Ten Tips for New Agriculture Librarians

1. Primary Starting Point Databases for Agriculture Research (instruction / research assistance)
Note, There are several other databases in the sciences that also cover agricultural topics, but following are commonly used starting points:

  • AGRICOLA
    This is the National Agricultural Library's (NAL) primary catalog and contains records for all of the holdings of the Library. It also contains citations to articles, as well as to many items that, while valuable and relevant to the agricultural sciences, are not published in peer-reviewed journal articles.  The free version of AGRICOLA has 2 search options: one for books, the other for articles.  Many vendors (e.g. ProQuest, EbscoHost, etc.) also offer a version of the AGRICOLA database through their own interfaces, which will search all materials in the index at once, rather than in 2 separate searches.
  • CAB Abstracts 
    This is a subscription-based database that covers literature in the applied life sciences including: agriculture, environmental sciences, veterinary sciences, applied economics, and food science & nutrition, with an international focus.  CAB Abstracts is available from several vendors (e.g. Web of Science, Ovid, etc.) but many agricultural libraries provide access through the CAB Direct platform.  CABI (Centre for Agriculture & Biosciences International) provides this database, along with several other products and books related to agriculture. If your library does not already subscribe to CAB Abstracts, more information can be found at https://www.cabi.org/
  • PubAg 
    PubAg is a free database that contains full-text articles relevant to the agricultural sciences, along with citations to peer-reviewed journal articles with links to publisher sites and other full-text access options.  Topics covered include all of the core topics of the agricultural sciences: nutrition, food safety, food quality, animal and crop production and protection, natural resources, sustainable agricultural systems, rural development, agricultural economic and policy issues, agricultural imports and exports, agricultural statistics, extramural research, and Extension education.
And while not a database per say, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) provides a wealth of information, funded projects, and publications to stay up-to-date on issues affecting all aspects of agriculture.  This can be a great place to send students to think of ideas & topics for their papers and projects. 

For more resources, check out the Links for Agricultural Librarians in the USAIN website. 

2. Navigating Agriculture Government Documents (instruction / research assistance)
While this in and of itself is a huge topic, we'll just start with the basics of which SuDocs (Superintendent of Documents) relate to agriculture, and a few primary places to look for government documents.  First, the general assignment of SuDocs for agriculture are found under "A" with a corresponding number for a department within the USDA. The following provides a general list, with links to each department's home page:

A: Department of Agriculture (USDA)
A13: U.S. Forest Service
A17: National Agricultural Library (NAL)
A57: Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
A62: Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC)
A67: Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
A77: Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
A88: Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
A92: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NARS)
A93: Economic Research Service (ERS)
A98: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
A101: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
A112: Farm Services Agency (FSA)

Other places to search for government information (these include departments outside of agriculture) include: 

  • Federal Depository Library Directory
    Find a Federal Depository Library near you by using the site above to locate one of the nearly 1,250 depository libraries, all of which provide access to anyone wishing to use the Federal depository collections.

  • The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
    Search over 500,000 descriptive records for historical and current publications from across the federal government. Links directly to those available online or identifies the nearby Federal depository where a particular publication can be found. Includes records for materials dating from July 1976 to the present.

  • GovInfo
    A service of the Government Printing Office (GPO) that provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government. (this site replaced the Federal Digital System, FDsys)

3. Resources to Locate Agricultural Statistics (instruction / research assistance)
Statistics are available from a multitude of sources, but some of the "go-to" places include:


4. Finding or Depositing Agriculture Data into 
Repositories (instruction / research assistance)
A few to recommend to faculty, etc.  Also encourage a deposit of data (and or publications) to your own institution's repository if available. Ok to deposit materials to more than one location! 

  • AgriXiv: preprint repository for agriculture and allied sciences (created by Centre for Open Science and powered by Open Science Framework)
  • Zenodo: a catch-all repository for data, publications, and more. Named after Zenodotus who was the first librarian of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Includes all disciplines.
  • GenBank: NIH genetic sequence database developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  • Dryad: a non-profit repository for data underlying the international scientific and medical literature.


5. Grants and Data Management Plans for Agricultural Research 
(instruction / research assistance)

Several grants in the agricultural sciences are available, but sometimes it's a matter of knowing where to go to find them. A good place to begin looking, either to assist researchers or or to pursue your own grant-funding include:

Increasingly, requirements for data management plans are included as part of the grant application.  A great tool for creating data management plans that can be inserted into grant applications is the DMPTool (note, it is not necessary to be a member of one of the institutions listed; you can create a free account) 

6. Publishers that Produce a lot of Agriculture-related Texts (collection management) 

  • CABI
    Non-profit publisher of books on agriculture and environment, many from an international perspective. Available as ebooks on the CAB Direct platform or in print
  • Elsevier
    Books (and journals) on Agronomy and Crop Science as well as related scientific disciplines. Available as ebooks on the ScienceDirect platform or in print.
  • Springer
    Books (and journals) on Agriculture and Agronomy as well as related scientific disciplines. Available as ebooks on SpringerLink or in print.
  • CRC Press (Taylor and Francis)
    Books on Agricultural Science as well as related science disciplines. Available as ebook subject packages on the CRCnetBASE platform or in print.
  • American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America
    These societies publish their journals, and some ebooks, on the ACSESS DL (Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Societies Digital Library) platform. Books are also available in print.

