Professional Development

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

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…

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!

 

 

Society of American Archivists- Archives 360

Monday, August 29, 2011 10:01 am

I’m trying something new this year, and journeyed to the SAA “Archives 360″ Conference in Chicago from August 25-28. This is new because I’m trying to become involved with a new national organization after exploring the Guild of Bookworkers in 2009-2010. I had corresponded with board members and officers of the Preservation Section of SAA beforehand, and so I was excited about the future with this great organization. Although SAA is geared toward archivists (as the name implies) they also focus strongly on a number of other areas like description, outreach and education, digitization and yes, preservation.

But first, let me digress a bit. On the flight to Chicago because of mechanical problems, I added to my nearly 100% flight bonking list by being inside the Atlanta Airport long enough to have both breakfast and lunch. I arrived in Atlanta at 8 am and departed at 1:40 pm. Here’s my flight record (and although it’s impressive, although I know it can be topped by several ZSR staffers):
2006-last leg of my flight cancelled, stranded in Charlotte; 2008-flight cancelled, spent the night in the LaGuardia baggage area; 2009-flawless!; 2010-last leg of flight cancelled, able to get on standby flight. This brings us to today. Enough said.

After I arrived at the conference, I attended the opening of the exhibits and poster sessions. I had a good talk with Nick Warnoc, President of Atiz, our book scanner company. Their new model is almost identical to the Internet Scribe machines I saw at the Library of Congress, with better cameras and lights, and a monitor behind the scanning platform.
ATIZ book scanner
The poster sessions were great with many tackling the preservation of born digital materials. I also had a good conversation with one poster presenter who used Archive-it at Michigan State-we’re shared stories of our mutual issues fine tuning the seeds for our crawls.
Poster- Archive-it at SAA
The most unique poster was an oral history project with New York city taxi drivers.
Taxi Driver Oral History poster at SAA
Friday morning, I started at 7 am with a “Write Away”- an introduction to all the writing opportunities SAA has to offer. Mary Jo Pugh, the SAA Journal editor was impressive when she stated the SAA Journal-American Archivist- was the oldest and largest circulating journal in the English language. They want articles dealing with their 3 goals: advocacy, diversity and technology. In addition, Peter Wosh, their Print and Electronics Editor spoke about their publications and advised folks to hang in there through the editorial review process.
The Plenary speaker was David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States.
David Ferriero
He briefly described the damages caused by the earthquake last week to areas around DC-which was minimal. I feel bad for them that following the earthquake, they have to face Hurricane Irene. Ferriero named three challenges for archives into the future:
1. Quantity-Born-digital materials are coming towards everyone. At the National Archives, they got 240 million emails alone from the Bush administration.
2. Format challenge-discarded formats and software(DOS, Netscape for example) and hardware which have content are a challenge to collect and preserve.
3. Social media- Facebook has one trillion page views in June, 2011 alone.
Following Ferriero, SAA President Helen Tibbo spoke on the challenge of born digital materials. PIC Tibbo said that a flood of digital content is outstripping our storage capacity. She said the OCLC Report identified 3 issues in Special Collections into the future:
1. Space
2. Born-digital material
3. Digitization
The lack of training in the area of preserving born digital materials (digital preservation) is a problem as most professionals are only trained in handling paper-based materials. SAA is responding to this by announcing a Digital Archives Specialist Certificate. This is a brand new program which I’m sure will get lots of interest. Beyond this point, Tibbo advised everyone to do something to advance their skill and knowledge this year.
The session on “Practical Approaches to Born Digital Electronic records was packed with folks on the floors and standing in the back. Think this topic was a popular one? A panel of speakers discussed their individual take: Suzanne Belovari, Tufts University, discussed her projects and the conversations needed with donors about their ‘hybrid’ collections-or those with both print and electronic content-and the need for backup and weeding. Suzanne has been working with the panel moderator, Christopher Prom using some of his tools. Ben Goldman, American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, made the statement that many collections are “undermanaged, undercounted and inaccessible.” Ben advocated for “secure and redundant storage and likened our container records to items in a box. Ben described a thorough process for processing electronic records including a virus check, running various reports to insure no harm came to these records. Melissa Salrin, University of Illinois, uses Firefly to scan incoming digital files for credit card or Social Security information, and maintains a “Preservation file” for masters of each individual record. Laura Carroll, of the Salman Rushdie Archives at Emory, described the abundance of electronic records they received from Rushdie. This included not only the files, but several generations of Mac computers (which they use). The Rushdie material included a substantial amount of born digital material and had huge privacy issues. Duke’s Seth Shaw was terrific. He is the brains behind the Duke Data Accessioner. Seth, a natural speaker, asked these questions for born digital/electronic records:
1. What are you providing access to (what form of electronic file-bitstream, emulated environment, etc.)
2. What do your users need or expect?
3. What can you actually do?
Seth basically feels you should “do something” and if it’s a little off, you can fix it later. Waiting until things are perfect is not his way.
Rebecca, Audra and I chatted with Seth after the session.

