History of TRAIL
Discussion began at the University of Arizona (UA), followed by meetings of the American Library Association (ALA) and the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) on a possible project to digitize U.S. federal technical reports to make them more visible and searchable. Maliaca Oxnam of UA led these discussions.
A letter of interest was sent to Judy Russell at the Government Printing Office.
The discussion group wanted to create a pilot to explore potential problems and successes of a national, collaborative technical report digitization, access, and preservation project. The demonstration project would be small (less than 500 reports or 50,000 pages), but large enough to identify and work out some technical and user problems.
Maliaca Oxnam started a TECHREPORTS e-list at UA to communicate with other interested parties.
GPO showed interest in the project but had no funding. UA received word that Bernie Reilly at the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) was interested in the project. A group from UA met with Bernie, who agreed to gauge the interest of CRL libraries in the project.
The Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) opened discussions on possible new strategic directions. In response, UA submitted a proposal to develop a collaborative project with CRL to identify, digitize, and provide open access to federal technical reports.
A straw poll over the TECHREPORTS list asked subscribers which agencies' reports would attract the most interest.
Maliaca Oxnam and Bernie Reilly talked again at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Reilly reiterated CRL’s interest in the digitization project. Results of the straw poll were reported.
GWLA announced that the UA proposal had been accepted as one of four strategic initiatives for the Alliance. A small group of GWLA Deans and Directors met to expand each initiative into a program outline and suggest next steps.
GWLA approved the outline for the technical report digitization project and the GWLA/CRL Federal Technical Reports Task Force was created to move the project forward. At this point the Task Force was primarily composed of engineering librarians. Maliaca Oxnam became Chair of the Task Force.
The Linda Hall Library in Kansas City expressed particular interest in the project and agreed to assign an individual to work on the Task Force as well as to do a 200–500 report digitization test to identify costs.
The University of Arizona agreed to provide seed money for the project; funds were transferred to CRL to avoid fiscal year spending deadlines at UA.
The Task Force met for the first time; over two days, members reviewed the entire project and outlined questions and next steps for each stage. The Task Force also:
- identified next steps that subgroups could work on in the short term
- created a Gantt chart that outlined tasks and timelines
- decided on a number of small collections that could be used for the pilot/demonstration project
- developed preliminary cost model frameworks that were submitted to GWLA/CRL members for feedback.
These efforts were followed by:
- development of interface and metadata requirements
- creation of lists of agencies and institutions with interest in being involved in the project
- investigation of digitization vendors
- scanning of the first collection: the Monograph Series of the National Bureau of Standards.
The Task Force:
- carried out the above projects
- sent out calls for interest on various e-lists
- developed long-term digitization plans
- developed a prototype system at the University of Hawaii
- identified publication of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) collections for scanning.
Task Force members met in January at the Linda Hall Library to continue intensive planning for the pilot and for a longer-phased project. They also developed digitization quality control checks.
AEC collections were scanned and added to the pilot site.
Pilot project was named TRAIL (Technical Report Archive and Image Library).
GWLA Deans and Directors agreed to support the project with $4,000 per GWLA institution (about $120,000 total). GWLA added a Digital Collections Program Officer to its staff, who joined the Task Force as the GWLA representative/liaison.
The University of Arkansas received a gift to the U.S. Bureau of Mines technical report series, which became the next major set of materials to be digitized. The University of Arkansas became the first “node”.
The University of Michigan Digitization Project (Michigan) offered to become involved. Michigan funnels the technical reports the Task Force wants to include in the project into the stream of materials that Michigan supplies to Google as one of its partners. Michigan receives a copy of all scanned documents it sends to Google. Development of a separate interface that would allow searching of just the technical-report content was proposed, leading to much discussion between the Task Force and Michigan.
The Task Force met again at the Linda Hall Library to develop a process and workflow for a much larger volume of material, since Michigan had offered to do the scanning. The Task Force was recharged to address a production system (as opposed to a pilot) and added two new members, who were both government documents librarians. The Task Force created and assigned new task lists after this meeting.
Stanford expressed an interest in joining the project to design a user interface to the scanned documents.
The group agreed on a permanent project name—TRAIL—and the name of the group became the TRAIL Task Force.
Discussion began about having OCLC create collection sets of records for each series (or group of series from a particular agency) digitized by the Task Force.
Linda Hall Library bowed out of participation in the project since its commitment was only for the pilot. The Task Force welcomed four new members, three of whom were government documents librarians. The updated version of the Task Force met in Chicago to bring the new members up to speed, decide on future directions, and identify tasks.
The Task Force identified point people and groups to complete these tasks:
The “Collection Group” subgroup will define the collections to be included in the project.
The “External Communication” subgroup will develop a project Web site to inform the public and project partners about the work of the Task Force and how to become involved.
A skeletal Web site was launched using free Google space for hosting and creation, and much background work to populate the site with content.
UA developed a project internal tracking system.
The group made a final decision on the TRAIL logo.
Work began at the second “node” to process of all remaining report series of the National Bureau of Standards.
The partner institutions as of 2009 are listed below. Original member institutions are designated by **.
University of Arizona**
Arizona State University
University of Arkansas**
Brigham Young University
Center for Research Libraries**
University of Colorado, Boulder**
Colorado State University
University of Hawaii, Manoa**
University of Hong Kong
University of Houston
Iowa State University
University of Kansas
Kansas State University**
Linda Hall Library**
University of Michigan
University of Missouri, Columbia
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
University of New Mexico
University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
University of Oregon
Oregon State University
University of Southern California
Southern Illinois University
University of Texas, Austin
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
University of Utah
Utah State University
University of Washington**
Washington State University
Washington University, St. Louis