2010 Hidden Collections Symposium

March 29-30, 2010
Washington Court Hotel, Washington DC

At this first gathering of staff working on projects funded by the Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, participants contributed suggestions for panels and discussion topics on subjects of shared interest. Presentation files are below, and following these the full agenda from the program. Representatives of all projects were asked to prepare conference-style posters highlighting lessons learned (2008 projects) or questions and concerns (2009 projects) related to their project work.

Documents | Presentations | Agenda | Posters from Participants



All files in PDF format.

Panel #1: Innovations in Project Management I

Panel #2: Innovations in Project Management II

Panel #3: Innovations in technology, outreach, and training

Meeting Agenda

Monday, March 29

9:00-9:30AM: Registration and Continental Breakfast.

9:30-10:15 AM: Opening

Elliott Shore, CLIR Presidential Fellow and Director of the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College

Keynote: Hidden Collections and our Research Communities
Francis X. Blouin, former CLIR Board Member and Professor and Director of the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

10:15-12:00 PM: Scholarly Engagement study team workshop

Team Leader Kelly Miller gave a short presentation of the findings from the survey and site visits completed in 2009, followed by discussion. Team Members: Gabrielle Dean, Patricia Hswe, Elizabeth Waraksa. CLIR Advisor: Christa Williford

12:00-1:30 PM: LUNCH

1:30-2:30 PM: Panel #1: Innovations in Project Management I

Capturing Processing Metrics and Qualifying MPLP Practices
Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library, Harvard Medical School

Abstract: The Center for the History of Medicine’s Foundations of Public Health Policy grant (2008) has enabled staff to experiment with innovative processing techniques that maximize access to collections and strengthen connections to user communities in the field of public health and public health policy. As part of this initiative, the Center has been capturing metrics related to how it is processing archival and manuscript collections, including compiling data for completing work within the arrangement and description continuum. Emily R. Novak Gustainis, the Center’s Collections Services Archivist and the grant’s Supervisory Archivist, will address the Center’s streamlined processing approach and how the Center has developed processing metrics to improve efficiency as part of grant-funded work. Ms. Novak Gustainis will share results thus far, address the challenges inherent to capturing metrics for team processing projects, and the impact project metrics will have on future collections processing.

The True Cost of Collecting: Architectural Collections at NCSU
Linda Sellars, North Carolina State University

Abstract: Architecture and landscape architecture is a strategic collecting area for the NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center. One of the major questions we will address with our Changing the Landscape project is the extent to which we can apply our usual principles of flexible, cost-effective processing to these fragile and oversize materials. We will look at how we can further develop our efficient processing methods as we arrange and describe architectural collections. This will include testing our current departmental procedures for ingesting born-digital materials to see if they can be successfully applied to electronic architectural records. We also plan to do a cost/workflow analysis of moving architectural collections from unprocessed and inaccessible to useable for scholarship and research. We will develop a processing costs calculator, using tools from other institutions as models. This analysis will increase our understanding of the true costs of collecting, processing, describing and exposing architectural collections.

2:30-2:45 PM: BREAK

2:45-3:45 PM: Panel #2: Innovations in Project Management II

Managing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Records Project: Team Processing, Work Plans and Action Plans
Sarah Quigley, Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL), Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University

Abstract: When MARBL accessioned the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the collection measured almost 1200 linear feet in correspondence, administrative records, printed material, artifacts, photographs, audio/visual material, and born digital material, documenting over three decades of the organization’s history. To manage this massive project and finish processing within the three years allotted by the grant, project staff employed several tools that have been successful on smaller collections, as well as pieces of the library’s business planning model. The first tool is team processing, which divides the work by series between the project archivist and several graduate student assistants. The second tool is the work plan, which centralizes in one document all the most important information about the collection and serves as a reference tool for the duration of the project. The entire project is planned in this document, including estimates of the time it will take to process each series. Finally, the action plan guides the project and provides accountability by taking the time estimates from the work plan and plotting the work to be done month-by-month. This presentation will describe each of these tools and how they have been implemented, as well as provide examples of each.

Efficient Cataloging Workflow with a View Towards Research
Allison Jai O’Dell and Cassie Brand, Goucher College

Abstract: The project Mapping Special Collections for Research and Teaching at Goucher College, aimed at cataloging previously hidden materials, significantly increases awareness of and access to Goucher’s special collections through the efforts of librarians, scholars, and students. Its workflow, based on a series of stages, not only speeds processing, but also encourages discussion and a more holistic view of the research potential of materials. The resultant bibliographic database is exhaustive with a high level of accuracy and also substantially more beneficial to a diverse set of user communities.

