Professional Development

In the 'Society of American Archivists' Category...

ZSR on the Cover of Archival Outlook

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 8:41 am

Congrats to ZSR Special Collections and Archives for making the cover of Archival Outlook, the newsletter for the Society of American Archivists! See:

http://www2.archivists.org/archival-outlook/back-issues

The image is from our Guiseppe De Santis Papers and pertains to an article by Craig Fansler on these papers and Italian neorealist film (p. 4-5, 23). Also, on page 24 you will see that Tanya Zanish-Belcher is one of two candidates running for the post of Vice-President, President-Elect of SAA! Good luck!

 

Tanya @SAA2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 5:50 pm

I recently returned from the Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio and per usual, it was a very busy week! I finished my third year and term as an SAA Council member. As before, much of my time was spent with governance issues during the week. However, not to worry—there is a special deal where I can purchase all of the sessions for $19.99 so I can catch up on everything I missed:
http://www2.archivists.org/am2015/program/MP3s#.VfCiFJcwhT0

SAA Council met early in the week and approved an Arrangement and Description certificate program for SAA’s workshops and new criteria for issuing advocacy statements. Other hot topics were a proposal to reorganize SAA’s affinity groups and a dues increase—needless to say, these stimulated a lot of conversation! The dues increase is especially important for a small professional organization, is it will enable the purchase of a functional association management software system and also advance our advocacy efforts. I finished my liaison term for the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy, but the work is not over, as I have now been appointed Committee Chair. We are currently working on a number of issue briefs relating to privacy in public records, copyright, federal records, and the Transpacific Partnership Agreement. I attended an interesting forum on updating facilities standards for archives and was able to hear several interesting presentations from the Native American Archives, the Latin America and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives, and the Science, Technology, and Healthcare Roundtables (which featured Duke and UNC-CH).

I presented twice—first, I spoke about becoming involved with regional archival organizations to our Mosaic Scholarship Winners as part of their all-day workshop. I also participated in a panel focusing on the “Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives” with an excellent question and answer time with an active audience. Our reception was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I still cannot get over how tiny Mick Jagger’s costumes are. The best part about Cleveland was the beautiful building architecture and arcades, many of which have been repurposed…

 

Rebecca @ SAA 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015 4:58 pm

Recently, I traveled to Cleveland for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) 2015 Annual Meeting. I found this to be a particularly engaging experience, as I am becoming more and more involved in SAA and the various interest groups. You may see two themes emerge in the blog post: web-archiving and Reference, Access, and Outreach.

My first day in Cleveland, I represented WFU and ZSR at the Archive-It Partner Meeting. You may know that Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) has been using Archive-It as a web archiving platform since 2008. I have been involved with the Wake Forest University Archives Archive-It collection and its managment since 2010 (along with Kevin Gilberston, Craig Fansler, and Stephanie Bennett). Although I wasn’t able to attend the entire meeting, I did mange to sit in on a breakout group about quality assurance that was eye opening and encouraging. Basically, the group exchanged best practices and swapped stories about the difficulty of web archiving. I got some good tips and made contacts that I hope will help our team fine tune our collection.

Day two was filled with the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section’s “Teaching With Primary Resources” unconference. This was a wonderful addition to the regular SAA schedule and it has really made me think about how to “flip” the student experience in Special Collections & Archives. One example is to encourage students to use all their senses (except for taste) to describe materials they are experiencing in Special Collections. This will (hopefully) help people get past the idea that “everything is online” and have them engage with the feel of vellum, the smell of microfilm, and the look of manuscripts. I am hoping to use some of the strategies I learned in the numerous LIB100 classes scheduled in SC&A this Fall.

Day three and I started things off participating on a panel called “Big Web, Small Staff: Web Archiving with Limited Resources.” This was a terrific opportunity to engage with other archivists who are working with web archives on a smaller scale than the usual presenters on this topic. Our panel attempted (and I think succeeded) in breaking down how to implement and manage a web archive with limited resources. What made this different from other panels was that no one presenting was from a large institution with ample staff committed to the project. Everyone on the panel was working with limited staff and funding. The panel simply explained our own best practices and encouraged the majority of the attendees who have not yet, but would like to, set up a web archiving program at their institution.

Some other sessions I attended and found very valuable were “Learning to Manage, Managing to Learn” (one of the panel members was our old friend Audra Eagle Yun!) and “Narrowing the Focus of Social Media” (featuring another former North Carolina colleague, Katie Nash). Although very different panels, I found both applicable to my work.

