Archive for May, 2010


Digitization policies: drafts

In a few weeks, I will have been in my position here for four months. If there is one project that I hope to complete before my first year, it is to successfully create a sustainable digitization process for our library!

With feedback from the digital/web librarian who attempted to create a digitization policy about two years ago and a lot of reading, I created four documents to get our digitization “task force” talking about our project process. These documents, in draft form, are as follows:

  • Digital Collection Development Policy: This document is modeled after the original policy document. It describes types of digitization projects, defines a “digitization advisory group” that decides what projects to do and who will be part of the projects, as well as project selection criteria.
  • Digital Project Life Cycle: This document describes the process of identifying and implementing a digital project. Team roles are described, as well as technical and metadata specs (still in development).
  • Digitization Project Proposal: This is a very short form that groups can fill out to propose a digital project to the “digitization advisory group.”
  • Project Proposal Checklist: This is the checklist that the “digitization advisory group” would use to help the group decide on and prioritize digitization projects. Adapted from Syracuse University Library’s “Digital Library Project Proposal Checklist.”

There are other forms and policies, such as a work order submission form and copyright research policy — I have some great guidance from the Society of Georgia Archivists’ Forms Forum, which has a lot of excellent examples. Some of the other resources I consulted and adapted include:

For me, the development policy and life cycle documents are the most important. Once our “task force” comes to agreement on these documents, they can serve as the backbone for our projects, as well as evidence that we all support a long-term, collaborative digitization effort. Feedback and suggestions are welcome. Thank you for reading!

As an unrelated note, Touchable Archives is the blog of the month for May 2010 at Simmons’ GSLIS!


Who cares about learning EAD?

Matt (@herbison) over at Hot Brainstem posted a good question to his blog: “Can you skip learning EAD and go right to Archivists’ Toolkit or Archon?” He suggests that the “right way” to create accessible finding aids (EAD, DACS, XML, XSLT, and AT) is not as important as finding a (faster) way to get stuff online. First, I want to say thanks to him for bringing this question to the table.

I was not trained to create EAD finding aids in grad school (although I have experience with XML and HTML). Instead, I was trained to create EAD-compatible MS Word docs that were plopped into an EAD template by an encoder and sent over to the OAC. For me, AT was not part of the process of creating a finding aid.

In my current job, I’m working with old EAD files that were outsourced and tied to a problematic stylesheet (they referenced JPG files and included HTML color codes). I imported these old EAD files  into AT — minor editing was needed, but nothing that made me reference the EAD tag library. I have yet to create one from “scratch,” although I did recently attend the basic EAD workshop through SAA. I can now search and edit the contents of our existing finding aids (all 450+ of them) and create new ones within the AT interface…and with less opportunity for human error.

I am moving toward the idea of going straight to AT for EAD since it exports “good” EAD (that I have seen so far). I am going to train our grad students and library assistants how to use AT for accessions and basic processing…why would I need to teach them EAD? I am still in the process of answering that question because we are working on a new stylesheet for our finding aids — which means I need to learn more about XSLT. AT might give me a nice EAD document, but it doesn’t make it look pretty online for me.

AT experts like Sibyl (@sibylschaefer) and Mark (@anarchivist) are right when they suggest that an understanding of EAD is important when you need to do stuff with the EAD that AT exports. Just being aware of elements and the tag library helps me “read” an EAD document…and hopefully, it will help me create better, more beautiful finding aids through stylesheets that interact with the data in functional, interactive ways.

So I suppose the question to consider is, “how much do you need to learn about EAD in order to go right to AT or Archon?”


Blooms Among the LAMs: Early‐Career Professionals and Cross‐Pollination between Libraries, Archives, and Museums

This post was co-authored by Audra of Touchable Archives and Lance of the NewArchivist blog, on which this post also appears.

As the lines between libraries, archives, and museums continue to blur and professional identities become less and less concrete, a question arises on how to best foster collaboration and knowledge‐building between these sectors. In some regards, this question is even more profound for new professionals. In graduate school, there are opportunities to take classes in other disciplines or even specialize in multiple areas. Is this type of education actually bringing together the best of the theory and practice of these disciplines, or merely teaching library skills in one class and archives skills in another?

Furthermore, it can be difficult for new professionals to know which of these identities belong to them. For example, what if you are a graduate of an archives program, working in a library setting, and putting together a few online and physical object exhibits? What are you? What professional organizations do you belong to and what journals do you read? Being new (and most likely carrying a mountain of education debt), we probably have to choose between the SAA, ALA, or AAM annual meetings.

Where does one look to learn more about the issues and opportunities surrounding the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Is there something out there for new professionals interested in cross‐discipline topics and fostering collaboration? If not, what types of groups would suit our needs? The purpose of this post is to solicit answers to some of these questions.

