NJDOT Lunch and Learn: An Inside Look at the Research Library and its Digitization Project

In the 1940s, the State Highway Department (predecessor to the New Jersey Department of Transportation) created its first departmental library for transportation information. For the past 80 years, this depository of relevant transportation articles and materials has grown. Today NJDOT’s research library is a part of the Bureau of Research, Innovation & Information Transfer. The library offers employees several research and career development resources and holds a collection of documents of notable histories of transportation in New Jersey.

As a part of the NJDOT’s Lunch and Learn series, on February 22, 2024, Eric Schwarz, NJDOT’s research librarian, gave NJDOT employees an overview of the resources available through the NJDOT Research Library and directed a portion of his talk to “Discoveries in the First Year of the NJDOT’s Digitization Project.” The digitization project is an effort to make past documents, films, and other materials from the NJDOT archive, accessible online. Eric has been instrumental to the digitization project, leveraging resources of the multi-state Transportation Research and Connectivity Pooled Fund Study Digitization Project [TPF-5(442)].

The Lunch and Learn presentation gave NJDOT employees an overview of the NJDOT Research Library and highlighted several digitally archived historical materials and “lessons learned” during the first year of NJDOT’s digitization project.

Materials range from historic newspaper articles of The Highway to documentary clips of past infrastructure projects and initiatives. Materials have been selected, catalogued, indexed, processed, and preserved by Eric. The digitized materials are now accessible on the Internet Archive’s page for the NJDOT Research Library and contribute to the overall story of transportation in New Jersey.

Notably, the digitization efforts led to uncovering the names of several NJDOT employees who died while working for the department and its predecessor agencies. Five of these individuals were recognized at the Annual Remembrance Ceremony held in September 2023 with name plaques added to a Memorial Wall maintained by NJDOT at Headquarters. As noted during the Lunch and Learn presentation, additional documentary evidence has been found of persons who lost their lives while on duty as the digitization project has proceeded in recent months.

Eric’s presentation conveyed how the digitization project contains a well-spring of information that may prove of interest to historians and other researchers. Digitized materials like old photographs, maps and videos show the makeup of the highway commission in 1922, the number of miles in the State Highway System in 1925, and the number of women who have served as transportation commissioner. The digitized materials reveal several ways that NJDOT has contributed to safety innovations in transportation, including the implementation of cloverleafs, breakaway signs, center barriers, and the piloting and expansion of Emergency/Safety Service Patrol operations. This and other information about the state’s transportation history was made engaging and interactive through mini-pop quizzes.

Eric displayed the research poster about the Digitization Project presented at the Transportation Research Board Annual Conference held in Washington DC in January of 2024 at the Lunch and Learn event.

In addition to describing the digitization process and lessons learned participating in the pooled funded study, Eric gave an overview of the NJDOT Research Library, including its various services and available resources.

Eric noted reference and research services that can be accessed through the NJDOT Research Library. Employees, as well as other transportation professionals, may access various online resources and databases through the research library. Online databases and other sources include:

  • TRID (Transportation Research Board) — A collection of worldwide transportation research
  • Bureau of Transportation Statistics — Statistical information useful to transportation professionals
  • ROSA-P — the National Transportation Library’s Repository and Open Science Access Portal
  • ASTM Compass — Specialty documents from ASTM, AASHTO, American Welding Society
  • AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) — Standards and Publications

The research library also provides professional development tools like exam preparation books that can be lent out for several weeks. These books will help professionals prepare for a range of Civil Service and Professional Exams.

As state employees, NJDOT employees can apply for a State Library card, which must be renewed every two years. This card allows individuals to borrow print materials from the NJDOT research library, as well as the New Jersey State Library

Eric noted that links to several online resources and other information about the NJDOT Research Library can be found on the NJDOT Research Library page including links to the NJ State Library which contains additional transportation-related resources.

In addition to the recording, the Lunch and Learn presentation slides can be found here.


Notable Digitized Materials

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