Professional Development

Author Archive

Audra at SAA, Days 4 & 5: e-records, metrics, collaboration

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 5:54 pm

Friday in Chicago started with coffee with Christian Dupont from Atlas Systems (and former consultant for Special Collections), followed by Session 302: “Practical Approaches to Born-Digital Records: What Works Today.” Again, Rebecca offered some great highlights from the session, which was standing-room only (some archivists quipped that we must have broken fire codes with the number of people sitting on the floor)! Chris Prom from U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, moderated the excellent panel on practical solutions to dealing with born-digital archival collections. Suzanne Belovari of Tufts referred to the AIMS project (which sponsored the workshop I attended on Tuesday) and the Personal Archives in Digital Media (paradigm) project, which offers an excellent “Workbook on digital private papers” and “Guidelines for creators of personal archives.” She also referenced the research of Catherine Marshall of the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries at Texas A&M, who has posted her research and papers regarding personal digital archives on her website. All of the speakers referred to Chris Prom’s Practical E-Records blog, which includes lots of guidelines and tools for archivists to deal with born digital material.

Ben Goldman of U Wyoming, who wrote an excellent piece in RB&M entitled “Bridging the Gap: Taking Practical Steps Toward Managing Born-Digital Collections in Manuscript Repositories,” talked about basic steps for dealing with electronic records, including network storage, virus checking, format information, generating checksums, and capturing descriptive metadata. He uses Enterprise Checker for virus checking, Duke DataAccessioner to generate checksums, and a Word doc or spreadsheet to track actions taken for individual files. Melissa Salrin of U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign spoke about her use of a program called Firefly to detect social security numbers in files, TreeSize Pro to identify file types, and a process through which she ensures that the files are read-only when moved. She urged the audience to remember to document every step of the transfer process, and that “people use and create files electronically as inefficiently as analog.” Laura Carroll, formerly of Emory, talked about the famous Salman Rushdie digital archives, noting that donor restrictions are what helped shape their workflow for dealing with Rushdie’s born digital material. The material is now available on a secure Fedora repository. Seth Shaw from Duke spoke about DataAccessioner (see previous posts) but mostly spoke eloquently in what promises to be an historic speech about the need to “do something, even if it isn’t perfect.”

After lunch, I attended Session 410: “The Archivists’ Toolkit: Innovative Uses and Collaborations,” starring none other than our own Rebecca Petersen! The session highlighted interesting collaborations and experiments with AT, and the most interesting was by Adrianna Del Collo of the Met, who found a way to convert folder-level inventories into XML for import into AT. Following Rebecca’s session, I was invited last-minute to a meeting of the “Processing Metrics Collaborative,” led by Emily Novak Gustainis of Harvard. The small group included two brief presentations by Emily Walters of NC State and Adrienne Pruitt of the Free Library of Philadelphia, both of whom have experimented with Gustainis’ Processing Metrics Database, which is an exciting tool to help archivists track statistical information about archival processing timing and costs. Walters also mentioned NC State’s new tool called Steady, which allows archivists to take container list spreadsheets and easily convert them into XML stub documents for easy import into AT. Walters used the PMD for tracking supply cost and time tracking, while Pruitt used the database to help with grant applications. Everyone noted that metrics should be used to compare collections, processing levels, and collection needs, taking special care to note that metrics should NOT be used to compare people. The average processing rate at NC State for their architectural material was 4 linear feet per hour, while it was 2 linear feet per hour for folder lists at Princeton (as noted by meeting participant Christie Petersen).

I had dinner with my future UC Irvine colleagues before heading over to the All-Attendee Reception at the Field Museum, where I caught up with friends and colleagues.

On Saturday morning I woke up early to prepare for my session, Session 503: “Exposing Hidden Collections Through Consortia and Collaboration.” I was honored and proud to chair the session with distinguished speakers Holly Mengel of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, Nick Graham of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and Sherri Berger of the California Digital Library. The panelists defined and explored the exposure of hidden collections, from local/practical projects to regional/service-based projects. Each spoke about levels of “hidden-ness,” and the decisionmaking process of choosing partners and service recipients. It was a joy to listen to and facilitate presentations by archivists with such inspirational projects.

After my session, I attended Session 605: “Acquiring Organizational Records in a Social Media World: Documentation Strategies in the Facebook Era.” The focus on documenting student groups is very appealing, since documenting student life is one of the greatest challenges for university archivists. Most of the speakers recommended web archiving for twitter and facebook, which were not new ideas to me. However, Jackie Esposito of Penn State suggested a new strategy for documenting student organizations, which focuses on capture/recapture of social media sites and direct conversations with student groups, including the requirement that every group have a student archivist or historian. Jackie taught an “Archives 101″ class to these students during the week after 7 pm early in the fall, and made sure to follow up with student groups before graduation.