I have recently been elected to the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) section’s Steering Committee, so spent a bit of time in Cleveland attending the SAA Leadership Orientation and Forum as well as the RAO section meeting. I believe this is a great opportunity to get involved on a national level and have enjoyed working with RAO in the past. They have an active and engaging membership with some fantastic ideas shared at the meeting every year. I am thrilled to be able to work behind the scenes to make this even better.

Every year I find the SAA meeting to be more and more rewarding as I become more active in the profession and this year was no exception. As the current President of the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) I met up with and talked to many NC colleagues about what they are doing at their institutions. As my involvement grows beyond NC, I look forward to learning more at further SAA conferences. Thank you to the Dean’s office for funding this trip. I am happy to continue the conversation with anyone who would like to hear more about my experience at SAA.

Tanya at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 11:12 am

I recently returned from the Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Washington, D.C.—it set a record for attendance, so was a bit crowded (I could barely find Craig’s poster display). It was a very busy week! I am in the middle of my second year of service as an SAA Council member, and was also recently elected to serve on the Executive Committee (as a Council representative meeting with the SAA Executive Director and the elected Treasurer, Vice President and President). I attended my first meeting of the SAA Foundation as part of my new role. Needless to say, much of my time was spent with governance issues during the week. However, not to worry—there is a special deal where I can purchase all of the sessions for $29.95:

http://saa.archivists.org/store/archives-records-ensuring-access-conference-recordings-on-mp3/3945/?

SAA Council met early in the week and approved a Code of Conduct, Best Practices for Volunteers and an issue brief on HIPAA (Health Information and Portability Act), among other items:

http://www2.archivists.org/news/2014/council-adopts-best-practices-for-volunteers-in-archives-revised-terms-of-participation-fo?

I also serve as the liaison for the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy and the Diversity Committee. Both are very busy groups, and some of their upcoming projects include issue briefs on funding for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and other advocacy issues, and the creation of an SAA Diversity Toolkit (based on the one developed by RBMS (ALA). I attended a session on Kickstarter as well as an interesting forum on Diversifying the Archival Record which featured authors from the recently published SAA Diversity Reader. I have a copy of this new book, if anyone is interested in taking a look. Finally, I was able to hear several interesting presentations from the Native American Archives and Latin America and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtables.

I was very excited to attend our reception, held at the Library of Congress. They have an entire stack area dedicated to their card catalog, it was amazing!

 

I also was able to get out one evening for a tour of some of the memorials, including the Lincoln Memorial.

 

It was unseasonably cool in DC for this time of year, for which I was very thankful. I ended my week with the Archives Leadership Institute dinner (Saturday) and morning workshop (Sunday)—as always, this group immediately energized me, and some new ideas and connections have already come out of it.

After a successful trip, I was very happy to arrive home late Sunday night and again, would like to say how much I appreciate those direct flights out of the Piedmont Triad Airport!

Rebecca at SAA 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 11:01 am
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

I recently traveled to Washington, DC for the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Conference. I had a great experience attending a variety of different sessions and events. This conference was a bit of a change for me as my role in Special Collections & Archives is changing with my new position as Public Services Archivist. Although I attended collections focused sessions, I also made my way to instruction, outreach, and access sessions.

Some highlights include:

Regional Archival Associations Consortium

My third time representing the Society of North Carolina Archivists at a RAAC meeting was a very productive one. RAAC is a new group to SAA and the idea is to be a clearinghouse as well as a resource for regional and state associations (like SNCA) to have a voice at a national conference. I am a member of the Public Awareness Subcommittee, which is a great fir for my new position as Public Services Archivist. The Public Awareness Subcommittee breakout session brainstormed many ideas of how the good work regional and state associations are doing can translate beyond their borders. We also came to the conclusion that there is a lot of opportunity for overlap with associations like ALA (and RBMS) and the like. I enjoyed the great discussions we had in this meeting and look forward to learning from and contributing to the Public Awareness Subcommittee in the future.

Web Archiving Roundtable

Another new group, this was only the second SAA where this group met. I find this to be a great group of people to both learn from as well as commiserate with. Web Archiving is a new and fickle focus in the lives of archivists. It is nice to hear of successes and challenges from people who dedicate a tremendous amount of resources and time to the job. Interesting topics of appraisal came up a few times including topics like web archiving what is going on in Ferguson, MO as well as how to get a complete record of a collecting area as broad as “Mormons.” Here at ZSR we use Archive-It to capture our web presence and there are always folks at these meetings from Archive-It to answer questions. My favorite bit was the speaker who explained that we have to give up perfection when web archiving…that is certainly true!

