I so enjoy attending conferences in fields other than transportation, if only to explore a parallel universe of knowledge and expertise. At the Special Libraries Association Conference, I learned about the rich, in-depth universe of special libraries and I discovered that I wanted much more than 24 hours to spend in the city of Cleveland.
Roaming in a World of Research
One gains insights from roaming the trade show floor of any conference to ascertain what a given career considers important. Librarians value information organizing, data bases, news, scientific and other research, and endless types of analysis. I found a good source of information with organizations that translate documents into Braille; I learned about the deep materials science and electrical engineering research – and librarian organization of that research; I discovered a world of financial and legal databases available to those companies and institutions that have the money to pay for first class news, documents, and analysis.
Prominent at the trade show was transportation – everything from materials used for infrastructure to batteries to transportation modes. Librarians in transportation work primarily for state departments of transportation (DOTs), but also for university transportation centers, the federal government, and, among others, for technical assistance centers. While transportation librarians work in supportive roles, they provide great value for any type of information exploration, collation, and interpretation. Innovating, avoiding mistakes when doing so, learning about risks and costs, and navigating procurement processes are just a few areas where librarians contribute to transportation.
US Department of Transportation Library Resources
The USDOT Headquarters Library hosts a treasure trove of resources. ROSA-P – or the Repository Open Access Portal is a USDOT online research library with statistical, technical, and economic information. This is a website that any transportation nerd will be happy to get lost in. One note of caution is that these libraries are not obviously connected and one generally must know beforehand what site one is seeking.
The session in which I made a presentation did not explore libraries or research portals except tangentially. The session rather looked from different perspectives at inclusive transportation planning, transit advocacy, and automated vehicles (AVs). While the room was full of transportation librarians, the focus was on democratizing and improving transportation alternatives and infrastructures to increase equity and mobility. This included planning processes to increase public engagement, AV laws and pilot programs, the history and current trajectory of transit in Cleveland, and preparation for an AV pilot in Houston, in which the transit agency is a major partner.