Rebecca and I headed to lunch, where we enjoyed delicious bao (steamed buns) at Wow Bao, which is officially my favorite chain restaurant. I’ve decided that I’m going to start a franchise someday! After lunch, we went to Session 702: “Return on Investment: Metadata, Metrics, and Management.” All I can say about the session is…wow. Joyce Chapman of TRLN (formerly an NC State Library Fellow) spoke about her research into ROI (return on investment) for manual metadata enhancement and a project to understand researcher expectations of finding aids. The first project addressed the challenge of measuring value in a nonprofit (which cannot measure value via sales like for-profit organizations) through A/B testing of enhancements made to photographic metadata by cataloging staff. Her testing found that page views for enhanced metadata records were quadruple those of unenhanced records, a staggering statistic. Web analytics found that 28% of search strings for their photographs included names, which were only added to enhanced records. In terms of cataloger time, their goal was 5 minutes per image but the average was 7 minutes of metadata work per image. Her project documentation is available online. In her other study, she did a study of discovery success within finding aids by academic researchers using behavior, perception, and rank information. In order from most to least useful for researchers were: collection inventory, abstract, subjects, scope and contents, and biography/history. The abstract was looked at first in 60% of user tests. Users did not know the difference between abstract and scope and contents notes; in fact, 64% of users did not even read the scope at all after reading the abstract! Researchers explained that their reason for ignoring the biography/history note was a lack of trust in the information, since biographies/histories do not tend to include footnotes and the notes are impossible to cite.

Emily Novak Gustainis from Harvard talked about her processing metrics database, as mentioned in the paragraph about the “Processing Metrics Collaborative” session. Her reasoning behind metrics was simple: it is hard to change something until you know what you are doing. Her database tracks 38 aspects of archival processing, including timing and processing levels. She repeated that you cannot compare people, only collections; however, an employee report showed that a permanent processing archivist was spending only 20% of his time processing, so her team was able to use this information to better leverage staff responsibilities to respond to this information.

Adrian Turner from the California Digital Library talked about the Uncovering California Environmental Collections (UCEC) project, a CLIR-funded grant project to help process environmental collections across the state. While metrics were not built into the project, the group thought that it would be beneficial for the project. In another project, the UC Next Generation Technical Services initiative found 71000 feet in backlogs, and developed tactics for collection-level records in EAD and Archivists’ Toolkit using minimal processing techniques. Through info gathering in a Google doc spreadsheet, they found no discernable difference between date ranges, personal papers, and record groups processed through their project. They found processing rates of 1 linear foot per hour for series level arrangement and description and 4-6 linear feet per hour for folder level arrangement and description. He recommended formally incorporating metrics into project plans and creating a shared methodology for processing levels.

Rebecca and I had to head out for Midway before Q&A started so we could get on the train in time for our flight, which thankfully wasn’t canceled from Hurricane Irene. As we passed through Chicago, I thought about how much I had learned about new projects and tools, and how much I look forward to SAA next year.

Audra at SAA, Days 2 & 3: assessment, copyright, conversation

Monday, August 29, 2011 8:28 pm

I started Wednesday with a birthday breakfast with a friend from college, then lunch with a former mentor, followed by roundtable meetings. Rebecca has already written eloquently about the Archivists’ Toolkit / Archon Roundtable meeting, which is always a big draw for archivists interested in new developments with the software programs. Perhaps the biggest news came from Merilee Proffitt of OCLC, who announced that ArchiveGrid discovery interface for finding aids has been updated and will be freely available (no longer subscription based) for users seeking archival collections online. A demo of the updated interface, to be released soon, was available in the Exhibit Hall. I think ZSR should contribute its EAD to ArchiveGrid as soon as possible — it’s a global search engine for finding aids! In addition, Jennifer Waxman and Nathan Stevens described their digital object workflow plug-in for Archivists’ Toolkit to help archivists avoid cut-and-paste of digital object information. Their plugin is available online and allows archivists to map persistent identifiers to files in digital repositories, auto-create digital object handles, create tab-delimited work orders, and create a workflow from the rapid entry dropdown in AT.

Later that day, Rebecca took me to the Cubs game at Wrigley Field for my birthday and we had a great time with archivists from across North Carolina and Georgia. The Cubs emerged victorious over the Braves, much to the chagrin of our colleagues from Georgia as well as Vicki and Bill!