7. Journals to Read and Potentially Publish in as an Information Professional (professional development)

There are several journals available to stay current in the profession; most of them focus on a particular aspect of librarianship (e.g. instruction, administration, etc.).The following focus on or include topics related to agriculture and provide an excellent forum to disseminate your own scholarly works to librarians interested in similar topics.  


8. Extension and the Land Grant Mission 
(professional awareness)

The chapter "History and Overview of the Land Grant College System" provides a good overview of the three tier mission,  incorporation of research centers, and legislation that are the backbone of the Extension system. 

Quick Overview: 
The series of acts that led to the establishment of agricultural colleges at land grant universities began with the Morrill Act of 1862. This act granted states public lands with the requirement that the lands be sold or used for profit and the proceeds used to establish at least one college that would teach agriculture and the mechanical arts. Some states established new colleges of agriculture at existing public institutions, but most established brand-new institutions.

A later act gave these colleges of agriculture a research mission and established the state agricultural experiment stations. Many of these colleges of agriculture eventually expanded to become large research universities. Some colleges of agriculture developed links to colleges of veterinary medicine and forestry. Over time, colleges of agriculture, veterinary medicine, and forestry were also established at non-land grant institutions, but most are at land grant universities.

The three-part mission of the land grant college of agriculture system is teaching, research, and extension. A manifestation of this mission is that in addition to research and teaching faculty, colleges of agriculture (or natural resources) also have extension specialists. These extension specialists can have research appointments or teaching and research appointments. University-based extension specialists interact with research scientists and disseminate scientific knowledge to farmers and other consumers. They also serve as the university's link to county extension agents and the USDA's Extension Service, forming a cooperative extension network.

Teaching Related Legislation:

First Morrill Act. Passed July 2, 1862. This law gave states public lands to establish at least one college that would teach agriculture and the mechanical arts.

Second Morrill Act. Passed August 30, 1890. Led to the establishment of land grant institutions for African Americans. Today there are 17 1890 institutions—including one private institution, Tuskegee University—located primarily in the southeast. In addition to being part of the land grant system, these 17 1890 schools are among the more than 100 historically black colleges and universities in the United States. (Taken from: https://www.nap.edu/read/4980/chapter/2)

Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935. Passed June 29, 1935. In order to provide for the more complete endowment and support of the colleges in the several States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.(See: http://ifas.ufl.edu/land-grant-sea-grant-the-bankhead-jones-act/)

1994 Native Indian Legislation. An Act conferring Land-Grant status on 29 tribal colleges.


Research Related Legislation:

Through approval of the Hatch Act of 1887, Congress provided for the establishment of an agricultural experiment station at each of the land grant colleges. Passed March 2, 1887.


Extension Legislation:

The third arm of the land grant system was provided by the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. This Act established the Cooperative Extension Service and specified that the service would be associated with a land grant college. The Smith-Lever Act also stipulated that federal funds be matched with local funds.


Sea Grant Legislation:

In 1966 the U.S. Congress established the National Sea Grant College Program. The term "Sea Grant" was chosen to emphasize the parallel between this new program focusing on the nation's marine resources, and the Land Grant Program, which was created more than a century earlier to develop our agricultural resources.

More can be found in the 1995 book published by the National Academies Press: Colleges of Agriculture and Land Grant Universities

9. Digitization: Born Digital vs. Re-born Digital (professional awareness)

Digitization of agricultural publications is very important for increasing access and discoverability of historical agricultural materials. Publications that were only created in digital format are called Born Digital.  Publications that were first created on paper, and later digitized, are called Re-born Digital.  Preserving or digitizing agricultural history has been very important to the land-grant community. The USAIN community has experience with both types of materials and can provide guidance as you plan future projects.

10. Additional Professional Organizations to Consider Joining (professional development)
USAIN is a great group of agricultural librarians, but there are several other organizations and associations you may want to consider joining as well to widen your network of librarians. 

Keep in mind, if you're also focusing on a specific aspect in librarianship (e.g. collections, teaching, data, etc.) you'll also want to join organizations that will help develop your skills in those areas.  Plenty of us in USAIN belong to "outside" organizations, so if you're wondering where to go, or which conferences are useful for a certain aspect, just send a note out to the list.  We're always happy to help! 
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