportunity to "corner" an experienced engineer on issues of accessing engineering information through libraries. From my recent meetings with him in Germany and earlier this year at IATUL, I know he would welcome the discussion and exchange of ideas in this area. Martin is also active in the {ARL German Resources Project}, where U.S. library partners are still needed on the science and technology collection development side. Again, he is open to contact on that front as well. The German Resources Project page is shown below:

[German Resources Project]

ViFaTec is worth consulting and teaching. It follows in the tradition of EEVL, the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library, which it also complements rather than competes with. Indeed, the EEVL is listed in ViFaTec and ViFaTec is listed in EEVL. Both belong as links listed on any engineering resources guide web page.

Finally, ViFaTec presents a unique opportunity and challenge to the sci-tech library community. It is an opportunity to see what is being done internationally in sci-tech subject gateway access. It also behooves further evaluation. A survey of its users, both among individuals and among library entities, is called for. This may be part of the project itself at the TIB at Germany's Hanover University. Such survey methodology and data would be useful to all sci-tech gateway producers and would make an poster session, conference paper, and an excellent article for publication.


1 The ViFaTec project is sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), i.e., the German national research foundation. The project is described briefly in German at: {}.


Boemeke, Martin. 2002. The Engineering Subject Gateway (ViFaTec)." IATUL Proceedings (New Series) 12. The 23rd Annual IATUL Conference, "Partnerships, Consortia, and 21st Century Library Service" jointly held by the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology and the University of Missouri, Kansas City, June 2-6, 2002. [Online]. Available: {} [May 21, 2003].

De Petro, Thomas G. 1995. The 'Technische Informationsbibliothek [Technical Information Library] Germany's National Library for Science, Technology, and Engineering. Science & Engineering Libraries 15(2): 25-33.

Previous   Contents   Next

W3C 4.0