On Thursday, I attended Session 109: “Engaged! Innovative Engagement and Outreach and Its Assessment.” The session was based on responses to the 2010 ARL survey on special collections (SPEC Kit 317), which found that 90% of special collections librarians are doing ongoing events, instruction sessions, and exhibits. The speakers were interested in how to assess the success of these efforts. Genya O’Meara from NC State cited Michelle McCoy’s article entitled “The Manuscript as Question: Teaching Primary Sources in the Archives — The China Missions Project,” published in C&RL in 2010, suggesting that we have a need for standard metrics for assessment of our outreach work as archivists. Steve MacLeod of UC Irvine explored his work with the Humanities Core Course program, which teaches writing skills in 3 quarters, and how he helped design course sessions with faculty to smoothly incorporate archives instruction into humanities instruction. Basic learning outcomes included the ability to answer two questions: what is a primary source? and what is the different between a first and primary source? He also created a LibGuide for the course and helped subject specialist reference/instruction librarians add primary source resources into their LibGuides. There were over 45 sections, whereby he and his colleagues taught over 1000 students. He suggested that the learning outcomes can help us know when our students “get it.” Florence Turcotte from UF discussed an archives internship program where students got course credit at UF for writing biographical notes and doing basic archival processing. I stepped out of the session in time to catch the riveting tail-end of Session 105: “Pay It Forward: Interns, Volunteers, and the Development of New Archivists and the Archives Profession,” just as Lance Stuchell from the Henry Ford started speaking about the ethics of unpaid intern work. He suggested that paid work is a moral and dignity issue and that unpaid work is not equal to professional work without pay.

After a delicious lunch of Chicago deep-dish pizza with Vicki and Rebecca, I headed over to Session 204: “Rights, Risk, and Reality: Beyond ‘Undue Diligence’ in Rights Analysis for Digitization.” Rebecca covered this session well in her post, so I won’t repeat too much. I took away a few important points, including “be respectful, not afraid,” that archivists should form communities of practice where we persuade lawyers through peer practice such as the TRLN guidelines and the freshly-endorsed SAA standard Well-intentioned practice document. The speakers called for risk assessment over strict compliance, as well as encouraging the fair use defense and maintaining a liberal take-down policy for any challenges to unpublished material placed online. Perhaps most importantly, Merrilee Proffitt reminded us that no special collections library has been successfully sued for copyright infringement by posting unpublished archival material online for educational use. After looking around the Exhibit Hall, I met a former mentor for dinner and went to the UCLA MLIS alumni party, where I was inspired by colleagues and faculty to list some presentation ideas on a napkin. Ideas for next year (theme: crossing boundaries/borders) included US/Mexico archivist relations; water rights such as the Hoover Dam, Rio Grande, Mulholland, etc; community based archives (my area of interest); and repatriation of Native American material. Lots of great ideas floated around…

Audra at SAA, Day 1: Collecting Repositories and E-Records Workshop

Monday, August 29, 2011 7:31 pm

On Tuesday, I arrived in rainy Chicago and headed straight for the Hotel Palomar for the AIMS Project (“Born-Digital Collections: An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship”) workshop regarding born-digital archival material in collecting repositories. The free workshop, called “CREW: Collecting Repositories and E-Records Workshop,” included archivists and technologists from around the world to discuss issues related to collection development, accessioning, appraisal, arrangement and description, and discovery and access of born-digital archival materials.

The workshop program started with Glynn Edwards of Stanford and Gretchen Gueguen of UVa, who discussed collection development of born-digital records. The speakers suggested that both collection development policies and donor agreements should have clear language about born-digital material, including asking donors to contribute metadata to electronic records from his/her collection. The challenge, they note, is in collaboratively developing sound guidelines and policies to help archivists/curators make decisions about what to acquire. A group discussion about talking to donors about their personal digital lives and creating a “digital will,” both of which help provide important information about an individual’s work, communication, and history of using technologies.

Kevin Glick and Mark Matienzo from Yale and Seth Shaw from Duke discussed accessioning, the process through which a repository gains control over records and gathers information that informs other functions in the archival workflow. While many of the procedures for accessioning born-digital material is the same for analog material, the speakers distinguished accessioning the records from accessioning the media themselves (ie the Word document versus the floppy disk on which it is saved). Mark described his process of “re-accessioning” material through a forensic (or bit-level) disk imaging process, whereby he write-protected accessioned files to protect data from manipulation. He used FTK imager to create a media log with unique identifiers and physical/logical characteristics of the media, followed by BagIt to create packages with high level info about accessions. Seth discussed Duke’s DataAccessioner program, which he created as an easy way for archivists to migrate and identify data from disks. A group discussion asked: what level of control is necessary for collections containing electronic records at your institution? and, what are the most common barriers to accessioning electronic records, and how would they show up? Our table agreed that barriers include staffing (skills and time); being able to read media; software AND hardware; storage limits; and greater need for students/interns.

