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Public Roads - July/August 2011

July/August 2011
Issue No:
Vol. 75 No. 1
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Internet Watch

Volpe Center Library Celebrates 40 Years With Facelift

by Alicia Sindlinger

The Volpe Center Technical Library and Information Center supports staff at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and others engaged in transportation research. Over the past four decades, the library has helped transportation professionals address major national and international issues related to safety, security, environment, mobility, and economic growth and trade. In 2010, to celebrate 40 years supporting the transportation industry, the library received major enhancements — onsite and online.

At a celebration in October 2010, the library officially opened its doors at its new location in the main building on the Volpe Center campus in Cambridge, MA. The new location is more convenient for most users than the previous facility in another building, and the space is more accommodating for group gatherings. In addition to the physical space, the library launched an updated Web site. The new site, available at, also aims to make library resources more accessible.

"Our goal with the new and improved library — both the new space and new Web site — is to have more people use the facility and resources," says Volpe Center librarian Susan Dresley, who has worked at the library since 1980. "We're now better positioned to serve as a knowledge-sharing hub for transportation professionals."



Using the Library

The Volpe Center library has an extensive collection of more than 27,000 books and technical reports, 180 professional and general interest journals, and 250,000 microfiche titles. The collection covers all aspects of transportation, as well as computer science, economics, engineering, environment, management, psychology, public policy, and statistics. Also included in the collection are reports and publications by other transportation agencies and associations, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Transportation Research Board.

The library is staffed by a professional information specialist skilled in data storage, retrieval techniques, and research methods. The specialist can help to identify documents, conduct literature searches, locate materials on interlibrary loan, and keep track of transportation-related Web sites and publications available on the Internet. The librarian also provides additional services, such as project-specific support, to Volpe Center staff.

To further support knowledge-sharing efforts, Volpe Center recently established a partnership with the Research and Innovative Technology Administration's National Transportation Library (NTL). The partnership will make the Volpe Center's catalog holdings available through the library's catalog and full-text versions of Volpe Center's publications accessible at

Improving Web Site Functionality

The library's online presence is essential for providing transportation researchers across the country with access to the library's resources. The Web site serves as a starting point for research and self-serve access to materials. The primary goal of the updated site design was to make all Volpe Center publications easily accessible to the research community. Accordingly, the new home page prominently displays a publication search box with which users can search by author, keyword, title, and date range.

The database search is the site's most used function. However, before the update, some of the content in the database, particularly for older Volpe Center reports, was sparse and lacked URLs, keywords, and abstracts. Library staff worked to enhance the database by adding keywords and abstracts. The library is planning additional enhancements to digitize older reports and make them available online. Currently there are more than 4,200 records in the database.

In addition to the database search, visitors to the site will notice several other new features and functions on the home page. A spotlight feature box displays new or recently added publications. The spotlight, which is connected to a popular Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed, is updated approximately every 10 days. New navigational links also appear in three graphics below the search and spotlight boxes. The links provide access to the site's other key areas: "About the Library," "Resources," and "Frequently Asked Questions."

"The site enhancements — visually and functionally — help to facilitate the information-gathering process," says Dresley. "Researchers and others looking for transportation resources now have a much improved tool at their fingertips."

For more information, contact Susan Dresley at 617-494-2117 or

Alicia Sindlinger is a contributing editor for Public Roads.