More Product, Less Process by Q0RkZ7i

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									More Product, Less Process


   Why it Matters to Archivists,
   Librarians, and Researchers

                                                           Dennis Meissner
                                                 Minnesota Historical Society
                                                 dennis.meissner@mnhs.org




            "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                            1
              Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
The Problem

• Archival processing does not keep pace
  with the growth of collections

    • Unprocessed backlogs continue to grow
    • Researchers denied access to collections
    • Our image with donors and resource allocators
      suffers




                  "Moving the Past into the Future,"
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                    Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Hypotheses

• Increasing breadth and scale of
  contemporary collections

• Failure to revise processing
  benchmarks to deal with problem




              "Moving the Past into the Future,"
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                Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Methodology

•   Literature review
•   Repository survey      (100 repositories)
•   Grant project survey (40 NHPRC grants)
•   User survey            (48 researchers)
•   Review related surveys




                 "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                      4
                   Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Findings

• Processing benchmarks and practices are
  inappropriate to deal with problems posed
  by large contemporary collections

    • Ideal vs. necessary
    • Fixation on item level tasks
    • Preservation anxieties trump user needs




                  "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                       5
                    Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Recommendations

• General Principles for Change

    • Establish acceptable minimum level of work, and
      make it the benchmark

    • Don’t assume all collections, or all collection
      components, will be processed to same level




                   "Moving the Past into the Future,"
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                     Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Recommendations

• Arrangement

    • In normal or typical situations, the physical
      arrangement of materials in archival groups and
      manuscript collections should not take place below
      the series level

    • Not all series and all files in a collection need to be
      arranged to the same level


                   "Moving the Past into the Future,"
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                     Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Recommendations

• Description

     • Since description represents arrangement:
       describe materials at a level of detail appropriate
       to that level of arrangement

     • Keep description brief and simple

     • Level of description should vary across
       collections, and across components within a
       collection

                    "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                             8
                      Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Recommendations

• Conservation

    • Rely on storage area environmental controls to
      carry the conservation burden

    • Don’t perform conservation tasks at a lower
      hierarchical level than you perform arrangement
      and description



                  "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                        9
                    Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Recommendations

• Productivity

     • A processing archivist ought to be able to arrange
       and describe large twentieth century archival
       materials at an average rate of 4 hours per cubic
       foot




                   "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                        10
                     Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Lessons learned

• What do our users really need and
  expect?

  Access
    • Online discovery tools
    • Effective finding aids




                  "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                       11
                    Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Lessons learned

• What are the essentials of effective
  arrangement work?

     • Respect des fonds + Original order →
     • Series-level arrangement




                   "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                        12
                     Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Lessons learned

• What preservation activities are truly
  necessary?

     •   Protection from light
     •   Protection from atmospheric pollutants
     •   Protection from excessive heat
     •   Protection from moisture




                     "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                          13
                       Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model


• Make user access paramount: Get most
  material available as quickly as possible in
  some usable form




                "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                     14
                  Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model


• Establish acceptable minimum level of
  work, and make it the processing
  benchmark




               "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                    15
                 Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model


• Expend the greatest effort on the most
  deserving or needful materials




               "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                    16
                 Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model


• Embrace flexibility: Don’t assume all
  collections, or all collection components,
  will be processed to same level




                "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                     17
                  Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model

• Embrace ambiguity: Stop pretending that you
  know what will be important in the future
     • User needs and interests
     • Access and description needs

• See every collection as a potential work in
  progress. Let future events drive further work




                  "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                       18
                    Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model


• Don’t allow preservation anxieties to trump
  user access and higher managerial values




                "Moving the Past into the Future,"
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                  Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
A better model

Establish good risk management models

• Risk is unavoidable

• Risk is amenable to being managed
     •   assess
     •   mitigate
     •   budget
     •   respond

                    "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                         20
                      Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
What MPLP is not

• A manual for arrangement, description,
  and conservation specifics
• A set of fixed upper limits
• Inflexible, absolutist, or simplistic




               "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                    21
                 Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
What MPLP really is

   • Stern advice about resource
     management

       •   Prioritizing goals
       •   Achieving high-level program objectives
       •   Maximizing ROI
       •   Practical approaches, not millenial ones
       •   A profound change in approach and
           perspective



                    "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                         22
                      Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
What MPLP really is

 • Stern advice about resource management
 • Making use the preeminent objective




               "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                    23
                 Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
And what do users want?