Simon Wilson from Hull, Peter Chan from Stanford, and Gabriela Redwine from the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin discussed arrangement and description. They questioned whether archivists can appraise digital material without knowing content therein, which conflicts with the high-level, minimal processing emphasized in our field in the past few years. Another major issue is with volume: space is cheap, but does that mean archivists shouldn’t appraise? It isn’t practical to describe every item, but how will archivists know what is sensitive or restricted? Hypatia provides an easy-to-use interface that allows drag-and-drop for easy intellectual organization of e-records, as well as the ability to add rights and permissions information. Peter Chan described a complex method for using a combination of AccessData FTK in combination with TransitSolution and Oxygen to compare checksums, find duplicate records, and do a “pattern search” for sensitive terms and numbers (such as social security numbers). Gabi Redwine explored her work with a hybrid collection (analog and digital records) where she learned that descriptive standards should be a learning process for staff, not students or volunteers. Her finding aids for the collection included hyperlinks to electronic content and she advocated for disk imaging. The group discussion following this session was intense! The hotbed topic was: are professional skills of appraisal, arrangement, description still relevant for born digital materials? Our group agreed that appraisal and description remain important; however, we were strongly divided about whether archivists will need to contribute to arrangement of e-records. I believe that arrangement becomes less important as things become more searchable, as argued in David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous. Arrangement emerged before the digital realm as a way for archivists and librarians to contextualize and organize material based on topics/subjects; however, with better description, users can create their own ways of organizing e-records!

Finally, Gretchen Gueguen (UVa) and Erin O’Meara of UNC Chapel Hill discussed discovery and access. Our goals as archivists include to preserve original format and order as much as possible, and apply restrictions as necessary, while balancing this with our mission to make things accessible and available. Gretchen suggested the idea of Google Books’ “snippet” idea as a way to provide access without compromising privacy or restrictions on sensitive material. Her models for access for digital material include: in-person versus not; authenticated versus not; physical versus online access; and dynamic versus static. Erin described her use of Curator’s Workbenchwithin FOXML and Solr to control access permissions and assign restrictions and roles to e-records. Another group discussion included chewy scenarios for dealing with born-digital materials; my table had to consider: “you are at a large public academic research library; director brings several CDROMs, Zip disks and floppy disks of famous (secretive) professor from campus; they are backup files created over the years; office has more paper files; professor and his laptop are missing; no one can give further details on files; write 1 page plan for preserving/describing files; working institutional repository exists.” With no donor agreement and an understanding that the faculty member was very private, we couldn’t go ahead with full access of the material.

At the end of the day, I left with a much better grasp of how I see myself as an archivist dealing with born-digital material (primarily those on optical and disk media). It seems that item-level description works best for born-digital while aggregate description works best for analog materials. Digital records are dealt with best through collaboratively-created policies and procedures for acquiring, processing, and describing them. Great stuff!

 

 

Audra presents at C2C Intro to Digitization Projects workshops

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 4:18 pm

I recently volunteered to help teach a workshop entitled “Preparing for a Digitization Project” through NC Connecting to Collections (C2C), an LSTA-funded grant project administered by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This came about as part of an informal group of archivists, special collections librarians, and digital projects librarians interested in the future of NC ECHO and its efforts to educate staff and volunteers in the cultural heritage institutions across the state about digitization. The group is loosely connected through the now-defunct North Carolina Digital Collections Collaboratory.

Late last year, Nick Graham of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center was contacted by LeRae Umfleet of NC C2C about teaching a few regional workshops about planning digitization projects. The workshops were created as a way to teach smaller archives, libraries, and museums about planning, implementing, and sustaining digitization efforts. I volunteered to help with the workshops, which were held in January 2011 in Hickory as well as this past Monday in Wilson.

The workshops were promoted through multiple listservs and were open to staff, board members, and volunteers across the state. Each workshop cost $10 and included lunch for participants. Many of the participants reminded me of the folks at our workshops for Preserving Forsyth’s Past! The crowd was enthusiastic and curious, asking lots of questions and taking notes. Nick Graham and Maggie Dickson covered project preparation, metadata, and the NC Digital Heritage Center (and how to get involved); I discussed the project process and digital production as well as free resources for digital publishing; and Lisa Gregory from the State Archives discussed metadata and digital preservation.

I must confess that the information was so helpful, I found myself taking notes! When Nick stepped up to describe the efforts of the Digital Heritage Center, which at this time is digitizing and hosting materials from across the state at no cost, I learned that they will be seeking nominations for North Carolina historical newspapers to digitize in the near future, and that they are also interested in accepting digitized video formats. Lisa also introduced the group to NC PMDO, Preservation Metadata for Digital Objects, which includes a free preservation metadata tool.It is always a joy to help educate repositories across the state in digitization standards and processes!

Webinar: archiving social media sites with ArchiveIt

Thursday, May 19, 2011 3:12 pm

This afternoon, Craig, Rebecca, and I sat down for a webinar from ArchiveIt about archiving social media sites. The advanced training session covered the reasons for archiving social media (“a tweet is a record”) and then explored how to add specific seed URLs to one’s ArchiveIt web archive to get the content being created via these social media sites.

