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Making Special Collections Not So Special? The Implications for Archives and Special Collections of the Report of the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control. Christine Di Bella PACSCL Consortial Survey Initiative Presentation for PALINET Future of Cataloging Symposium

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Making Special Collections Not So Special?The Implications for Archives and Special Collections of the Report of the LC Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control

Christine Di Bella

PACSCL Consortial Survey Initiative

Presentation for PALINET Future of Cataloging Symposium

May 29, 2008

  • My background
  • LC working group guiding principles and milestones
  • Recommendation Two
  • Other relevant recommendations
  • Problems
  • Where do we go from here?
my background
My background
  • Archivist, and approach cataloging and description issues (and this report) from that perspective.
    • I do have a library degree and worked in academic library technical services during graduate school, so have been involved in cataloging and description in both library and archives settings.
  • Currently direct PACSCL Consortial Survey Initiative, project to assess and improve access to unprocessed and underprocessed archival collections in 22 Philadelphia area libraries, archives, and museums.
lc working group s guiding principles
LC Working Group’s guiding principles
  • Redefine bibliographic control.
  • Redefine the bibliographic universe.
    • These first two principles hold exciting promise for archives and special collections.
  • Redefine the role of the Library of Congress.
    • Because so much of description in archives and special collections is for rare and unique materials, we tend not to be as affected by decisions by LC to do less centrally
      • But standards and infrastructure are essential to our work, and especially to streamlining our work.
milestones for special collections in this report
Milestones for Special Collections in this report
  • Inclusion and prominence within the recommendations.
  • Categorization of description of special collections as “higher-value activity.”
    • Fundamental shift for many libraries
  • Emphasis on unification of communities of practice for describing different types of materials.
  • Emphasis on integrating and sharing access.
recommendation two the biggie
Recommendation Two(“The Biggie”)

Enhance Access to Rare, Unique, and Other Special Hidden Materials.