Reference, Access, and Outreach Section

Another great group of people, the RAO Section hosts a “marketplace of ideas” during their time to encourage discussion. I very much enjoy listening to reference, access, and outreach strategies that have been successful at other institutions. Things like “pop-up” archives at student events, having a stronger social media presence, and engaging with faculty by taking their classes were just a few of the good ideas I heard at this meeting. I hope I can be more active with this group in the future, as they have a lot going on.

Teaching & Outreach

A session I attended on teaching and outreach had some great ideas on how to engage users of all ages during instruction sessions. One I liked best was to encourage classes to bring four things from home as their “personal” archive. Mix these things up and have other people organize, arrange, and describe them. Analysis of everyday things might give them a better sense of an archives rather than what we are currently presenting in instruction sessions.

 

These are just a few of the ideas I took away with me from SAA this year. I enjoyed this conference greatly and found that my new perspective coupled with my years of experience made this a different sort of conference. I am getting to know the profession better and the people in it, enhancing my conference experience greatly. Thanks to the Dean’s office for making my attendance possible.

 

Rebecca at SAA

Friday, August 23, 2013 4:55 pm

Last week, I traveled to New Orleans for the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) Annual Conference. I found the conference to be a very valuable experience, one that I would like to try to highlight for y’all.

I started my conference by representing the Society of North Carolina Archivists (SNCA) at the Regional Associations Group Meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to figure out how this group will be run, as we are just beginning to organize as a “regionals” group. “Regionals” include state associations like SNCA, regional associations like MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference), or area associations like the Association of St. Louis Area Archivists. We are hopeful that this group will ensure more “cross-cultural” exchange that is often overlooked due to the size and scope of SAA.

I continued my first day with the Web Archiving Round Table meeting that Craig covered so well in his write up. The web is becoming more of a focus not only for the archives community, but my work specifically. I saw a lot of colleagues who attended CrawlCamp NYC in July and had a chance to talk with archivists who are really on the cutting edge of web archiving. As this is a new round table, I believe you will hear more about this group in SAA reports for years to come.

Here are some highlights from the conference (that have not been covered by other reports) listed by session title.

There Is No Going Back, Only Forward: Value-Added Processing in the Age of MPLP

Chaired by Linda Sellars of NC State, this session was packed with people looking for the balance between the revolutionary (at least to archivists) MPLP style of processing (that is “More Product, Less Process”) and ease of use and reference capabilities within collections. In an effort to decrease backlogs and create access, MPLP processed collections leave researchers and reference librarians wanting more. What this panel reinforced is the iterative process of processing collections along with the variable value of each individual collection. Depending on research value, size, and format, panelists put together a valid argument for processing more- but only if it was necessary. For many collections, or parts of collections, the bare minimum is just fine. This was an encouraging and informative session.

Professional Poster Pitch

A first at SAA, Craig and I had a chance to get up in front of an audience and “pitch” our poster before we actually presented it. You probably saw the beautiful poster Craig put together, but for our poster pitch we tried to prime the pump of curiosity with this image.

 

The Process of Processing: Management Strategies and Solutions

Another crowded session, managing processing is certainly something that applies to my everyday work. The panel of archivists discussed best practices and strategies to reduce backlogs, leveraging student workers to process more effectively, and how to get institutional buy-in on MPLP processing. This session was great in that it showed how to get through your backlog, but also showed that there are so many other institutions, big and small, that are going through the same everyday struggles as we are here.

Reference, Access and Outreach Section Marketplace

In the afternoon, I facilitated a discussion on “Strategies for Documenting Diversity” during the Reference, Access and Outreach Section Meeting. I must say this was a very rewarding conversation. I led 6 discussion groups for 15 minute intervals with about 20 people in each. I started by talking about our Documenting Diversity initiative last October, but the conversations went in many different directions including web archiving, embedded archivists in student life, and a variety of other ideas. I must say that this was my favorite part of the conference, and probably one of my most valuable experiences at a conference. Many people were inspired to plan programs like ours, and others were eager to tell me what strategies worked for them. Unlike a panel discussion, I felt that I connected with my audience and had a much more beneficial experience as both presenter and listener.

And many more!

Some other sessions I attended included “Building Better Bridges: Archivists Cross the Digital Divide”, “Accession Confessions: Exposing Accessions in the Era of Minimal Processing”, and “Advancing the Ask: Proactive Acquisitions for the Modern Age.” I must say that each and every session I attended was chock-a-block full of great ideas and brilliant archivists, information technologists, and students. I had a great time learning what others were doing and certainly felt humbled by the large scale (and small scale) projects that this group of people are completing on a daily basis.