Some takeaways from the webinar include:

  • Always run a test crawl to see how many documents and space you are crawling
  • Review test crawl results when adding new seed URLs
  • Be specific with social media site URLs

For Twitter, our instructor noted that we should always remove hashtags from Twitter URLs and that searches cannot be saved easily. Also, she mentioned that one should always turn off Javascript before adding a Twitter URL, or the hashtag that prevents proper crawling will automatically be included.

For Facebook, we were informed that (not surprisingly) ArchiveIt can crawl only public pages and it cannot crawl behind a login page. Through specific directions using ArchiveIt, we can ignore robots.txt which tends to block social media sites from being crawled. They recommend ignoring both facebook.com and fbcdn.net, and also putting a document limit of 2000 for each Facebook seed. Again, the instructors recommend turning off Javascript to allow for proper crawling of the information on the page.

Additional information about how to put scope and document limits when adding social media seed URLs to ArchiveIt can be found on the “Archiving Social Networking Sites with ArchiveIt” page on the ArchiveIt wiki. We’ll be organizing and adding new social media seeds to the ZSR ArchiveIt account!

Visiting the WFU Visual Resources Library

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 11:18 am

Yesterday Craig, Rebecca, and I visited the Aycock Visual Resources Library in the Scales Fine Arts Center. Librarian and Print Curator Martine Sherrill as well as Technician Kendra Battle showed us around their small but well-organized space, including their slide, video, and print collections.

Martine shared with us their excellent collection of prints, including a complete set by Picasso that she may be hand-delivering to Spain for an exhibit there. Their print collection is indexed and browse-able online. We also learned about MDID, their art and architecture image database shared with other repositories on campus including the Reynolda House. The database requires a WFU login and password but it has some interesting features for saving and organizing images for classroom use, including adding personal images, creating slide shows, and adding notes to images (with an approved faculty account).

One of the most interesting things discussed during our visit was their established workflow for requesting and completing digitization requests from faculty as well as students. They were very organized, tracking timelines and requests in a database as well as with paper forms that were left in specific student inboxes for scanning.

Currently, they are storing master TIFF images on their in-house server, on external hard drives, and on DVDs. It was an inspiring visit to another “special collections” space on campus!

ARL Webinar on Digital Curation for Preservation

Thursday, April 7, 2011 4:17 pm

Lauren C, Lauren P, Craig, Rebecca, Molly, Barry, Sarah, Tim, and Audra attended the ARL session to discuss the report “New Roles for New Times: Digital Curation for Preservation.”

The webinar is the first in a set in response to the Association of Research Libraries’ report series entitled “New Roles for New Times,” which includes five reports relating to digital curation, student services, library liaisons, repository services, and print collections.

Authors Katherine Skinner (Educopia) and Tyler Walters (Virginia Tech) reviewed the report, including its background and context. The executive summary of the 76-page document gives an excellent review of the report, which emphasizes new roles for librarians and libraries with regard to the life cycle of the digital object, particularly getting more attention paid to the digital objects being created. Katherine and Tyler repeated that collaboration, both intra- and inter-institutional and working more with technologists, domain scholars, and scientists, is key to the future of the research library. Tyler suggested that libraries must become more embedded, in domains such as production, dissemination, description, organization, promoting, designing, and accessing digital resources that are co-produced.

A panel of experts responded to the report, including Jeremy York from the University of Michigan, Martha Anderson from NDIIPP, Oya Rieger from Cornell, and Patricia Cruse from the California Digital Library. Jeremy talked about his perspective working with HathiTrust, a large-scale digital library. He mentioned the importance of large-scale collaboration, including a centralized infrastructure to share digital content, such as HathiTrust. Martha explored her view from NDIIPP, particularly that the collaborative project was iterative, requiring shared learning and trust-building. Oya supported the report’s discussion of embedded librarianship, noting that subject specialists understand the daily needs of scholars in a holistic way and they can help faculty understand services available through the library (including digital collections). Patricia talked about the CDL’s collaboration with the National Science Foundation as a result of the NSF’s new requirement that all grant applications must have a data sharing plan. She explained the wide range of stakeholders in their digital curation efforts, including offices of research, IP offices, grants, and contract offices, each of which looked to the research library for help with curation of research data.

Q&A allowed Katherine and Tyler as well as the panel to respond to participant questions. Tyler described a trio of priorities for digital curation: infrastructure, content, and services. The takeaway message for me was a quote from Tyler: “Content is coming at us faster than ever. If we don’t manage it, someone else will.”

The archived audio is now available. Thank you to Tim and Kaeley for setting up the webinar session, and to Lynn for emailing the report!

