As mentioned above, transportation professionals make use of numerous primary sources of information. Secondary sources provide access to this information and often convey or imply ownership. Another category, tertiary sources, provides access to the secondary sources. An example is Engineering Index's fee-based "EI Village," which provides on-line access to information resources required by engineers. Table 4 shows some of the principal primary and secondary sources of transportation information.
|Table 4. Primary and Secondary Sources of Transportation Information|
|Primary Sources||Secondary Sources|
Accessing Transportation Information
For transportation professionals, secondary sources are key to finding quality information in a timely, efficient manner. In this regard, these professionals rely heavily on information specialists, who are uniquely trained in creating and using these resources. Information professionals have designed some of the most successful secondary sources, ranging from clearinghouses to Web sites. While secondary sources are of critical importance, they possess some serious shortcomings, necessitating an information professional's expertise. Table 5 summarizes the most frequently used secondary sources of transportation information and their most critical gaps.
|Table 5. Secondary Information Sources and Their Gaps|
|Clearinghouses and Help Lines||Clearinghouses provide subject-specific information, e.g., those at Northwestern University's Infrastructure Technology Institute and North Carolina State University's Center for Transportation and the Environment. Help lines, such as BTS's Statistical Information Line, provide information on a wide range of topics and research.||
|Colleagues||Personal contacts are among the most common means of obtaining transportation-related information.||
|Databases||Provide access to citations by searching bibliographic records. TRIS (Transportation Research Information Services) and IRRD (International Road Research Database) are the most well-known transportation examples. Others used in transportation are COMPENDEX, ABI-INFORM, Trade & Industry Index, and Predicasts. TRIS also provides access to research in progress, syntheses, and best practices (see below).||
|Library Catalogs||Record, describe, and index the resources of a collection. Usually classify information and assign subject headings.||
|Syntheses||Concise reports written for an identified audience. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), for example, synthesizes the knowledge available on a subject through reports on various practices.||
|Union Lists of Holdings||A complete record of holdings for a given group of libraries or for a certain type of materials. In any format, these lists assist with identifying a lending source for an information request. The Transportation Division of the Special Libraries Association publishes a union list of transportation serials.||
|WWW-Built Indexes and Search Engines||Serving millions of users a day, search engines construct indexes and find information on the WWW. They send out "messengers" to every site they can identify and then download and examine these pages to extract indexing information.||
The Role of the Information Professional
Information specialists have the qualifications and expertise needed to create, access, and evaluate secondary information sources. In this role, these specialists provide quality, filtered information to transportation professionals based on their specific requirements.
The value of information professionals to organizations is well documented. For example, Matarazzo and Prusak (1995) determined that senior managers most value information special ists' communication skills, abilities to respond quickly to information requests, and in-depth knowledge of both information sources and their organizations.
Going beyond this study, the Special Libraries Association in 1996 published its report, Competencies for Special Librarians of the 21st Century. The report identified a number of professional skills crucial for the highly qualified, well-trained information specialist. These skills and competencies are listed in Table 6.
|Table 6. Professional Competencies for
Information Specialists in the 21st Century
|Has expert knowledge of information resources|
|Has specialized subject knowledge|
|Develops and manages convenient, accessible, and cost-effective services|
|Assesses information needs and designs services to meet these needs|
|Uses appropriate information technology|
|Uses appropriate business and management approaches|
|Develops specialized information products|
|Evaluates the outcomes of information use|
|Continually improves information services|
|Is an effective member of the management team|
As this list indicates, the qualified information professional continually upgrades his or her skills, assesses the organization's information needs and programs, and provides training and support to information users.
One area in which information professionals may be particularly valuable to users is in navigating the myriad new information products and services. For example, information specialists are uniquely qualified to assess the quality and relevance of information generated through on-line searches. In this role, information specialists assist transportation professionals in using the World Wide Web and other resources by helping them to make the most efficient use of agencies' assets and minimize the time spent looking for information.
Electronic version of Publication No.
This page last updated August 18, 1999