I would love to talk about any or all of these sessions, our poster, or what I ate in New Orleans (yum!!!). Please let me know if you want more details. Thanks to the Dean’s office for the opportunity to attend.


 

Tanya at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting in New Orleans, LA

Friday, August 23, 2013 11:30 am

I don’t know how I can possibly describe my 9 days in New Orleans, but I will certainly do my best!

I recently attended the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), held in New Orleans, in addition to other events tacked on at the beginning and the end of my travels. First off, I was part of a review team (with colleagues from the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University and the University of Iowa) who were asked to review the Newcomb Institute Women’s Archives, part of Tulane University. This is the first program review I have been involved in that was not for an academic program, academic department, or library. We met with the Institute’s archivist, Executive Director, staff, faculty, Tulane archivists, toured the Newcomb Archives, and reviewed documentation from the library and university. All in all, this was an interesting experience, and one I hope to write about in the future. Before SAA began, I was able to have a nice tour of the Garden District, visit the Ursuline Convent, and have dinner with some of my favorite archivist colleagues, including my sister-in-law, Stacy Belcher Gould. Stacy is the University Archivist at the University of Hong Kong and is not always able to come to SAA, so this was a big treat.

At the very beginning of the week, I attended SAA Council meetings as I was elected to a three-year term last year (2012-2015). Council oversees all budgetary and programmatic activities of the Society, and meets three times per year (twice in Chicago in January and May, and at the annual meeting). Council completed a number of tasks, including reorganizing the annual meeting structure, reviewing reports, and creating an Advocacy and Public Policy Committee. I have been working on advocacy projects in conjunction with SAA, the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and I will also be assisting with the work of this committee. After the annual meeting actually started, my main responsibility was to update numerous groups on Council activities and ask for feedback. “My” groups include the Diversity Committee, the Government Affairs Working Group, the Latin American and Caribbean Heritage Archives Roundtable, the Native American Roundtable, the College and University Archives Section, and the Science, Technology and Healthcare Roundtable.

On Tuesday, I attended the Women’s Archives Symposium, sponsored by the Newcomb Institute and Archives. This program was organized to coincide with SAA’s publication of my newly edited book (with Anke Voss), Perspectives on Women’s Archives (Society of American Archivists, 2013). I gave introductory remarks and listened to panel presentations and discussions organized around themes we raised in our introductory essay. There were 60 attendees and one of the participants blogged about the day:
http://lori.birrell.us/2013/08/14/what-does-the-future-hold/

All in all, it was a satisfactory end to 7 years of hard work:
http://saa.archivists.org/store/perspectives-on-womens-archives/3334/

During the annual meeting, I did manage to hear interesting presentations on institutional repositories and advocacy efforts in Alabama (presented by my very first archives employer, the Alabama Department of Archives and History). I made time to stop by Rebecca and Craig’s poster on Clarence Herbert New, it really did look wonderful. On Friday, I gave a presentation on women in science and engineering, in honor of archivist Joan Warnow Blewitt (American Institute of Physics), to the Science, Technology and Healthcare Roundtable. This presentation described oral history projects at ISU and potential future plans for a similar project at Wake Forest.

Finally, at the end of the week, as a Steering Committee member for the Archives Leadership Institute, I attended meetings, hosted an ALI alumni dinner, trekked down Bourbon Street at 11:00 p.m. and finished up with a Sunday morning workshop. Thank goodness, they had some coffee for us.

SAA is always incredibly exciting, stimulating, and exhausting–there is nothing like having 1,600 archivists all in the same place! I am now happy (and a little relieved, to be truthful) to be back in Winston-Salem. I look forward to catching up and staying put for some time….

Beyond Borders- Society of American Archivists-2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:29 am

Sculpture-San Deigo Convention Center

My experience at SAA this year in San Diego was excellent and filled with sessions about preservation-related topics. I kept thinking the whole time I was there- “Craig you might have found your niche”.

