Science blog

13 December 2013

Hidden Gems

Working with the British Library’s science collections, Natalie Bevan has been getting acquainted with collections that librarians refer to as ‘Grey’, but which are really hidden gems.

Grey literature is a dull name, but this particular part of our science collections is anything but ashen. It encompasses dynamic, new and emerging ideas and dialogues that are often never published in the conventional sense. Such outputs could be in the form of reports, newsletters or conference proceedings, for example. The information they contain might be transient, ephemeral and, very likely and often infuriatingly, nigh on impossible to track down. These factors make it vital for the Library to collect this research material and make it accessible to our users.

Part of my role on our Environmental Sciences beta project, Envia (see Johanna Kieniewicz’s previous blog post for further information on our project), involves making parts of the British Library’s comprehensive grey literature collections more accessible for the environmental science community.

The search interface for Envia, the new environmental information discovery tool from the British Library.

This work involves drawing together different content strands into one new resource discovery tool and dealing with the problematic nature of some of this grey material.

Flooding in York. (Copyright: ronfromyork: Shutterstock)

Envia’s subject focus is initially on the broad topic of flooding. To get an idea of the sort of material you’ll find, here are a few examples:

Shutterstock_122379967.Copyright.Radoslaw Maciejewski.ThamesBarrier
Thames Barrier. (Copyright.Radoslaw Maciejewski: Shutterstock)

Envia currently includes UK PhD theses, UK reports and data resources, covering topics such as coastal zone management, the social impact of flooding in local communities, flood risk assessments, the implementations of the Water Framework Directive, hydrological appraisals of past flood events, the ecology of floodplains, data on weather patterns, climate modelling and flood forecasting, to name a few.


The individual record display interface in Envia.

It is just one way that we are attempting to make these important but often ‘hidden’ collections more easily accessible for research, practice and use.

We are currently adding content to Envia and welcome feedback on this beta service, so please try it out and let us know what you think.


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