In the evening, we were treated to a reception in the Field Museum.
Sue

Although I attended other session on Archivists’ Toolkit (where Rebecca Peterson did a wonderful job explaining her collaboration with Audra Yun and Carolyn McCallum) and Exposing Hidden Collections Through Collaborations and consortia (where Audra Yun did a great job as a panel moderator), I want to talk about the Preservation Section meeting I attended.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to become involved in the Preservation Section. At the meeting, I was rewarded by a second talk by the Archivist of Congress, David Ferriero, who spoke on Collections Security. Following Ferriero, a panel spoke on collections security. They were Diane Vogt-O’Connor (Library of Congress), Larry Evangelista and Richard Dine (National Archives) and Brittany Turner (a private security consultant). The bulk of the talk was centered around a news-breaking theft involving multiple institutions along the I-95 corridor. Two men, Barry Landau (a Presidential historian and collector) and Jason Savedoff have stolen materials from libraries using the diabolical means of also stealing the catalog records, so as to cover their tracks. The two men were observed in one of the University of Maryland Libraries taking a historical document. When apprehended, over 60 documents were found in a library locker the two had. A search of Landau’s apartment yielded an array of historical documents, including a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones. Fascinating cloak and dagger stuff! NARA has implemented a Collections Security team and a series of training videos for their staff on the heels of this case. Following this session, I met the new president of the Preservation section, Jennifer Waxman and renewed my interest in volunteering for one of their committees. Encouraged, I trotted off.

SAA was productive, educational, and a friendly gathering that I hope to attend again. Thanks to Lynn for making this trip possible.

New Faculty Orientation and SAA Reports from Katherine

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 2:48 pm

Last week I attended both the new faculty orientation and the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists in Washington D.C. I won’t go over the same ground covered admirably by Molly, but I will add a few things. Since I am much newer to the scene, I found most of the orientation valuable and informative, not the least of which was the overview of library services. I must say that we (ZSR) made a fine showing and offered the liveliest presentation. I was proud to be part of the group. The police chief’s uniform and gear on benefits day was pretty impressive too (great belt).

I also went to the pool party for new recruits and their families. I am happy to say that my two sons were not an embarrassment amid the largely 10-and-under set at Grayland pool. (Unless the spectacle of two newly hairy teens queuing up repeatedly at the bar to gruffly request Shirley Temples is embarrassing.) As they lounged amicably, I was able to meet a number of faculty in departments I might not have encountered in the normal course of work (business school, law school, math department) and talk to some deans as well. All in all, it was a good opportunity, as with nearly every event, to mix with new faculty and discover their openness and professional interests.

Then there was SAA. After three plane cancelations due to bad weather in the Northeast, I finally arrived. The only thing going when I arrived was a slate of committee meetings. But after all the trouble getting there, I wasn’t about to miss anything. So I zeroed in on the “Description” (as in archival description standards, tools, and trends) committee meeting. This turned out to be a good choice because it was very organized and conveyed lots of information effectively. The meeting provided a great overview of current practices, initiatives, useful websites for reports and access to the development environment. I was glad to learn that Archivist Toolkit is the single most used software tool for processing archival collections, since, thanks to Audra, this is what we have adopted. I also learned that the Mellon is currently funding an initiative to meld the best features of Archivists Toolkit and a similar tool, Archon, into a new tool called ArchiveSpace. Need to keep our eye on this development.