A Little History
The Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM) was established by the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board in 1970 as a partnership between the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and ALA, with the American Association of Museums (AAM) joining in January 2003. An in‐depth history can be found on the ALA website. The committee consists of fifteen members, five from each organization, as well as three co‐chairs from each organization. There are also staff liaisons and sometimes interns (mostly from ALAbut the committee is largely made up of experienced and well‐known archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. It is clear from the official functions of CALM that it is an administrative, high‐level committee that fosters communication between these three large organizations.
CALM’s official function is to:

(1) foster and develop ways and means of effecting closer cooperation among the organizations; (2) encourage the establishment of common standards; (3) undertake such activities as are assigned to the committee by one or more of its parent bodies; (4) initiate programs of a relevant and timely nature at the annual meetings of one or more parent bodies either through direct Combined Committee sponsorship or by forwarding particular program plans to the appropriate unit or on or more parent bodies for action; and (5) refer matters of concern to appropriate units of one or more of the parent bodies.

Both of us had never heard of CALM as graduate students. It was not until Audra was selected to be a part of the 2009 class of ALA Emerging Leaders that she was introduced to the committee and its priorities. (In case you’re curious, the 2008 EL class created a wiki for LAM (libraries, archives, and museums)‐related issues, which the 2009 EL class updated and supplemented with a page, and the 2010 EL class is working on a podcast series for LAM‐related issues.) CALM was born as a policy‐based group of representatives from SAA, AAM, and ALA. Their willingness to work with ALA’s Emerging Leaders program seems to demonstrate an interest in the ideas of early‐career professionals.

There is potential for CALM to become a major vehicle for encouraging discussion and scholarship about LAM convergence. The OCLC‐related hangingtogether blog as well as the new IMLSUpNext wiki present opportunities for discussion and debate around LAM issues.

A Call for Ideas
So other than getting involved with the big OCLC working groups and the super‐committee known as CALM, what opportunities are there for early‐career librarians, archivists, and museum professionals to be a part of the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Where is the “Emerging Leaders” program for new/young professionals who think and work between the LAMs?

Convergence is an exciting thing. How does this generation of new professionals understand and interact with it? That is what we are asking you. When we were first discussing this idea, we thought that an informal type of group focusing on these issues would be a good start. Perhaps it could have an online access component to foster collaboration and not require travel. We need your help and ideas on filling out this idea and make it into something tangible and usable for us new information professionals. Please leave comments or email us at to let us know what you think!


Creating a digitization task force

Just over a month ago, I asked my colleagues at the NC Digital Collections Collaboratory about ways to formulate a digital collections program at my institution. I got some great feedback and this morning, I was able to wrangle in the eight very important technology, metadata, and special collections staff that could create a sustainable digitization “task force.”

I was fairly nervous about my attempt to gain consensus among this mixed, highly trained, busy group. Without a director of special collections, our ragtag task force became more of a brainstorming session. I brought everyone a copy of Suzanne Preate’s “Digital Project Life Cycle” slide from the 2009 NNYLN conference and allowed for a little storytelling about the history of efforts to create a digital collections program. Once everyone had a chance to express their past frustrations and concerns, we began to ponder the idea of a digital collections process that would work for our institution.

Everyone immediately agreed that special collections alone should have final say about what is selected for digitization, since our staff should have the best idea of what is in our collections. I mentioned that our manuscript collections are not processed to the point where potential digital projects could be created, but our rare books librarian could likely make decisions about rare books that could be digitized. At the same time, everyone wanted to be a part of the creation of a digital collection development policy (also known as selection criteria), which was a relief. I was asked to draft the policy and email the group for feedback and suggestions.

The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing issues with post-production, such as user interface and what the tech team called the “discovery layer” for DSpace. It turns out there is a possibility of creating a new portal for digital collections that pulls from DSpace, without having to use the standard DSpace interface templates. Basically, DSpace and Encompass are the databases, and our new digital portal and VuFind (our catalog) will be the discovery layers. I am still learning about this. Our head tech programmer mentioned that we could use VuFind or a blog (catablog?) as our special collections interface, with MARC records mapped from Dublin Core records that are in DSpace. Of course, this would not work with our finding aids, since the majority of the information therein would not be fully searchable as a MARC record. Our tech team asked special collections to send examples of best practices of how a DSpace portal could look (I did not find many good examples online) as well as any examples we could find of interfaces that may have DSpace as a backend (this is in the works).

We then turned back to the need for a project process. Our copyright expert librarian chimed in to mention a need to document efforts to determine copyright status for orphaned and unpublished works. She urged us to consider creating a standard rights statement for our digital objects. I gave her a copy of the “Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online” document shared in the recent post from entitled “Archivists: be bold and do your job.”

We closed with a few goals in mind: meet again in June after our visit to ECU’s Digital Collections team, and for me to draft a digital collection development policy/selection criteria. My initial thoughts? While disorganized, our meeting established our group’s commitment to a long-term digitization program. We will need to work on a project life cycle of our own in the near future.


Newly discovered

While I work on some posts, here are some of the archives and digital humanities blogs I recently discovered:

As archival studies, digital humanities, libraries, museums, and public history overlap and converge, I find more to read and learn about the work that I do.