make the discovery of rare unique and other special hidden materials a high priority
Make the Discovery of Rare, Unique, and Other Special Hidden Materials a High Priority.
  • Special collections cataloging and description = “higher-value activity.”
  • Shifting resources from mass distributed resources to what is unique or rare
    • Goes against conventional wisdom in libraries, which, in the past, have tended to concentrate on the largest parts of their holdings or what gets used most frequently.
  • Potential for integrating special collections cataloging into the workflow and/or retraining/cross-training staff.
    • Format integration should have helped us do this for MARC-based description long ago – need to fully capitalize on that promise, and apply it to other metadata formats as well.
Streamline Cataloging for Rare, Unique, and Other Special Hidden Materials, Emphasizing Greater Coverage and Broader Access.
  • We have the tools to do this, we just need to accept that it is necessary.
    • Long-standing distinction between minimal, core, full levels for monograph and serials cataloging.
      • DCRM(B) provides specific guidelines for minimal-, core- and collection-level cataloging of rare books.
    • Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) has minimum, optimum, added value levels for archival description.
  • Efforts underway already
    • “More Product, Less Process”
    • CLIR Cataloging Hidden Collections initiative
    • Survey projects
integrate access to rare unique and other special hidden materials with other library materials
Integrate Access to Rare, Unique and Other Special Hidden Materials with Other Library Materials.
  • Many of us want this, but we need help.
    • Putting into one system vs. federated searching
  • WorldCat and other online catalogs do this already, to a point
    • Good as far as it goes, but limited for certain types of materials, particularly given the complexity of archival collections.
    • Existing systems were not built with archives and special collections materials in mind, which is why we often were forced to develop our own systems.
    • Barriers to participation for many small institutions.
integrate access continued
Integrate Access, continued
  • What about our finding aids?
    • Development on ArchiveGrid, OCLC’s WorldCat equivalent for finding aids, lags far behind, and the system lacks certain kinds of functionality, like relevancy ranking of search results, that should be de rigueur.
    • Mirrors challenge individual institutions face in developing finding aid delivery systems, which are nearly always segregated from other types of metadata delivery.
integrate access continued11
Integrate Access, continued
  • Integration currently more likely to happen with digital materials
    • OAI initiatives like OAISTER
    • Metadata production often happens through different workflows, however.
    • Also have to reduce to the lowest common denominator when deliver through one system.
    • How much of value is lost by move toward common systems vs. how much is gained by our users being able to find everything in one place?
encourage digitization to allow broader access
Encourage Digitization to Allow Broader Access.
  • Moving from “boutique” to mass digitization
    • Describing at a broader level rather than usual model of item-level metadata, which is completely impractical for collections that may contain millions of items.
  • Examples of projects employing mass digitization for archives
    • NHPRC-funded projects at Archives of Michigan, Aldo Leopold Foundation/University of Wisconsin, and Troup County, Georgia
    • Joshua Ranger’s work at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
  • OCLC “Shifting Gears” report
  • Max Evans article in American Archivist, “Archives of the People, by the People, for the People”
share access to rare unique and other special hidden materials
Share Access to Rare, Unique, and Other Special Hidden Materials.
  • Some archives and special collections have not shared their records in the past because they thought that since their materials were unique, other institutions would have little interest in their records.
  • Growing recognition that this should be done, and hopefully, if the barriers to participation are lowered, it will be done.
  • For legacy data, need to pull records from existing systems rather than require staff to recreate records in new systems.
  • These types of recommendations are not new for special collections, and less and less controversial.
    • Many in archives and special collections community would agree in principle; implementation (and resources to do so) is the main issue.
    • There are a number of initiatives, projects, and developments in archives and special collections that precede or parallel the recommendations in this report.
initiatives that precede or parallel lc report
Initiatives that precede or parallel LC report
  • ARL’s Special Collections Task Force “Hidden Collections” efforts (appear to be the direct inspiration for recommendation two in the LC report) [2001-2006]
  • “More Product, Less Process” by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner [published in the American Archivist in 2005, but available since 2004]
  • Change in NHPRC processing grant guidelines/requirements (directly influenced by MPLP) [2006]
  • OCLC’s “Shifting Gears” Report [2007]
  • CLIR Cataloging Hidden Collections initiative [2008]
  • Institutional and consortial efforts such as the PACSCL Consortial Survey
typical concerns
Typical concerns
  • Not being able to meet user – external or internal - needs.
    • Since reference and retrieval in archives and special collections is highly mediated, we are often some of the heaviest users of our collections.
  • Not being able to address the preservation needs of the materials
  • Our staffing levels may not be able to accommodate the growing demand if more of our material is accessible, particularly by novice users.
  • De-professionalizing the work of special collections
beyond recommendation two
Beyond Recommendation Two
  • While special collections gets its own recommendation, important to realize that most of the report has applicability to our work.
    • Since one of the main recommendations of the report is to integrate special collections into other collections work, seems particularly apt to point out these connections.
1 1 eliminate redundancies
1.1 Eliminate redundancies
  • 1.1.1: Make Use of Data Available Earlier in the Supply Chain
    • Role of donor and dealer description
    • Information and processes used during accessioning
  • 1.1.2: Re-Purpose Existing Metadata for Greater Efficiency
    • Retro-conversion
    • Researcher-supplied description
  • 1.1.5: Develop Evidence about Discovery Tools to Guide Decision Makers
    • Increasing attention to user studies in archives
1 2 increase distribution of responsibility for bibliographic record production and maintenance
1.2 Increase Distribution of Responsibility for Bibliographic Record Production and Maintenance
  • 1.2.3: Expand Number of PCC Participants
    • Particularly apt for NACO and SACO.
    • Current structure makes it difficult for small institutions – which many archives and special collections are – to participate, even though they have original cataloging to contribute.
  • 1.2.4: Increase Incentives for Sharing Bibliographic Records
