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Moving Engineers to a Knovel Approach
Posted On December 3, 2009

Over the past 9 years, Knovel ( has established itself as a trusted online resource for engineering reference content. I distinctly remember the first time I saw a demo of its interactive capabilities for tables and graphs at Internet Librarian in 2002-very cool, I thought. The Knovel database is a single searchable collection of engineering and applied science reference works and databases from top publishers. With continuous content additions over the years and enhancements in features and functions, it has become an online resource that really helps engineers find reliable technical information faster. The company has recently added new personalization features designed to facilitate how engineers gather and interact with engineering information.

The new My Knovel is intended as a replacement for the physical binder of go-to resources that engineers create throughout their careers, pulling content from engineers' handbooks, materials property databases, standards, online searches, and libraries of math and best practices.

Key features of My Knovel include the following:

  • My Bookshelf: Engineers can save frequently used titles and organize them into folders they create.
  • My Saved Content: Engineers can save and organize content into the folders they create.
  • My Saved Searches: Engineers can save search queries and re-execute them with one click.

Diana Bittern, director of product management, says that My Knovel is "the product of nearly a year of collaboration with Knovel's team of design partners, who patiently cooperated as we observed them working, quizzed them on how they gather and store information, and asked them all sorts of questions along the way that influenced our design and style decisions. In other words, My Knovel is a data driven response with our engineering users leading the way." But Bittern says that librarians were involved too, "most notably explaining that our best bet is to label features with names that are clear and unambiguous."

"Our customers told us they want to get results with fewer clicks and to access frequently used titles with a single click," says Bittern. "We designed My Knovel to answer these needs and to speed engineers' information workflow. The result, and our long term goal, is to make engineers more productive."

"Knovel is proud to be known as the solution of choice for trusted, engineering reference content. For years, our interactive capabilities have differentiated us in the market," says Chris Forbes, CEO and president of Knovel. "With the unveiling of My Knovel, we help engineers centralize and manage the references they use most frequently and that require quick access."

Forbes says that over the past year, the company has moved to an agile development environment, fundamentally rethinking its product development and management processes. Updates to products can now be introduced continuously, based on qualitative interactions with users.

Key to the implementation of My Knovel was an updated user access and authentication system. Users now see a customized landing page once authenticated. In the past, previous research was lost when a user logged out. Forbes says that coming soon in the product will be tools to capture and save information from external content sources or personally produced content, not just from within Knovel. And down the road the company hopes to include collaboration and social networking tools.

One academic librarian says that My Knovel hasn't been activated for her campus yet, but she has played with it in the Knovel Lab-a separate part of the portal where users can try new features the company is testing. While My Knovel in the Knovel Lab doesn't have the full functionality, she likes what she sees so far. "Many of the searches that come up in our usage reports are for actual titles in Knovel, so the ability to ‘bookmark' titles is appealing." She continues, "I hope it will be well-received among our serious Knovel users, and we certainly will promote it in reference and instruction opportunities to reach those students who aren't already using Knovel. How many people actually sign up for My Knovel, and then actively use it beyond that registration, we'll see."

My Knovel is available to customers that upgrade accounts to include individual user profiles. There is no charge for the upgrade. The company hopes to have most of its corporate customers converted by the end of the year. Academic customers will be done during the break between semesters.

Knovel also offers registered users access to more than 10 handbooks and databases. Users also get exclusive access to new and popular handbooks via the Titles of the Week program. Every week, Knovel chooses two popular titles from its collection of nearly 2,000 handbooks, databases, and conference proceedings and makes them available for 12 days. Registration for the site is free. Full access to Knovel's collection requires an organizational subscription. Knovel does not offer subscriptions to individual titles.

Besides the Knovel portal, the company maintains several informational blogs (, offers updates on Twitter (, and has an active Facebook page with more than 7,200 fans ( More than 600 organizations subscribe to Knovel, including 70 Fortune 500 companies and more than 300 leading universities. Founded in 2000, Knovel is a private company headquartered in New York City. It has about 85 employees.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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