Society of NC Archivists Annual Meeting, Morehead City

Monday, April 4, 2011 10:50 pm

While many of our colleagues were in Philadelphia for ACRL, I traveled east to the coast of North Carolina for the joint conference of the Society of North Carolina Archivists and the South Carolina Archival Association in Morehead City.

After arriving on Wednesday around dinnertime with my carpooling partner Katie Nash (Archivist and Special Collections Librarian at Elon), we met up with Gretchen Gueguen (Digital Initiatives Librarian at ECU) for dinner at a seaside restaurant and discussion about digital projects and, of course, seafood.

On Thursday, the conference kicked off with an opening plenary from two unique scholars: David Moore of the NC Maritime Museum talked about artist renditions of Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, and other pirates, as well as archival research that helped contextualize these works; Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater and Marine Agency detailed his team’s discovery of the H.L. Hunley submarine, including the Civil War-era men trapped inside.

Session 1 on Thursday, succinctly titled “Digital Initiatives,” highlighted important work being done at the Avery Center for African American Research at the College of Charleston, UNC Charlotte, and ECU. Amanda Ross and Jessica Farrell from the College of Charleston described the challenges and successes of digitization of material culture, namely slave artifacts and African artwork in their collections. Of primary importance was the maintenance of color and shape fidelity of 3-D objects, which they dealt with economically with 2 flourescent lights with clamps, a Nikon D80 with a 18-200 mm lens by Quantaray (although they recommend a macro lens), a tripod, and a $50 roll of heavy white paper. Their makeshift lab and Dublin Core metadata project resulted in the Avery Artifact Collection within the Lowcountry Digital Library. Kristy Dixon and Katie McCormick from UNC Charlotte spoke carefully about the need for strategic thinking and collaboration at a broad level for special collections and archives today, in particular creating partnerships with systems staff and technical services staff. They noted that with the reorganization of their library, 6 technical services librarians/staff were added to their department of special collections!

Finally, Mark Custer and Jennifer Joyner from ECU explored the future of archival description with a discussion about ECU’s implementation of EAC-CFP, essentially authority records for creators of archival materials. Mark found inspiration from SNAC, the Social Networks and Archival Context Project (a project of UVa and the California Digital Library) to incorporate and create names for their archival collections. Mark used Google Refine‘s cluster and edit feature to pull all their EAD files into one file, grabbed URLs through VIAF and WorldCat identities, and hope to share their authority records with SNAC. Mark clarified the project, saying:

Firstly, we are not partnered with anyone involved in the excellent SNAC project. Instead, we decided to undertake a smaller, SNAC-like project here at ECU (i.e., we mined our EAD data in order to create EAC records). To accomplish this, I wrote an XSLT stylesheet to extract and clean up our local data. Only after working through that step did we then import this data into Google Refine. With Refine, we did a number of things, but the two things discussed in our presentation were: 1) cluster and edit our names with the well-established, advanced algorithms provided in that product 2) grab more data from databases like WorldCat Identities and VIAF without doing any extra scripting work outside of Google Refine.

Secondly, we haven’t enhanced our finding aid interface at all at this point. In fact, we’ve only put in a few weeks’ worth of work into the project so far, so none of our work is represented online yet. The HTML views of the Frances Renfrow Doak EAC record that we demonstrated were created by an XSLT stylesheet authored by Brian Tingle at the California Digital Library. He has graciously provided some of the tools that the SNAC project is using online at: https://bitbucket.org/btingle/cpf2html/.

Lastly, these authority records have stayed with us; mostly because, at this point, they’re unfinished (e.g., we still need to finish that clustering step within Refine, which requires a bit of extra work). But the ultimate goal, of course, is to share this data as widely as possible. Toward that end, I tend to think that we also need to be curating this data as collaboratively as possible.

The final session of the day was the SNCA Business Meeting, where I gave my report as the Archives Week Chair. That evening, a reception was held to celebrate the award winners for SNCA and give conference attendees the opportunity to participate in a behind-the-scenes tour of the NC Maritime Museum.

On Friday, I moderated the session entitled “Statewide Digital Library Projects,” with speakers Nick Graham from the NC Digital Heritage Center and Kate Boyd from the SC Digital Library. The session highlighted interesting parallels and differences between the two statewide initiatives. Kate Boyd explained that the SCDL is a multisite project nested in multiple universities with distributed “buckets” for description and digitization. Their project uses a multi-host version of CONTENTdm, with some projects hosted and branded specifically to certain regions and institutions. Users can browse by county, institution, and date, and the site includes teacher-created lesson plans. The “About” section includes scanning and metadata guidelines; Kate mentioned that the update to CONTENTdm 6 would help with zoom and expand/reduce views of their digital objects. Nick Graham gave a brief background on the formation of the NCDHC, including NC ECHO and its survey and digitization guidelines. He explained that the NCDHC has minimal selection criteria: simply have no copyright/privacy concerns and a title. The NCDHC displays its digital objects through one instance of CONTENTdm. Both programs are supported by a mix of institutional and government funding/support, and both speakers emphasized the value of word of mouth marketing and shared branding for better collaborative efforts.

