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Public Roads - September/October 2003

Internet Watch

Transportation Libraries Help Keep DOTs Up to Date

by Julie Bolding

In 1998, according to a study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, 131 libraries around the world were collecting and distributing transportation publications. If the number of transportation libraries corresponded to the industry's contribution to the gross domestic product of the United States, there would be nearly 750 transportation libraries in the United States alone. This statistic illustrates why many transportation professionals have difficulty locating the research findings and publications they need to complete their work.

The Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network, formed in 2001, is a partnership established to help solve this problem by sharing resource catalogs and improving access to transportation publications. The partners currently are libraries from 11 State departments of transportation (DOTs), including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Cooperation and Collaboration

The Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network represents a single point of access for the bibliographic catalog records of all member libraries. Although still in the early stages of development, the network is improving the accessibility of information and increasing the frequency and speed of resource sharing among transportation libraries.

When transportation professionals from member States contact their State DOT library with research questions, the library staff coordinates with other libraries in the network to locate the needed information. In addition, network members formed committees to work on specific library issues, such as improving cataloging activities and promoting the collections and capabilities of the member libraries. For more information about the network, contact Jerry Baldwin at 651-297-4532 or

Cataloging a Collection

In addition to the network's efforts, the Missouri DOT's (MoDOT) library started professionally cataloging its collection to ensure that data and records are not lost as the library installs newer, more advanced computer technology. With help from the University of Missouri's School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, MoDOT expects the project to be finished within 2 years.

When complete, the catalog will include records of thousands of technical reports published by State DOTs and other transportation organizations, such as the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the Transportation Research Board. The reports cover a number of transportation issues, including bridge design, geotechnology, safety, traffic, and environmental, social, and economic issues. Information about each report will be entered into the library's computer system as a MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) record—the bibliographic format used by most libraries.

By professionally cataloging its materials, MoDOT will help reduce the time and money researchers expend looking for information. Although the catalog currently is available only on MoDOT's Intranet site, the agency eventually plans to make the catalog publicly available on the Internet. In the meantime, researchers looking for particular documents or subject information from MoDOT can contact Mike Shea at 573-751-0852 or

One Site, Many Reports

At the Wisconsin DOT (WisDOT), library staff members found themselves continually searching the same Web sites and downloading the same publications. In just a few years, the staff had developed a long list of Internet book­marks for commonly used research reports. To help engineers find this information quickly and easily, library staff published the links on the Internet. Transportation professionals now can visit to access WisDOT's new index of full-text research reports. Collected from more than 30 States and several national and international transportation organizations, the reports are organized by publishing organization. WisDOT is in the process of developing a complementary site arranged by topic.

To assist technical staff both within and outside WisDOT learn about transportation activities in other States, the library also created a Web site of transportation resources from other States organized according to topic area. WisDOT's site not only provides convenient access to State pages, but also enables researchers to determine which States are participating in particular activities. For more information about the Web sites or WisDOT's library collection, or to add a report or activity, contact John Cherney at 608-266-0724 or

By improving access to transportation information, the Midwest Transportation Knowledge Network, MoDOT, and WisDOT are helping transportation professionals save time and money.

Julie Bolding is the librarian for the South Dakota Department of Transportation.