In the old days of consulting, there was a large room somewhere that was filled with cheap shelves all heavily burdened with magazines, books, three-ring binders, and files. This was the library. It was managed by a proud lady, the Librarian, who had a degree in library management. You tripped into her preserve in trepidation, and sought her help in supplicating phrases.
Inevitably she would quickly locate the book or report you sought. She would make you sign a receipt and a promise to return said document in short order. And you did, for you feared her, and knew you had to keep on her good side so that next time you needed something from the library she would find it for you fast.
Today the library is rare. In the smaller consulting companies there may be a few shelves along a quiet corridor where the old text books from university gather dust in the company of proceedings from forgotten conferences. There is no formal ownership or management of this collection. That is strange for many of the old books sell for high prices on Amazon.
In the computer system is a folder with the name “Library” or “Technical Papers” or “Inactive Projects.” Open the folder called “Library” and you may find subfolders filled with electronic versions of technical papers gathered for specific projects. This usually an informal system run by the engineers and scientists of the consulting company.
In a few medium-size consulting companies, there is still a large, formal room called the library. Occasionally there is still a librarian who can help you find you way along the shelves. The librarian is more helpful when it comes to turning on the computer to search a list of documents in the room, or off-site in boxes at some remote storage location. Woe betide you if you want one of the documents in those off-site boxes. It could take a week to retrieve.
Then there are the large consulting companies. One I know of has a powerful lady in charge and she is called the Document Control Manager. She is fluent in English and Spanish. She commands a team of people seated at big computer screens. Her duties start with setting up project numbers and specifying how each document on the project is to be numbered. Then she and her team run the systems to make sure that each electronic document is filed in the right way in the right place. This sometimes involves an argument with the project manager. Sometimes it involves a trip to another country and a distant project site.
In one company, the Document Control Manager’s responsibilities include receiving the draft of a document, distributing the draft to designated reviewers, receiving comments from reviewers, and hence returning the collated comments to the project team. Meanwhile keeping track of and keeping copies of all documents issued and returned.
The point is these days, the Library is called Document Control. No longer dusty shelves of historic documents. Now the area is replete with computer screens connected to some distant server. It is still ruled by a powerful character. But it is all in the computer.
Finally it is worth noting that today many papers and books are readily available on the internet. The individual can find them without help and as needed. The company merely has to make sure the individual has access to the sites where so many electronic papers are stored. The American Society of Mining Engineers OneMine site is the best. InfoMine’s Library is another source.
In most cases, if the individual downloads a paper from web sources, the individual stores the copy on their own computer or in the e-folders of the project files. I know of no companies that require a paper print of downloaded papers and their subsequent storage in a formal, old-fashioned library.