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Standards & Specifications: A How-To Guide

Learn how to search for, and locate, full text of industry standards with this how-to guide from the Iowa State University Library.

Free ISO & IEC Standards for Classroom Use

ANSI offers engineering faculty an opportunity to use a number of normally expensive standards for free in-class use. This program is called the American National Standards Institute’s University Outreach Pilot Program.

According to their webpage, ANSI "will provide free access to faculty and students to any defined group of standards currently available in the collections of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which contain nearly 20,000 standards." In order to be eligible, you will need to know exactly which standard(s) you will need access to.

To sign up for this free access, university faculty need to fill out an online form that talks about the class and addresses how the class would use the standards.

Locating ISO and IEC standards at ISU


The ISO was formed in 1947 as a non-governmental federation of standardization bodies, and includes the national standards institutes of nearly 150 countries. The United States is represented by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The ISO publishes international standards and technical reports on all subjects except those involved with electrical and electrotechnical industries. The best known ISO standards are the 9000 series, for quality management and quality assurance, and the 14000 series, for environmental management systems and environmental auditing. The ISU Library has a number of books on implementing ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series standards, which can be found with a keyword search for "ISO 9000" or "ISO 14000" using Quick Search on the Library homepage.

We have also individually purchased some ISO standards, on request, and these are available in the Standards Center (Room 161). To see if the ISU Library has a specific ISO standard, use Quick Search on the Library homepage and jot down the call number and location. If the call number is ANSI/ISO, it will be in the ANSI collection in the Standards Center and filed under "ANSI/ISO." If the location is Standards Center and the call number is plain ISO, it will be in cabinets labeled ISO.

The ISU Library also has reprints of some ISO standards as part of a series called ISO Standards Handbook. To see which volumes we own in the series, search Quick Search for "ISO standards handbook" (with the quotation marks). Note: It is not possible to search for specific ISO standards listed in each of these volumes - you need to browse the table of contents to see which standards are in each volume.

When all else fails, check the search engine of your choice by either standard number or title – some ISO standards, usually older ones, may be available free on the web.


With few exceptions, International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards are generally not held in the ISU Library. The IEC standards that are owned are filed with the ANSI standards collection under the heading "ANSI/ISO/IEC" and are listed in Quick Search. The IEC is affiliated with the ISO as its electrical division, but retains financial and technical autonomy. The IEC issues recommendations which are intended to serve as the basis for national standards. Most IEC standards are not listed in the ISO Standards Catalogue, but the IEC Webstore lists them all.

Standards hidden within other books

Many standards have been reprinted within other books - primarily in engineering fields. For example, Metric Standards for Worldwide Manufacturing contains many tables copied from ISO standards - e.g., bearings, tires, metal cutting tools, fasteners, screw threads, etc. This particular book reprinted excerpts from the ISO standards they mention in the text; however, other books may reprint the entire ISO standard on a specific topic as part of the book appendix. There is NO good way to locate these...other than checking the Quick Search box on the Library homepage for your specific topic (e.g., bearings) and look for a good introductory handbook as these might contain some of the relevant standards in them.

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Kris Stacy-Bates
150 Parks Library

Iowa State University

515 294-6819