Over the past year, the Preservation Section of SAA has been working on a fund raiser for the SAA Disaster Relief Fund. We decided on selling aprons (for the kitchen or the archive) and I was given the job of designing the image on the aprons. We sold 91 out of 100 of the aprons sending $920 to the SAA Disaster Relief Fund-so this was a real success.
SAA Apron

In the Opening Plenary, David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, emphasized three points: a new records management initiative by the Obama administration, a convergence of skills for librarians and archivists to build a skill set for the future (think GLAM) and the Digital Public Library of America.
The Plenary speech was given by Jon Voss, the Strategic Partnerships Director for History Pin. After exclaiming that he was using a Mac and he was a huge fan of archivists, he made the statement that ‘linked data’ or coming out of the card catalog is where the internet revolution began. Using linked data and taking a tip from the ‘mash-up culture’, History Pin has created some great content. Mr. Voss touted the site we are what we do as an example. This site sells products that have a built in ‘good behavior’ attached to their use. Voss also showed some History Pin samples, such as a Dorthea Lange photo of Japanese-Americans being removed during WWII and a current photo. He also mentioned a San Francisco project called pastmapper. which uses online maps to create to help describe the past in certain geographic areas. In saying that linked open data helps us move beyond tables to graphs, Voss showed the site civilwardata150.net which uses archival material and RDF (Resource Description Framework) data to make connections such as this one with the First Regiment Michigan Infantry, 102nd U.S. Colored Troops. Another innovative use of these tools is conflicthistory.com which uses maps to show conflict locations and basic information on these events.

“Partnerships New and Old: Preservation in the 21st Century” was my first session, which was moderated by Shannon Zachery, University of Michigan Library Preservation. Much of this dealt with the preservation of digital elements as preservation (digital copies of materials and media and preservation metadata). Preservation job descriptions currently ask for both hand skills and technical skills for digital preservation. Some institutions are actually creating the hybrid position of digital archivist. Many institutions are struggling with digital preservation since there is no clear standard for file formats or storage methods at this time. (although the ALA/ALCTS/Preservation Reformatting Section is drafting a document). In addition, few universities are actually using the cloud for storage. This session actually made me feel good because we are in a similar situation as many institutions.

I enjoyed a wonderful lunch after this session with our former friend and colleague, Audra Yun, Katie Nash from Elon and Rebecca Petersen.

“Taking Stock and Making Hay: Archival Collections Assessment in Action” was the next session moderated by Merrilee Proffitt of OCLC Research. In this session, Jennifer Waxman, Center for Jewish History, described a collections survey project she led at NYU. The project used graduate students to survey 5000 containers using a relational database to store the data. This project identified over 50% of the containers that needed remediation for slumped or overstuffed folders. Ben Goldman from Penn State made the case for the urgency to preserve legacy media and born digital materials in our collections. Lisa Callahan, University of Chicago, Black Metropolis Research Consortium argued for the access to African-American research material to create discovery of hidden collections. Martha O’Hara Conway, University of Michigan Special Collections Library described a project using graduate students from the School of Information to process unprocessed collections which helped the library, as well as build confidence in the students.

During the Preservation Section meeting, a panel discussed “Preservation in the 21st Century”. Michele Cloonan, Dean of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science gave a short history of preservation education. Michele mentioned the landmark acts that got preservation on the map in the 1930’s such as establishment of the National Archives(1934), the Rome Conference of the League of Nations, the Athens Charter, and the Historic Sites Act. The general tenor of the discussion was the evolution of preservation skills from hands-on to stronger IT skills. In the words of Karen Gracy from Kent State: “Preservation professionals should become as familiar with the structure of digital materials as they have been with paper-based materials.”

On Friday morning, I attended a session on greater collaboration with Wikipedia moderated by Karen B. Weiss, Archives of American Art. A discussion was held on the value of “Wikipedian in Residence”. At NARA and the Smithsonian, they have successfully used this program to build community and to use their fans for transcribing documents. By building community, they try to engage people by holding events like a “Scan-a-thon” where volunteers scan and describe images that have never been scanned before. In this way, using a hybrid model of volunteers and professionals, these institutions attempt to get their holdings out to people more efficiently. Some institutions are also holding “Edit-a-thons” where volunteers work together to edit Wikipedia entries from the institution holding the event. These are unique and innovative programs to be more of your holdings out.
My final session was moderated by Kara McClurken, Head of Preservation Services at UVA, and was entitled “Favorite Collaborative Tools for Preservation.” These tools were presented in a lightning round format and included: Conducting a Condition Survey; Environmental Monitoring; Using the Lyrasis Pocket Response Plan; the Costep Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness program for cultural institutions in the northeast; and using social media to recover lost items (Hauls of Shame, Facebook at NARA, Flickr at Denver Public Library )

This conference was extremely positive in many ways: networking with other preservation and archival professionals, learning what people are up to, getting involved in a great organization and seeing a new city. Can’t beat that!

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…


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