Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Retrofit metadata

Part of my challenge here is to create an archives that will be easy for our students to use and access. Ok, that's actually the entirety of my challenge here. I know that our archives will not be a research archives in the sense of a Harvard or University of Texas. It's simply never going to be that; there are not enough resources and this institution is not focused on prestige acquisitions or on getting off-campus researchers through the doors.

So, my goal is to create an archives that is accessible to the community here, for whatever their needs are. This is a very traditional scope of an archives--be available to your core community--but it's often not achieved or considered unachievable/undesirable by so many institutions that it almost seems simplistic.

Our student body, by and large, consumes its information through the Internet. Most of our circulation is in digital objects (articles, ebooks, etc). So that must be where this archives resides--in amongst the digital resources already being used. In the beginning, I was hopeful that I could get something together like ArchiveSpace or some fancy pants archival management system like that, but now I think I see that it's not really going to be used or useful if I silo our archives in any way.

I told my supervisor that I think the only way to know for sure that our archives will be used in the future is to plan now for keeping our metadata as fluid and format-independent as possible. So when the library changes its systems (and of course it will change its systems at some point!), we are not unprepared for major metadata-revisions. Since our discovery portal does not support EAD (and EAD is its own version of format-dependent), this could mean txt file master finding aids that I can push into MARC or pdf or EAD or whatever I ultimately need. For a small place that does not have a lot of material, maybe it's the best solution I could create. I'm still circling these ideas in my head because there seems to be no good solution, but hopefully the circles are getting smaller and smaller and eventually I'll arrive at the single point.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.