In 2006 the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) approved a strategic initiative to “Develop a collaborative project with the Center for Research Libraries to identify, digitize, archive, and provide persistent and unrestricted access to federal technical reports issued prior to 1975.” This initiative developed over time and became what we know now as the Technical Report Archive and Image Library (TRAIL).
One of TRAIL’s original guidelines, of collecting material published only prior to 1975, was stretched almost immediately as we quickly determined there was little reason to digitize the first 100 reports in a series that were published prior to 1975 and not digitize the last 10 reports in that same series because they happened to be published after 1975. Completing a series was considered to be more important than publication year.
Another guideline, that TRAIL would create a catalog record for every report added to the collection, was reviewed two and a half years ago when the opportunity arose to harvest the full text reports and metadata of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) from the NASA Technical Report Server (NTRS). The TRAIL Steering Committee made the decision to forego the cataloging and add these reports. The decision to harvest proved particularly fruitful when the government temporarily took down NTRS (and then slowly added content back after each report was reviewed for potentially sensitive material). During that time, TRAIL was providing far more access to NACA content than did the NTRS site.
These and other considerations have prompted the TRAIL Steering Committee to have ongoing discussions related to significantly expanding the scope of content that could be added to TRAIL.
As a result of those discussions, the TRAIL Steering Committee is proposing to:
· Ignore the cutoff date of 1975. TRAIL would still have a focus on older technical reports, when available, but would cease to consider issues related to publication date in considering whether to add reports to TRAIL, particularly when newer materials are available to be harvested.
· Significantly increase our harvesting of full text technical report collections and metadata already available elsewhere. This would decrease the percentage of items within TRAIL for which catalog records are available, but would significantly increase the overall quantity of TRAIL’s technical report content and availability.
Different federal agencies digitize their own technical report series and make those series available is various ways. Expanding the scope of TRAIL would allow us to pull much of that content together and make it searchable via a single access point, while still continuing original digitization and cataloging of material not readily available elsewhere. Equally importantly, by aggregating this content TRAIL provides an additional access point for a broader range of technical reports and a trusted repository for content that is subject to ever-changing federal agency priorities and potentially precarious funding.
This change would still have TRAIL adhering largely to its original roots. We would still identify, digitize (or harvest), archive, and provide persistent and unrestricted access to federal technical reports. There would simply be a lower percentage of the overall TRAIL collection for which catalog records would be available, and we would do away with what became, relatively early on, a somewhat artificial date range restriction.