Archive for the 'Reference' Category

31
Aug
11

SAA Days 2 & 3: assessment, copyright, conversation

I started Wednesday with a birthday breakfast with a friend from college, then lunch with a former mentor, followed by roundtable meetings. I focused on 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. 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.

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 lunch, I headed over to Session 204: “Rights, Risk, and Reality: Beyond ‘Undue Diligence’ in Rights Analysis for Digitization.” 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…

(Cross posted at ZSR Professional Development blog.)

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17
Aug
10

Reflections: SAA 2010 in Washington DC

*Portions of this post are duplicated at the WFU ZSR Professional Development blog.

This has been my favorite SAA of the three I have attended, mostly because I felt like I had a purpose and specific topics to explore there. The TwapperKeeper archive for #saa10 is available and includes a ton of great resources. I also got the chance to have my curriculum vitae reviewed at the Career Center not once, but twice! I loved every moment of being in DC and will definitely be attending more of the receptions/socials next time!

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 my library and the local public library 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. They said they’d post a formal announcement on the ATUG listserv soon.

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 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 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.

Then I 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.

It was a whirlwind experience and I left feeling invigorated and ready to tackle new challenges and ideas. Whew!

11
Jun
09

del.icio.us subject guides

Librarians love to create subject guides.  Most academic libraries have created 2.0 subject guides to promote resources online subscription-based services such as LibGuides. For low-budget and/or public libraries, alternatives have emerged to help librarians contextualize multiple research sources online.

As described by Swiss Army Librarian and iLibrarian, these 2.0 subject guides are being created using resources like del.icio.us and Squidoo — for free.  See aforementioned posts for examples, including MIT Libraries. These and other free social bookmarking services allow libraries to create subject guides that are familiar to many young users. One drawback: potential for lost bookmarks if website fails (be sure to back up regularly!)

Because our department does not have resources for subscription-based services, I created a del.icio.us page for the North Carolina Room. Using some of our most popular resources for local history, genealogy, law, and government, I was able to categorize and describe some of the excellent resources available to our patrons. We now have over 130 resources that can be accessed by browsing or searching the page and we have linked our del.icio.us to our website-as-blog (see the homepage — we’ve called it “New Links” to avoid intimidating patrons with unfamiliar terms).

A relatively recent article in Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research by Edward M. Corrado describes the benefits and drawbacks of using social bookmarking to create up-to-the-minute reference subject guides. Corrado emphasizes the potential for collaboration between librarians and students, as well as between librarians and other librarians. For us, the benefits are clear: to make available quickly our “staff favorites” and frequently used reference sources.

28
May
09

Creating library blogs-as-websites

Before being interviewed for my job as a special collections librarian, I decided to do some research about my potential employer by taking a look at their website. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I was also not surprised. As a department in the local government, my library’s website (design and all) is in the hands of a few government-sponsored programmers.

The local history and genealogy department (where I was hired) had little more than an HTML page with in-page links describing our collections. When I asked about the possibility of updating our department’s webpage, I was told that getting any design injected into the website would be nearly impossible. Our department, like many others, had a static HTML document that listed popular reference links for librarians at the ref desk.

So I spoke to my coworkers about the possibility of creating a blog for our department, where we could share news, events, new acquisitions, and more. Most of my colleagues were lukewarm to the idea considering how many other “fancy new technologies” had come and gone; however, I promised this one would be more fun to use.

When I settled in on WordPress, I used a template to create what I thought would be a traditional repository blog. I quickly realized, however, that with the addition of pages, images, and other features, this could be much more. I started experimenting with pages describing the collections, as well as contact and request information. I could post PDFs, links, pages, images, news…why, it was basically a website!

After making the posts page secondary to my main page, I was able to create a “home page” for our new blog-as-website, the North Carolina Room. Because we are hosted by WordPress, we have search engine optimization so we are easily found in a Google (and other engine) search. I played around with our widgets and discovered how I could create a browse-able category list and search text box so that users can browse and search our blog’s content.

As for our reference links, I created a Del.icio.us for our department and added it as a link in our blog (another post will address Del.icio.us). I started finding other libraries that had created their web presence by taking advantage of free and/or open source web 2.0 applications like blogs and wikis, as well as a CiL session that focused on “Blogs as Websites”!

At this point, my coworkers and library administration were under the impression that I was creating a basic blog for the North Carolina Room. How could I get approval to create an entirely separate page that was inconsistent with the sterile county government “design”? I decided that the design would have to speak for itself. I sent an email to my supervisor and the library administrative board explaining the basic blog and mentioned that it included “additional information about our department, similar to a website.”

I sent the message and waited. About an hour later, a few administrators responded with glowing praise, citing the clean and appealing interface, the ease of browse and search, and the information given that was lacking in our former site. Pure joy — I was approved! The link was added to our existing department page through the county’s site by one of our government programmers and has since become essentially our new department website.

In this situation, it turns out that asking for a little was the best way to get a lot. Had I known about advanced design for blogs and creating a blog-as-website beforehand, I doubt that I would have been approved. I asked for a blog for a trial period and emerged with a department web presence to be proud of. We do use the website as a traditional blog, adding news and events — even our most technology-averse colleague gave it a try — but it is also a source of identity and creativity for our department.

I am not a web designer…but I used existing FREE tools to make something useful and beautiful for my department. So can you!