The ho-hum second plenary was followed by a spectacular evening at the Smithsonian, where it seemed that everyone I met had relevant experience to our archives, special collections and digital projects; and was eager to exchange cards and be in touch. I also encountered, unexpectedly, Fran Blouin from the University of Michigan who directed the Vatican Archive Project, for which I was the Project Historian. It was great to catch up.

Day two was good too. First I went to “Grant Agencies Tell All;” which at this point in my life didn’t tell me much, but served up some cautionary tales of what not to do. Despite the call to innovate, grant agencies, as represented by this group (IMLS, Mellon, NEH, NEDCC), are fairly conservative. Cutting edge, not bleeding edge. The info was a bit generic and canned. However, I did feel empowered, having gone to the session to, at some point in the future and if Lynn agrees, inquire of the NEH preservation group why our climate control proposal was not accepted. HVACs seemed their bread and butter, though they did say that if there was not significant demonstration of processing activities a climate control proposal slipped down in their ratings. In other words, you have to make a compelling case for what you are trying to preserve. (“We get sick of stories about how bad your conditions are” one agency representative said.) The importance of obtaining some matching funds from one’s institution or a donor was also stressed. I now have the names and faces of representatives whom major grant agencies offered the SAA audience.

Next, Juan Williams (NPR, Fox, Eyes on the Prize, numerous publications) gave the third plenary, which was inspiring and made one feel good to be a custodian of cultural memory. The service role of librarians and archivist was eloquently valorized. “If heaven is a library or archive then guess who the angels are?” (Williams’ riff on Borges)

Lunch was provided for me, Vicki and Audra through the largess of Christian Dupront, the consultant who provided an analysis and report of ZSR Special Collection and Archives last November. He was a grand host, introducing us to his 20 odd other quests at the Taverna Lebanese. More cards exchanged. More war stories exchanged. More confirmations attained.

My afternoon was devoted to sessions focusing on the theme “More product, less process” as it pertains to archival description and getting our collections out there to be discovered. (For the research that stimulated recent strategies to process faster so as to get digital finding aids and surrogates on the web faster, see Greene and Meissner, “More product, less process: revamping traditional archival processing,” American Archivist 68, 2 (2005): 208-256.) These sessions, which offered the experiences of groups who had applied the “mplp”principles to concrete situations, were really useful and I have pages of notes. I will give here a bulleted list of points that struck me as particularly relevant to Special Collections and University Archives’ trajectory forward. [Sorry: my bullets got all messed up when I pasted into WordPress].

  • Lean processing practices are salutary for a number of reasons
    • Quicker online access to materials
    • Verbose inventories and finding aids may please the seasoned researcher but repel the novice and undergraduate user
  • · Each archive and special collection needs to take a hard look at its own processing and pre-processing practices in order to eliminate wasteful activity (e.g. limiting relabeling and refoldering). Ask: do I still need to be doing this? Why?
  • Jumpstart momentum. Many organizations have benefited from implementing quotas in processing – establishing expectations for a certain volume each person will process per month or year. Frequent, attentive communication between those who process and those who primarily work with researchers (shorthand = technical and reference services) is very important in honing and prioritizing leaner, quicker, more effective processing.
  • We should use donor and reference interactions to prioritize processing activities.
  • “Public service” staff (or all who interact with users and potential users) need to be more proactive in indicating gems within a collections in order to accelerate their discoverability
  • · If public service, user experience and user needs are to more deeply inform processing practices then reference/public service processes in archives and special collections probably need to become leaner too.
  • Limit time invested in fielding reference requests.
  • Our role is to work with our colleagues to provide a rich environment of discovery by efficiently exposing our collections.
  • Likewise, we are co-creators of access together with researchers (not search and find bots or hand holders).
  • At a certain point one must say: here is a list of proxies.
  • Develop mechanisms to capture researchers’ (and teachers’) passion for the materials you hold.
  • One highly recommended mechanisms, which also serves other purposes, is LibStats, an open source reference tracking, capture and knowledgebase-building tool. (Erik is already working on implementing this for us here).
  • Look for an upcoming RLG report on harvesting social metadata in special collections
  • Check out recent ARL SPEC Kits.

Suffice it to say that I am newly energized to work with my department to implement the strategies and principles articulated as appropriate to our environment and talents. It was great to be in the same room, hearing the same messages and examples, with Vicki and Audra.

Getting home was a lot easier than getting to D.C. Storms over.

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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