The ‘hidden’ materials are now accessible through various approaches and available to answer and/or augment many disparate research endeavors. The depth of bibliographic description that the Mapping Special Collections team has been able to provide through its innovative workflow also facilitates the repurposing of metadata for instructional and analytical uses in a variety of disciplines.

This presentation will discuss specific features and advantages of the team’s cataloging workflow, including records management, staffing, accountability, and communication tools. Also included will be its value to the research community and the betterment of future programming at the Goucher College Library. It will conclude with practical ways that institutions can implement this workflow for their own use.

3:45-4:00 PM: BREAK

4:00-5:00 PM: “Birds of a Feather” Breakout Meetings

Implementing MPLP Practices
Contact person: Cheryl Oestreicher, Auburn Avenue Research Library

Summary: This breakout session will discuss the challenges and benefits of implementing Greene and Meissner’s ‘More Product Less Process.’ What is your institution’s policy? How did you implement an MPLP program? How has MPLP been incorporated/written into your processing manual, standards, etc.? What are some best practices? Are there certain standards always used? What does not work and why? How do you train students/interns/employees? How flexible are you – i.e., do you apply different methods to different series or try to be strictly consistent? Are there new ideas beyond Greene and Meissner? How does utilizing MPLP affect budget/funding?

Special Collections in University Libraries
Contact people: Jillian Cuellar and Gail Malmgreen, NYU Tamiment Library

Summary: This session will allow participants to explore methodologies implemented at their institutions in response to challenges specific to special collections in university libraries. Discussion will be based on participants’ interests, but possible topics include : How does the relationship between archivists and librarians at your institution affect the outcomes of your work? Are archivists and librarians able to communicate effectively despite potential barriers of professional language or methodology? How does the work of one inform the work of the other? Have special collections at your institutions experienced a new level of visibility as new venues of access are created and if so, how are you dealing with the likely increase in volume of patron requests? For example, many academic institutions are utilizing Web 2.0 technologies to promote their archives and special collections. How do you measure the effectiveness of these tools and how has it impacted research inquires, if at all? How do you prepare archive and library assistants/students to handle and process collections efficiently and competently? Student assistants often begin working in university libraries with little or no prior experience. How do you quickly familiarize them with library procedures and technologies? How do you ensure quality and consistency in their work?

Historical Societies and Museums
Contact person: Cathy Fields and Linda Hocking Litchfield Historical Society

Summary: This session is an opportunity to discuss many of the challenges faced by libraries and archives based at historical societies and museums, or other institutions that provide a broad range of cultural heritage programming in addition to library services. The following are potential topics: the challenges of finding a tool that will allow patrons to access all types of collections; the difficulties involved in reconciling museum practice with library practice with archival practice; how to provide access to records that are in progress; how to deal with remote research requests that increase in volume as collections information becomes available; how to get daily tasks completed while working on a grant deadline; determining the best level of processing for the materials you are describing.

Appraising and Processing Organizational Records Collections
Contact person: Courtney Chartier, Woodruff Library

Summary: Appraisal and donor relations are always important, but no more so than when dealing with organizational records. How do you maintain good donor relations, particularly over a long span of time, while gently explaining appraisal decisions? How do you deal with the urge of some donors to clean out their office into boxes meant for the archives? How do you weed a large collection while trying to maintain minimal processing standards? How excessive is excessive duplication? When and how should the archivist maintain or de-accession records that contain private information?

Partnerships and Consortia
Contact people: Eric Pumroy (Bryn Mawr College) and David McKnight (University of Pennsylvania), Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

Summary: The group will focus on the opportunities and challenges of undertaking projects that involve multiple institutions. While there are many potential benefits to working in a partnership, including stronger final products, interaction among staffs, and sharing the costs of technology and technical expertise, there are also many complications, with issues of communications, decision-making, and standards all to be negotiated. The discussion will provide an opportunity for participants to talk about their experiences of working in collaboration with other institutions, and the strategies they have used to develop productive partnerships.

