Title A Short History on the Portland Cement Association Authority of Publication Scope, Content, Currency, and Intended Audience Search Features Interface Features and Limitations Interface Annoyances and Limitations Technical Requirements Suggestions for Improvement How to Access and Search the Repositories How to Access and Search for Recent Publications Note References

Electronic Resources Reviews

Cement, Concrete and Research Literature Online Repositories (Portland Cement Association)

Louisa Verma
PCA Librarian

Cement and concrete are all around us, from sidewalks and buildings to runways and dams, and yet most of us hardly stop to think about the technical knowledge that goes into making this highly used material. Cement, a key ingredient in the quality and manufacture of concrete, has been discovered and rediscovered throughout the ages. Since the early 1900’s, the Portland Cement Association’s ongoing research has continued providing necessary answers for making cement and concrete longer lasting and, increasingly, more environmentally sustainable.

The Cement Research Library, Concrete Research Library and PCA Archival Literature databases are three separate full text repositories that are freely available through the Portland Cement Association (PCA) and PCA Library’s website.

A Short History on the Portland Cement Association

The Portland Cement Association was founded in 1916 but had its beginnings over a decade before, in 1902, when a group of eastern cement manufacturers came together in search of solutions to problems plaguing the industry. The group continued to meet unofficially during 1902 as the Eastern Portland Cement Manufacturers to discuss mutual issues in the cement manufacturing business. After a constitution and by-laws were drawn up, the first Annual Meeting was held on December 9, 1902 where the name “Association of Portland Cement Manufacturers” was adopted. In 1904, the name underwent another slight change with the addition of “American” becoming “Association of American Portland Cement Association.” In 1916 the association was renamed again, becoming what is known today as the Portland Cement Association or PCA (Bartlett et. al., 1924).

Authority of Publication

The PCA is looked upon by the industry as, “the premier policy, research, education, and market intelligence organization serving America’s cement manufacturers” (PCA 2019). Research publications dating back to the early 1900s by PCA research engineers are still routinely cited throughout the cement and concrete literature.* Many of the research studies in these repositories were the first to be conducted in the industry, in order to understand the underlying chemistry of cement and to form specifications for quality construction. Since the earliest days, PCA research and technical engineers have participated on ASTM subcommittees continuing to ensure cement specifications are evidence based and consistent across standardization bodies.

Scope, Content, Currency, and Intended Audience

The PCA’s Cement Research Library, Concrete Research Library and Archival Literature repositories provide nearly 4,000 full text publications from 1915-2008. While intended mainly for industry-related scientists, engineers and concrete construction professionals, all of these repositories are freely available to the wider community. At the time of this writing, each repository must be searched separately.

Search Features

Figure 1. Search features

  1. Each repository can be searched by:
    • All fields (default)
    • Author
    • Keyword
    • Title
    • Code No.
    • Year
  2. Results can be sorted by:
    • Title (default)
    • Year
    • Author
    • Code No.
  3. Additionally, one can change the left-hand side panel Browse index from the default (Author) to either:
    • Keyword
    • Code No.
    • Year
  4. Searches can be made more relevant or broadened/narrowed by using the radio button Boolean selection options:
    • All of these words (=AND)
    • Any of these words (=OR)
    • Phrase Search (default)

Interface Features and Limitations

Once a search is run, the results are displayed in an easy-to-read table format (Figure 2). The total number of hits is visible in red at the top of the results list. Keywords and authors are hyperlinked for further exploration of works by relevant keywords or works by the same author. The title is linked directly to the PCA file storage server to download the full text document. If a search results in more than 50 publications, users have the option to skip to a page or click Next for subsequent sets of 50 publications. At the bottom of each page, there is an option to Print this Page. At the top of the page is a link to View All Reports which will bring up a list of all documents in the database. Here you can also find links to Home (main page), View Manufacturing Reports, Web Catalog (PCA Bookstore), About PCA and Help. Please note that since these repositories were originally created as CD-Rom disks in 2008, the “About PCA” and “Contact” information at the bottom of the Help page are a bit out-of-date.

Figure 2. Results list

Interface Annoyances and Limitations Include:

Additionally, at times users might see the following pop-up (figure 3):

Figure 3. Buggy pop up

Since the databases were originally built on a now obsolete software, this message may be triggered by some browsers but can easily be overridden through clicking the [OK] button each time it occurs.

Technical Requirements

The search interface works on all popular browsers that were tested (Chrome, IE, Edge, Firefox). Other than having Adobe Acrobat installed to be able to open the full text of publications, no other technical requirements are needed.

Suggestions for Improvement

Having to go into three separate search files, plus the PCA Online catalog, to potentially find all the publications you are looking for is cumbersome. At some point it would be good to incorporate these three repositories into a single searchable online repository and include updated publications, which are available in the PCA Online catalog, as well.

How to Access and Search the Repositories

Watch a 2-minute video on how to access and search: https://tinyurl.com/pcapubs

How to Access and Search for Recent Publications

For more recent PCA publications, researchers should search the PCA Library’s online catalog. Here’s how to access and a short tutorial on the most effective way to search for PCA publications.

Watch a 2-minute video on how to access the catalog and limit to PCA publications: https://tinyurl.com/limitpcapubs


*A recent Google Scholar search on the 1934 PCA publication by T.C. Powers, “Absorption of Water by Portland Cement Paste during Hardening Process,” brought up 19 articles citing this publication since 2017.


Bartlett, G. S., Lesley, R. W., & Lober, J. B. (1924). History of the Portland Cement Industry in the United States With Appendices Covering Progress of the Industry by Years and an Outline of the Organization and Activities of the Portland Cement Association Chicago (IL): International Trade Press, Inc. Google Books. [cited 2021 Aug 31] Available from https://www.google.com/books/edition/History_of_the_Portland_Cement_Industry/QR86AAAAMAAJ.

PCA: since 1916 America's cement manufacturers [Internet]. Skokie (IL): Portland Cement Association; c2019 [cited 2021 Aug 31]. Available from https://www.cement.org/about.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship No. 98, Spring 2021. DOI: 10.29173/istl2661