Since I moved into my office in May, I've been avoiding a box in the corner labeled "NASA Technical Notes 1960-1974." A note addressed to a long-gone student employee rests on the top that says, "You can ignore this." Believe me, I've been doing my best. But I had a relatively meeting-less week last week and decided to clear the clutter. I needed to figure out what those Technical Notes were and whether we already had them. If they weren't a part of our collection already, I'd need to decide whether to add them.
Turns out we do already have them in print, and most of them are available online through the NASA Technical Reports Server. The contents of the box will be responsibly recycled. But the research process was, as always, instructive.
NASA has published several types of papers over the years. I found descriptions on the back of one of the destined-for-the-recycling-bin notes. If a paper isn't available online, or you just want to put your hands on the paper, print versions (typically bound by year) can be found in the Walter Library sub-basement shelved by Library of Congress number:
Technical Reports are "scientific and technical information considered important, complete, and a lasting contribution to existing knowledge." You can find Technical Reports from 1959-1977 are at TL521.A3312x.
Technical Notes are "less broad in scope but nevertheless of importance as a contribution to existing knowledge." You can find Technical Notes from 1959-1977 at TL521.N37x.
Technical Memorandums are "information receiving limited distribution because of preliminary data, security classifications, or other reasons." Technical Memorandums from 1921-1958 are in storage, but you can use the Get It link to request that the volume you need be sent to your office or favorite University library.
Contractor reports are "technical information generated in connection with a NASA contract or grant and released under NASA auspices." We have print Contractor Reports from 1963-1991 at TL521.3.C6 A3.
We also have many (but not all) NASA Technical Papers from 1984-1992 at TL521.3 N18. Material this recent, however, is the most likely to be easily available online.