Skip to Main Content

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.

How to Find Standards at ISU

The bulk of the ISU Library-owned standards are located in the Standards Center, Room 161, Parks Library. If you need assistance locating standards, or the Standards Center, please ask at the Main Desk.

The citation to a standard typically has at least two parts, a number and a title. It may include more information, such as a date of revision or the number of pages. The alphabetic section of the standard number is often an acronym for the issuing body. For example, the following standard was issued by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) in 1990: ASTM F1299-90, "Standard Specification for Food Service Equipment Hoods for Cooking Appliances."

If you already have a specific standard number:

Such as ANSI, ASTM, or other standard number, see the relevant tab on this guide.

If you want to find the standards of a specific organization:

Information on locating standards from organizations that are heavily requested are detailed on individual pages of this guide. See the ANSI, ASTM, ISO or other standards pages within this guide. Standards from other organizations may also be in the library collection. Be aware that the organization’s name may appear in one of three ways--as the full name (e.g. American Concrete Institute), as the acronym (e.g. ACI) or as the acronym with punctuation (e.g. A.C.I.). Some organizations also have published hundreds of other types of publications, so you may need to do a keyword search combining a form of the organization’s name with the term "standards." Some other terms to try if the "standards" search does not work are "code," "specifications," "standardization," "manual," "handbook" and "standard methods."

If you only know the title of a specific standard:

Use the Quick Search box on the Library homepage to see if it is owned by ISU. You may need to use Advanced Search and change the "any field" drop-down to "title." If you find the standard using Quick Search, note the location (if not in the Standards Center) and call number. If you do not find it there, go to one of the Standards Search Engines to find out the standard number and which agency issued it. Then, go to the relevant tab for information on how to locate it in the library.

If you need a standard on a very specific topic:

Search one of the Standards Search Engines by subject, looking for a standard title that corresponds to that specific topic. You may have to start your search under a broader subject category or try keyword variations.

If you need a standard on a general topic from a specific organization:

Find an index for the standards of that organization (may be one available on the organization's Web page, or a printed index for the organization's standards) and check the table of contents, subject index or keyword index for your topic.

Interpreting Quick Search records for standards


Often, our collection includes more than one version of a standard. You may see a message that a number of versions exist -- this is usually a result of standards being revised and reissued over time. Click on this combined record and you'll see all the versions in our collection. From there, choose the version you want. (Note: If a standard's number or other designation has changed over time, there may be versions that are not automatically pulled into the grouped record.)


To find where a standard is located in the Library, look for text that says "Available at Parks Library." The next few words will describe where the item is. For most standards, this will be REFERENCE Standards Center (Rm 161).

Call number

The code in parentheses that follows the location is the call number for the standard. Often, this is the standard number. (Be aware: if you've used a citation to identify the needed standard, the call number may vary from the number cited. Typically there may be additional acronyms or, if the standard is not in the Standards Center it may have a Library of Congress call number.) You will need to know this number in order to find the standard on the shelf or in the Standards Center.

Using the Standards Center

When you get to the Standards Center

The majority of the standards are housed in filing cabinets that line the room. They are arranged alphabetically by the acronym for the issuing organization and by code/number. It's generally best to interpret punctuation as spaces. For example, ANSI/AASHTO/AWS D1.5M/D1.5:2010 is filed before ANSI C82.3, which comes before ANSI/ISO/ASQC 9000-2..

Items with Library of Congress call numbers are located on the shelves rather than in the filing cabinets.

Still can't find it?

If you have identified a standard and found it in Quick Search, but can't find it in the library, ask at the Main Desk or contact the librarian listed on this page.

Checking out standards

In general, because industry standards are very expensive and some are irreplaceable, we do not lend our standards and prefer researchers to scan or photocopy individual pages they need from a standard rather than checking them out. However, standards may be checked out on a case by case basis by contacting the librarian listed on this page.

Profile Photo
Kris Stacy-Bates
150 Parks Library

Iowa State University

515 294-6819