5:00-6:30 PM: Reception

Tuesday, March 30

8:00-8:30 AM: Continental Breakfast

8:30-10:00 AM: Panel #3: Innovations in technology, outreach, and training

Innovations in Cataloging and Outreach with African Set Maps at the Library of Congress
John Hébert, Morgan Cundiff, and Ryan Moore, Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress

Abstract: Three members of the African Set Maps team will outline plans for outreach and key innovations introduced to their workflow on this project, which makes series maps of the African continent available to users in unprecedented ways. Morgan Cundiff and Ryan Moore will discuss how new software development and geographic coordinate calculations help to make maps accessible through Google Earth. Division Chief John Hébert will discuss plans to bring the set maps to the attention to a diverse community of users.

Reaching out to the African Studies Community at Northwestern University and Beyond
Esmeralda Kale, Northwestern University

Abstract: This session will outline strategies used in the promotion of Northwestern University Library’s Africana poster collection on campus, within the city of Evanston, the state of Illinois and the larger scholarly community. By utilizing effective marketing tools in promoting the use of the poster collection, we hope to increase public awareness and stimulate use. The challenges in promotion and possible measures of success will be discussed.

Parlez-vous français? Finding and training subject specialists to catalog 18th century French pamphlets
Jennifer Thom and Eric Nygren, Newberry Library

Abstract: The Newberry Library has a 2009 grant to catalog four French pamphlet collections, most from the period of the French Revolution. Cataloging Assistants will create 22,000 item-level MARC records that provide sufficient detail for research, adhere to recognized bibliographic standards, and will be web-accessible and sustainable. The Cataloging Assistants must have a fluent reading knowledge of French and be able to work with 18th century, political documents that may have idiosyncratic spelling, grammar and vocabulary. Some of the Cataloging Assistants will have little or no library cataloging experience but must quickly learn to use Connexion and MARC format if we are to meet production goals.

Several University Libraries have successfully implemented this model of hiring subject and language specialists to do rapid, hidden collections cataloging but it will be new for the Newberry. As an independent research library, the Newberry has no formal connection with the graduate programs from which we hope to find Cataloging Assistants and as a small technical services department this grant will double the size of our cataloging staff.

10:00-10:15 AM BREAK

10:15-11:15 AM Technology Breakout Meetings

Implementing Archivists’ Toolkit
Contact person: Tanya Hollis, California Historical Society

Summary: A discussion for current users of Archivists’ Toolkit (AT), and those considering implementing AT. The session will address pros and cons of selecting AT for both project work and institutions in general, discuss implementation, and what the future holds as AT merges with Archon. The session will also allow users to present on the use of AT in current projects, and the impact it has had on their work.

Implementing Archon
Contact person: Linda Hocking, Litchfield Historical Society

Summary: A discussion of the benefits and challenges of using Archon, which Litchfield Historical Society staff implemented when beginning their Hidden Collections project. Challenges include : frequent updates and lack of local technology staff to stay on top of them; uncertainty about the future of the software given the potential merger with Archivists’ Toolkit; and an inability to customize without technology staff. Some of the benefits include : visibility through Google; the ability to include images of artifacts related to paper collections; the ability to include early (and not digital) finding tools such as box lists, inventories, and transcriptions by scanning them as files; and, critically, local staff can find their own collections.

Applying Standards for Improving Access and Efficiency
Contact person: Andrea Stamm, Northwestern University

Summary: This session will deal with the choice and application of standards in a project, and how they affect project outcomes. For example, the choice of cataloging software and a cataloging standard can positively or negatively impact on the success of the project, the choice and ease of training of project staff, and the speed with which the project moves along. How do collaborative projects between institutions make the most of standards, since institutions may not share the same standards? What are the best practices for catalogers working with their technical staff who migrate their cataloging data to other formats?

Adapting Generic Tools for Processing Projects
Contact people: Jordan Patty, George Mason University and Evyn Kropf, University of Michigan

Summary: For this breakout meeting, we would like to gather and discuss generic tools that are not specifically designed for processing. The tools are useful because of their availability and functionality. These tools include MS Office applications, Google applications, and blog software. The goal is create a reference document with all of these tools, the advantages and disadvantages, project examples, and contact information. The completed document can be distributed via the CLIR website. For those participating at the meeting, please post a message about what you are using. We may compile some screenshots to show on a laptop at the meeting.

11:15 AM-11:30 PM: BREAK

11:30-12:30PM: Closing

Reports from Breakout Sessions

Summary by Chuck Henry, CLIR President