Later that morning, I attended a session regarding “Collaboration in Records Management.” Jennifer Neal of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston Archives gave an interesting presentation about the creation of a records management policy for her institution. Among the many reasons to begin an RM program, Jennifer noted that it was likely the legal reasons that were most important, both federal and state (and in her case, organizational rules). She recommended a pilot RM program with an enthusiastic department, as well as a friendly department liaison with organizational tendencies. Jennifer came up with “RM Fridays” as a pre-determined method for making time to sort, shred, organize, and inventory the materials for her pilot department. Her metrics were stunning: 135 record cartons were destroyed and 245 were organized and sent off site. Kelly Eubank from the NC State Archives explained how the state archives uses ArchiveIt to harvest social media sites and websites of government agencies and officials. She then explored, briefly, their use of BagIt to validate GIS geospatial files as part of their GeoMAPP project.

It was wonderful to meet and network with archival professionals from both Carolinas and learn about some of the innovative and creative projects happening in their institutions. Right now I am thinking about EAC, collaboration with tech services, CONTENTdm, and records management. I was glad to participate in this great local conference!

NCLA Archivists’ Toolkit Workshop at ZSR

Friday, November 12, 2010 4:55 pm

From 10 am this morning until 3 pm this afternoon, Z. Smith Reynolds Library was inhabited by 50 excited archivists and librarians (from across the state and as far away as Texas) to learn about Archivists’ Toolkit. The workshop, sponsored by the Round Table on Special Collections of the North Carolina Library Association and ZSR Library, included in-depth exploration and instruction about the modules of AT: names and subjects, accession records, resource records (finding aids), importing and exporting EAD/MARCXML, assessment records, and statistics.

Speakers Dawne Howard Lucas from Duke University and Kacy Guill of ECU incorporated practical explanations of concepts with hands-on demonstrations of the relational database desktop client. Katherine, Megan, Vicki, Julia, Rebecca, Beth, intern Leatha, and I all learned a great deal about some of the additional customizations and tools that will help Special Collections and Archives better describe, prioritize, and measure our archival collections. Some of the reports that AT generates will help us quantify our preservation and processing needs, as well as demonstrate the accomplishments of our department as we complete projects.

Thanks go out to Giz, Susan, and Roz for helping me with the room reservation, Rebecca for helping with setup, and also to Katherine for her warm welcome to the participants. Now that we all have a better understanding of how to use and customize Archivists’ Toolkit to our needs, we are better prepared for a collaborative, streamlined effort to make our archival resources even more accessible!

Recap: Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 10:12 am

Last week, I traveled to Washington, DC for the Society of American Archivists annual conference and was later joined by Vicki Johnson and Katherine Gill. The whirlwind of activity and inspiration is summarized below!

Tuesday, August 10 was the Research Forum, of which I was a part as a poster presenter. My poster featured the LSTA outreach grant given to ZSR and FCPL (“Preserving Forsyth’s Past”) and explored outreach and instruction to these “citizen archivists.” I got a lot of encouraging feedback and questions about our project, including an introduction to the California Digital Library’s hosted instances of Archivist’s Toolkit and Archon, which they use for smaller repositories in the state to post their finding aids.

Wednesday, August 11 consisted primarily of round table meetings, including the highly-anticipated meeting of the Archivists Toolkit/Archon Round Table. The development of ArchivesSpace, the next generation archives management tool to replace AT and Archon, was discussed. Development of the tool is planned to begin in early 2011. Jackie Dooley from OCLC announced that results from a survey of academic and research libraries’ special collections departments will be released. A few interesting findings:

  • Of the 275 institutions surveyed, about 1/3 use Archivist’s Toolkit; 11% use Archon
  • 70% have used EAD for their finding aids
  • About 75% use word processing software for their finding aids
  • Less than 50% of institutions’ finding aids are online

A handful of brief presentations from AT users followed, including Nancy Enneking from the Getty. Nancy demonstrated the use of reports in AT for creating useful statistics to demonstrate processing, accessioning, and other features of staff work with special collections. She mentioned that AT can be linked to Access with MySQL for another way to work with statistics in AT. Corey Nimer from BYU discussed the use of plug-ins to supplement AT, which I have not yet used and hope to implement.

Perhaps more interestingly, Marissa Hudspeth from the Rockefeller and Sibyl Shaefer from the University of Vermont introduced their development of a reference module in AT, which would allow patron registration, use tracking, duplication requests, personal user accounts, et cetera. Although there is much debate in the archives community about whether this is a good use of AT (since it was originally designed for description/content management of archives), parts of the module should be released in Fall 2010.

