October 2013

Knowledge at your fingertips

CIM puts 115 years of technical papers online

By Herb Mathisen

Despite, and perhaps because of, CIM’s long history and position as a major repository of mining knowledge, much of the organization’s vast technical paper archive sat stored away in a basement in Westmount, Quebec. While it was possible to order a paper, the process was slow and labour-intensive, requiring someone to go into the archive, find the document, scan it and send it off on a CD. However, CIM is now close to putting its entire technical paper archive online.

Serge Major, CIM’s director of finance and administration, said the project’s genesis goes back to a Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives conference he attended in 2004. The event’s keynote speaker said a typical engineer would spend the equivalent of one day per week searching for research and reference documents. “When I heard that, I said, ‘Wow, there’s something for CIM in there,’” he recalled. At that point, the Institute only had online archives that dated back a few years, as conference proceeding papers and publications had only recently started to go online.

When Major returned from the conference, he began looking at how to put the remaining technical papers – found in various publications and conference proceedings throughout CIM’s 115-year history – online, within easy reach of members. Conference proceedings and publications documents from roughly 2000 onward were already rendered electronically.

“We started very slowly by doing a survey of how many papers we were looking at,” Major explained. “We estimated there were about 25,000 papers.” The digitization project began in 2005 but was itself an onerous process, with one part-time employee reading each document and manually listing and entering keywords.

Last June, however, CIM hired three archiving and documentation technician students – Laurent Bouthillier, Guy Croteau and Ariel Paradis – from Montreal’s College de Maisonneuve to go through the troves of CIM publications and scan each of the technical papers using new character recognition and data inventory software, vastly speeding up the electronic archiving process.

Lorent Dione, CIM web programmer, explained the new software grabs the 100 most important terms from the document, along with names and locations, and registers them as keywords. These are added to the keywords chosen by the author. In addition to the newly archived material, every technical paper already online and contained in conference proceedings will also be run through the software to bring up the extra auto-generated keywords. The team succeeded in putting more than 7,000 documents online in just three months.

This project has not only accelerated the online archiving process but it will also make the user experience simpler. A new search interface is scheduled to go live later this year to make finding documents quicker and easier. Dione said the software is more intuitive than the current version employed on the website. Users will notice a cleaner and more practical search function that allows searches by author, presenter, publication, conference and keyword.

Major said he expects the entire archive, dating back to 1898, to be available by the end of the year.

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