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Standards: Home

This guide contains information that defines what standards are and who creates them as well as lists options for locating and accessing standards.

What is a Standard?

A standard, or standard specification, indicates the properties, dimension, performance, qualities and testing to which manufacturers and services are recommended to conform.

Standards are used by producers and consumers of goods and services. They specify how an item should be made by providing exact measurements and specifications about materials and processes. Standards are responsible for ensuring safety, reliability, quality, interchangeability of parts, and consistency of products and processes within and across national borders. Standards ensure that any brand of light bulb can fit a lamp or any brand appliance can be plugged into an electrical socket. Engineers generally need to consult the appropriate standards when creating new products, processes, or designs.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a good overview of standards, including their history, benefits, and the procedures for writing them.

Who Creates Standards

There are hundreds of standards-generating bodies worldwide and these include:

  • Professional Societies such as IEEE, ASTM

  • Industry Associations such as the Association of American Railroads and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry

  • Government Agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Energy

  • International Standardizing Bodies - many countries have their own national standardizing bodies

    • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

    • Canadian Standards Association (CSA)

    • British Standards Institute (BSI)

    • Deutsches Institut fur Normung (DIN)

In addition there is the International Standards Organization (ISO), it creates and approves international standards. It deals with all areas except electrical and electronics standards which are handled by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Locating Standards

The University of Pennsylvania Libraries hold few standards in its collections and a search of the library catalog for standards will not yield relevant results, good places to search are listed below.

REMEMBER, these are tools to help you identify the standards you need. They rarely provide you with the free full text of the standard.

Document Center - Standards and specifications from many industry, military and government organizations. You can search by document number or keyword. Standards are available for a fee.

IHS/Global - A commercial site that allows you to search a wide variety of industry, government and military standards from many different organizations. You can search by document number, keywords, industry or standardizing organization. The standards themselves are available for a fee.

Techstreet - A commercial site that allows you to search or browse the catalogs of several major standardizing bodies including ASTM, ANSI, ISO and BSI. Standards can be ordered at a fee from this site.

Most standardizing bodies produce catalogs of their published standards which can be searched to find relevant standards. A few examples are listed below:

Of course, this is only a very small selection of the standardizing bodies that may be relevant to your interests. Several good directories are available on the web.

  • The Scholarly Societies Project's standards pages. 
    The Scholarly Societies Project gathers links to scholarly societies, including standardizing organizations, to assist researchers in locating them.

  • The Standards Engineering Society
    Lists of US, Canadian, and international organizations that develop standards sorted alphabetically. The most comprehensive of the directories listed here.

Accessing Standards

It is easiest to access a standard if you know the acronym and name of the publishing organizations, the standard number and the titledate and subject of the standard you want, so write those down when you find them.

The Library does not hold many standards, so please refer to the list below for library holdings or sites that offer full text of certain government department standards.

  • ASME - The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code 2004 is available electronically through Knovel.

  • ASTM -The Penn Libraries has print copies of the ASTM standards in call number range, TA401 .A653. Penn Libraries also subscribes to the ASTM Standards database.

  • The Code of Federal Regulations is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is available from the Government Printing Office.

  • IEEE - All current IEEE standards are available online to students, faculty and staff of the University via the IEL

  • ISO - Penn licenses a number of ISO standards from a licensing body in Spain. They are available on the ASTM Compass website, but not under the "ISO" publisher category. They are instead found under the "UNE" category. (Filtering results to "My Subscription" will show only items in Penn's subscription.)

  • Other standards listed in Franklin. Use the Subject Heading Search for Standards, Engineering, or for Standards, Military, or use the Subject Heading Keyword Search to search for standards in the appropriate discipline. If you have trouble using these search features, please ask a librarian for help.

If the Penn Libraries doesn't have the standard you need, please talk to your subject specialist as he or she will be able to discuss the options for obtaining the standard either from inter-library loan or an on-demand supplier.

Asst. Director for STEM Libraries & Engineering Librarian

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Doug McGee
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Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
3420 Walnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104

Computer Science & Engineering Librarian

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Stephen Hall
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(215) 898-7555