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

Did You Know? Research on ALICE and Mobility of Low-Income Households

At the 2023 NJDOT Research Showcase, New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti “appealed to attendees to advance community-centered transportation and to commit to considering the needs of ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) persons when devising research questions and in carrying out their day-to-day activities with the goal of planning, building and maintaining a more safe, equitable and sustainable transportation system.” Gutierrez-Scaccetti has repeatedly said that she “drives with ALICE” in mind, but that ALICE would rather drive by herself. On Jan. 30, 2023, Gutierrez-Scaccetti spoke at the National ALICE Summit on Navigating the ALICE Highway: A Multistate Transportation System by 2030.

In recognition of the Commissioner’s emphasis on getting to better know who ALICE is, the NJDOT Research Library has done a quick research of resources related to the mobility of low-income households and the ALICE project at The United Way. These are included below:

United Way of Northern New Jersey operates the website United for ALICE, which maintains research pages for “partner states” (28 states, including New Jersey, plus the District of Columbia). United Way of Northern New Jersey (then known as United Way of Morris County) released its first ALICE report in 2009.

United Way prepares state fact sheets that compare the ALICE Essentials Index (AEI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over time.

The October 2023 NCHRP Research Results Digest, Collective and Individual Actions to Envision and Realize the Next Era of America’s Transportation Infrastructure: Phase 1, includes this background on ALICE households: “Economic growth and prosperity have not been spread evenly across the United States. About 13 percent of households earn incomes below the poverty line and an additional 29 percent are considered to be asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed (ALICE)…. The average household spends 16 percent of total expenditures on transportation—the second biggest cost after housing…. Significant numbers of Americans have limited access to health care, education, fresh food, or high-speed Internet.”

In 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy cited “more than one million [ALICE] families” in New Jersey as the impetus to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. In 2024, New Jersey’s minimum wage will surpass $15 for the first time.

November 2023 article from the journal Social Science & Medicine laments the fact that public health studies have not used ALICE data.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy takes an opposite tack in its criticism. It issued a 2021 report, An Assessment of ALICE: A Misleading Measure of Poverty. “Unfortunately, United Way’s research on this issue is methodologically flawed, misleading and does not help inform the public or policymakers about how to help these households,” the authors write. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy describes itself as “a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government.”

United for ALICE states that it provides “unbiased data that is replicable, easily updated on a regular basis, and sensitive to local context,” and that its published measures provide a better picture of “the number of households that are struggling in each county in a state,” compared with the Federal Poverty Level. United for ALICE’s most recent research methodology report was published in April 2023.

Transportation research on low-income individuals can be found via the TRID and ROSA-P databases.

The following are some relevant articles on the topic, curated by the NJDOT Research Library:

Current research projects into the topic of serving low-income populations include these:

Please contact the NJDOT research librarian, Eric Schwarz, MSLIS, at (609) 963-1898, or email at library@dot.nj.gov for assistance on how to expand your search to projects, or retrieve these or other publications.

Did You Know? Using Research Tools

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is committed to equity in transportation at all stages of transportation decisionmaking.

Did you know that the NJDOT Research Library can help practitioners identify sources that will help them meet this goal?

Some recent relevant research on this topic includes:

This is just a small sampling of research on this topic in 2022 and 2023. Check out these search results discoverable through TRID (including current research projects) and Google Scholar. As shown here, links to recent searches can be saved to collaborate and share with colleagues. The links display the scale and breadth of materials that can be easily discovered.

Check out the TRB Library Snap Search (research guide) tool on social equity and underserved populations to learn more about research projects recently completed, ongoing and upcoming and links to other reports and relevant research panels overseeing research.

NJDOT’s Research Library web page includes a “hot topic” link to the “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” (DEI) topic that can be accessed here: TRID Searches – NJDOT Technology Transfer. Close inspection of the saved TRID search will reveal that a large set of “index terms” (18 items) were used to perform this wide-ranging search; researchers, of course, can narrow their search quickly to a subset of items (e.g., environmental justice, barrier free design, civil rights, etc.)

State of New Jersey employees also have access to research tools, including specialized databases from ProQuest and EBSCO, through the New Jersey State Library. Your State Library card is the key to accessing these resources. Just complete this form to register for a State Library card.

And … did you know that many AASHTO reports and technical manuals are available electronically to NJDOT employees? These reports are available through the NJDOT Research Bureau’s SharePoint site. The State Library’s research guide also lists the availability of print and CD-ROM versions of AASHTO’s “featured/essential” publications.

Please contact the NJDOT research librarian, Eric Schwarz, MLIS, at (609) 963-1898, or email library@dot.nj.gov, for assistance in your transportation research.

NJDOT Research Library TRID Database

Did you know…

The TRID Database is an integrated resource that combines the records from TRB’s Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Database and the OECD’s Joint Transport Research Centre’s International Transport Research Documentation (ITRD) Database. TRID provides access to more than 1.4 million records of transportation research worldwide.

The NJDOT Research Library’s TRID Searches page provides a quick-access tool to research in the TRID Database on select topics and subjects. The “Hot Topics” searches list projects and publications issued over the last five years on several critical topics in transportation. The “TRID Database of Recent Publications” provides a list of recently issued publications by major Subject Area categories.

Image reads: 508 Accessibility Resources

508 Accessibility Resources

Did you know...

Image reads: 508 Accessibility ResourcesThe BTS National Transportation Library maintains a Library Guide devoted to providing various 508 Accessibility Resources.  The guide includes several valuable resources including accessibility policies, digital submission checklists for researchers, and recommended training resources.

Click here to visit this resource.

Image reads: Exam Guides

Exam Guides

Did You Know…

Image reads: Exam Guides

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Research Library is affiliated with the New Jersey State Library. The NJ State Library offers examination preparation resources for those preparing for testing. Some of these resources are available in digital format and may be checked out electronically.

NJDOT employees seeking these books should contact the NJDOT Research Library at: library@dot.nj.gov for additional details.

Sample materials include:

Many of the exam guides are available in eBook format from the NJ State Library. eBooks can be requested and accessed instantly from a browser or via the Libby app.

Detailed instructions on requesting and viewing eLibrary books are available here.


Did you know…

The ASTM COMPASS platform provides access to ASTM’s over 13,000 standards, research reports, manuals and more.

The COMPASS contains relevant sections of The ASTM’s Book of Standards, AASHTO transportation management publications, American Welding Society documents, federal regulations codes, and other industry research materials and reports. The NJDOT Research Library is pleased to provide licensed ASTM COMPASS access to state employees.

Please contact the research librarian to learn how to access these materials.