    • Goes back to Recommendation Two.
1 3 collaborate on authority record creation and maintenance
1.3 Collaborate on Authority Record Creation and Maintenance
  • 1.3.1: Increase Collaboration on Authority Data
    • Because archives and special collections often catalog material by or about people and corporate bodies with no published works, also more likely to have to create new name authority headings.
    • But, if more headings produced by smaller repositories were shared, likely that the amount of duplicative original cataloging would decrease.
    • Emerging archival standard for authority data, Encoded Archival Context (EAC) – complement to Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
1.3.3: Internationalize Authority Files.
    • Archival description is increasingly looking to international standards like ISAD(G) and ISAAR(CPF) (specifically for authority data) when building its own, and creating tools that can interact with each other.
    • Just as bibliographic information should be internationalized, so too should authority information.
    • In the web environment, users less likely to care where information comes from – they just want the information.
3 position our technology for the future
3: Position Our Technology for the Future
  • Technology in general and delivery systems in particular have always been problematic for archives and special collections
    • Fitting our descriptive information into MARC-based systems was best option available, but always a difficult fit.
      • Hierarchical nature of archival collections, many interrelationships vs. flat file structure of a typical OPAC.
    • Vendors have not stepped in for the most part to develop good tools for creating or delivering finding aids, the core access tool for most archival collections.
3 1 1 develop a more flexible extensible metadata carrier
3.1.1: Develop a More Flexible, Extensible Metadata Carrier.
  • As mentioned previously, MARC was always a difficult fit for archival description.
  • While a market has developed around MARC, it is still small compared to the overall market for information systems. (Though much larger than the market for archives and special collections!)
  • Emphasis on MARC-based systems may have inhibited development around more flexible archival descriptive standards.
3 1 2 integrate library standards into web environment
3.1.2: Integrate Library Standards into Web Environment.
  • In archives, as in any other information setting, people want to get their information on the web, and in particular, they want to get it through a simple Google search.
  • People also want information pushed to them, as well as available through sites that they visit all the time (which aren’t necessarily our sites).
    • APIs allow for integration into customizable sites like Facebook, iGoogle, My Yahoo, as well as incorporated into other websites.
3 2 standards
3.2 Standards
  • Archival standards development community still a small niche, and somewhat isolated from larger standards community.
    • Lack of connection to system development.
  • We know that in order to progress we need standards.
4 1 design for today s and tomorrow s user
4.1 Design for Today’s and Tomorrow’s User
  • 4.1.1: Link Appropriate External Information with Library Catalogs.
    • People want description, content, and context, all accessible from one place.
  • 4.1.2: Integrate User-Contributed Data into Library Catalogs.
    • Emphasis on minimal processing (including description) means our users will have an ever larger role to play in improving intellectual access to our materials.
  • 4.1.3: Conduct Research into the Use of Computationally Derived Data
    • Use and patron demand as criteria for further processing or description.
5 strengthen the library and information science profession
5 Strengthen the Library and Information Science Profession
  • Research orientation
    • Decisions for practice based on research.
  • Archival education traditionally based out of history programs.
  • Later move to library science programs, but still a split.
  • Growing importance of understanding organization and description of information.
  • “Bibliographic” control
    • For many, bibliographic = book
    • Gets at the fundamental lack of understanding of the work required to “catalog” a book vs. an archival collection that may consist of millions of items.
    • Since one of the guiding principles is to “redefine bibliographic control” this may change over time, but think the very title of the group makes archivists and special collections librarians wonder whether it applies to them.
      • Perhaps as a result, little to no response from the archives community.
problems continued
Problems, continued
  • Lack of involvement of archivists, as exemplified in
    • SAA, EAD not mentioned at all
    • EAC and other emerging standards for archival description not on the radar
    • A nitpick, but perhaps an illustrative one: When referencing “More Product, Less Process,” arguably the most significant article on this topic from an archival perspective, both authors’ names are misspelled, both times.
where do we go from here
Where do we go from here?
  • LC Working Group report as a jumping off point for special collections initiatives
    • Less detailed recommendations than the other sections, but also the section in which individual institutions have the greatest role.
where we go from here
Where we go from here
  • Sharing templates and best practices that contribute to efficiency.
    • University of Illinois rare book cataloging project.
  • Adhering to standards, and not being afraid to use the “minimum” standards recommended.
    • DACS, in particular, provides good guidance for this.
  • Making our descriptive tools multi-purpose, and multi-purposing our description.
    • Tools like MarcEdit facilitate this.
where we go from here continued
Where we go from here, continued
  • Reconceptualizing access and digitization.
  • Committing to not just developing and adhering to standards, but developing delivery systems so users can easily find what we have – and, ideally, contribute.
  • One consortium’s example
pacscl consortial survey
PACSCL Consortial Survey
  • 22 participating institutions
  • DACS compliant (single-level optimum) collection-level descriptions that can be output as MARC, EAD, HTML, or PDF, in addition to being included in a public interface to the survey database.
  • Have surveyed 1,776 collections totaling over 15,000 linear feet since the start of the project (6 months and 4 institutions to go)
consortial survey next steps
Consortial Survey Next Steps
  • Applying to CLIR for multi-tiered follow-up project
    • Minimal processing for highest research value collections (approximately 330 collections totaling over 9,500 linear feet). Descriptive tools will include MARC records and EAD finding aids.
    • Conversion of legacy paper and electronic finding aids for unsurveyed collections to EAD.
    • Improved online access, including MARC records, for all surveyed collections.
    • Plan to apply for digitization funding in later stages.
for questions further discussion or information on pacscl projects
For questions, further discussion or information on PACSCL projects

Christine Di Bella

Archivist and Project Director

PACSCL Consortial Survey Initiative

215-732-6200, ext.

project website: