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Rounding Up The Collection: The Story Of Trail Digital Content Collection

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Using Information Technology to Create New Information Resources

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1037.1 - 14.1037.9



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Paper Authors


Patricia Kirkwood University of Arkansas

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Patricia is the Engineering and Mathematics Librarian at the University of Arkansas. A member of the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) TRAIL project since 2006. Currently she is the chairperson of the Collections Group.

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Michael Culbertson Colorado State University

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Mike is the Engineering College Liaison Librarian at Colorado State University's Morgan Library.
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Mike is currently developing a study to look at how diverse populations use virtual reference services and developing a project to digitize the Colorado State University Civil Engineering Reports. He has been a member of the GWLA TRAIL project since 2008.

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Esther Crawford Rice University

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Esther is the Head of Kelley Center for Government Information and Micro forms. She has recently added civil engineering subject specialist to her duties at Rice University and has been a member of the GWLA TRAIL project since 2008.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Recognizing the importance of technical reports and the challenges to access presented by this material, GWLA (Greater Western Library Alliance), in collaboration with the Center for Research Libraries, developed a project to identify, digitize, archive, and provide persistent and unrestricted access to federal technical reports issued prior to 1976. Significant progress has been made since the project began in 2005. The first collection digitized, the “NBS monograph series”, was relatively easy and, along with a small subset Atomic Energy Commission series, is available at the TRAIL (Technical Report Archive and Image Library). The Bulletin series of the US Bureau of Mines found its way to the group, but provided challenges in digitization technique due to maps, foldouts, and other illustrations. Defining what is a federal technical report; determining what agencies (existing or defunct) are appropriate for inclusion; and finding paper copies of the reports of interest has been a more complicated task than expected. This paper will describe the efforts of the taskforce of engineering and government documents librarians to define, collect, and digitize one of the largest bodies of grey literature in science and engineering. Introduction

For decades librarians and researchers in science and engineering have discussed how to provide greater access and bibliographic control to the “grey literature”: unpublished reports, pre-prints and similar documents. A significant portion of the grey literature consists of technical reports commissioned by the federal government. Technical reports are a means of communicating the progress of research in fields of technology and science. Federal technical reports have an additional attribute; they are produced using public funds, they are meant to be widely accessible. These reports are highly detailed and contain valuable information serving specialized audiences of researchers. While availability and access to the more recent (1994- current) technical report literature has greatly improved with delivery via the Internet, legacy technical report documents remain elusive to researchers. Many large research libraries across the country have sizeable collections of federally funded technical research reports, frequently a million or more reports ranging from several pages to several hundred pages. However, these collections, particularly legacy collections, are often difficult to identify and locate for several reasons:

≠ Dissemination to libraries has occurred through a variety of agencies and organizations over many years; dissemination was often based on institution profiles creating incomplete sets of reports. ≠ There is limited bibliographic access and control in science, technology and medicine indexing sources and often more than one index must be consulted to retrieve a report.

≠ Collections are usually available in some combination of print and/or microfiche and are difficult to access without known citations and mediation to navigate through the various collections and organization strategies.

Kirkwood, P., & Culbertson, M., & Crawford, E. (2009, June), Rounding Up The Collection: The Story Of Trail Digital Content Collection Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5070

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