On Thursday, August 12, sessions began bright and early. I started the day with Session 102: “Structured Data Is Essential for Effective Archival Description and Discovery: True or False?” Overall summary: usability studies, tabbed finding aids, and photos in finding aids are great! While the panel concluded that structured data is not essential for archival description and discovery due to search tools, Noah Huffman from Duke demonstrated how incorporating more EAD into MARC as part of their library’s discovery layer resulted in increased discovery of archival materials.

Session 201 included a panel of law professors and copyright experts, who gave an update on intellectual property legislation. Peter Jaszi introduced the best practice and fair use project at the Center for Social Media, a 5-year effort to analyze best practice for fair use. Their guidelines for documentary filmmakers could be used as an example for research libraries. In addition, the organization also created a statement of best practices for fair use of dance materials, hosted at the Dance Heritage Center. Mr. Jaszi argued that Section 1201 does not equal copyright, but what he called “para-copyright law” that can be maneuvered around by cultural heritage institutions for fair use. I was also introduced to Peter Hirtle’s book about copyright (and a free download) entitled Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, which I have started to read.

I wandered out of Session 201 into Session 209, “Archivist or Educator? Meet Your Institution’s Goals by Being Both,” which featured archivists who teach. The speakers emphasized the study of how students learn as the core of becoming a good teacher. One recommendation included attending a history or social sciences course in order to see how faculty/teachers teach and how students respond. I was inspired to consider faculty themes, focuses, and specialties when thinking about how to reach out to WFU students.

Around 5:30 pm, the Exhibit Hall opened along with the presentation of the graduate student poster session. I always enjoy seeing the work of emerging scholars in the archival field, and this year was no different. One poster featured the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries in a CLIR-funded project to process hidden collections in the Philadelphia region — not those within larger repositories, but within smaller repositories without the resources or means to process and make available their materials. The graduate student who created the poster served as a processor, traveling to local repositories and communicating her progress and plan to a project manager. This is an exciting concept, since outreach grants tend to focus on digitization or instruction, not the act of physically processing of the archival materials or creating finding aids.

On Friday, August 13, I started the morning with Session 308, “Making Digital Archives a Pleasure to Use,” which ended up focusing on user-centered design. User studies at the National Archives and WGBH Boston found that users preferred annotation tools, faceted searching, and filtered searching. Emphasis was placed on an iterative approach to design: prototype, feedback, refinement.

I headed afterward to Session 410, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: Archival Collaboration, Community Partnerships, and Access Issues in Building Women’s Collections.” The panel, while focused on women’s collections, explored collaborative projects in a universally applicable way. L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin from the University of Delaware described the library’s oral history project to record Afra-Latina experiences in Delaware. They found the Library of Congress’ Veterans’ History Project documentation useful for the creation of their project in order to reach out to the Hispanic community of Delaware. T-Kay Sangwand from the University of Texas, Austin, described how the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives were processed and digitized, then stored at UCLA. Ms. Sangwand suggested that successful collaborations build trust and transparency, articulate expectations from both sides, include stakeholders from diverse groups, and integrate the community into the preservation process. One speaker noted that collaborative projects are “a lot like donor relations” in the sense that you have to incorporate trust, communications, and contracts in order to create a mutually-beneficial result.

On Saturday, August 14, I sat in on Session 502, “Not on Google? It Doesn’t Exist,” which focused on search engine optimization and findability of archival materials. One thing to remember: Java is evil for cultural heritage because it cannot be searched. The session was a bit introductory in nature, but I did learn about a new resource called Linkypedia, which shows how Wikipedia and social media interact with cultural heritage websites. My search for zsr.wfu.edu is in process at the moment — it should show up soon here.

I caught up with Katherine and Vicki afterward and we headed to Session 601, “Balancing Public Services with Technical Services in the Age of Basic Processing,” which featured the use of More Product, Less Process, aka “basic processing,” in order to best serve patrons. After a few minutes I decided to head over to Session 604, “Bibliographic Control of Archival Materials.” The release of RDA and the RDA Toolkit (available free until August 30) has opened up the bibliographic control world to the archival world in new ways. While much of the discussion was outside of my area of knowledge (much was discussed about MARC fields), I learned that even places like Harvard have issues with cross-referencing different types of resources that use different descriptive schemas.

My last session at SAA was 705, “The Real Reference Revolution,” which was an engaging exploration of reference approaches for archivists. Multiple institutions use Google Calendar for student hours, research appointments, and special hours. One panelist suggested having a blog where students could describe their work experience. Rachel Donahue described what she called “proactive reference tools” such as Zotero groups to add new materials from your collection and share those with interested researchers, and Google Feedburner.

I also had a chance to catch up with colleagues across the nation and talk to other implementers of Archivsts’ Toolkit, who gave me lots of useful advice. Whew! What a week!


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