• Access to collections trumps precise
  arrangement, granular description, and
  interpretation of content

• Access to what?
     • Online finding aids
     • For all types of collections, via common discovery & access
       tools
     • Digitized collection materials



                      "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                     24
                        Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
What MPLP really is

 • Stern advice about resource management
 • Making use the preeminent objective
 • Opening the blinds, and throwing away the
   cookie cutters
     Transparency about collection holdings
     Openness to archival innovation
     Institutional practice limited only by resources (no
      straitjackets)


                      "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                             25
                        Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
What can MPLP mean for Special Collections?

  • Broad approach to leveraging our collective
    ability to provide access to research
    collections
  • Extensible to deal with novel problem spaces
  • Brevity in resource description is positive
    benefit in networked environments
  • Economic approaches are driving innovations
    in practice: Description; archival approaches; digitization


                       "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                             26
                         Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Early Implementers

• University of Montana—Missoula
    • Donna McCrea donna.mccrea@umontana.edu

    •   No physical work within file folders
    •   Uniform collection-level descriptive access
    •   No weeding below series level for backlog
    •   No notable user acceptance problems
    •   2 hours per linear foot on average



                     "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                          27
                       Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Early Implementers

• American Heritage Center, Univ. of Wyoming
     • NHPRC grant funded 1 processing archivist for 2 years
     • 700 collection-level MARC records added to OPAC
            » 175% performance to budget
     • 265 EAD finding aids for larger collections
            » 132% performance to budget
     • Significant increase in discovery and use
     • Public service impact:
            » Positive outcomes overall
            » Requires more reference involvement from other staff
            » Follow-on Innovation: Process on Demand

                     "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                     28
                       Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Early Implementers

• University of Alaska—Fairbanks
    • Anne Foster ffalf@uaf.edu

    •   Series level processing of extensive photographs
    •   Lets use drive more intensive processing
    •   Involves donor in processing continuum
    •   Solicits $$ donations from donors for more
        processing



                    "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                           29
                      Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Early Implementers

• University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh
    • Joshua Ranger ranger@uwosh.edu

    • Series level processing of digitized collections
    • High-speed bi-tonal scanning of photocopied
      collection materials
    • The perfect is the enemy of the good
    • Move metadata level from item to folder level



                   "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                         30
                     Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Minnesota Historical Society

• Walter Mondale Papers

    • NEH “We the People” Project
    • High productivity + high-value products




    •   http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00697.xml




                                 "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                      31
                                   Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Mondale Papers finding aid




            "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                 32
              Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Mondale Papers finding aid




            "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                 33
              Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Minnesota Historical Society

• Walter Mondale Papers
     • NEH “We the People” Project
     • High productivity + high-value products



• Rethinking items as collections
     •   Photographs (albums and loose images, as well)
     •   Sheet music
     •   Bound publications
     •   Maps
     •   Oral histories
     •   Audio and moving image materials ???



                        "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                             34
                          Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Photograph collections




http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/sv000057.xml




                                         "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                              35
                                           Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Minnesota Historical Society

• Walter Mondale Papers
     • NEH “We the People” Project
     • High productivity + high-value products



• Rethinking items as collections
     •   Photographs (albums and loose images, as well)
     •   Sheet music
     •   Bound publications
     •   Maps
     •   Oral histories
     •   Audio and moving image materials ???
     •   Use PDFs to inexpensively bundle and present complex objects



                         "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                        36
                           Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
PDFs: low-cost digital carriers




http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00744.xml



                                                 "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                                      37
                                                   Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
PDFs: low-cost digital carriers




http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00744.xml



                                                 "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                                      38
                                                   Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
Indictments of MPLP approaches
• Loss of item-level control
      • Specious argument; item-level control has never dominated archival
        processing
• Exposure of “sensitive” and third-party materials
      • Vulnerability to litigation and public/donor displeasure greatly
        overstated
• Unfair burden imposed on researchers
      • MPLP seeks a fair distribution of costs between all transaction
        parties
• Invitation to document thieves
      • Rely on reading room security, not on collection inventories
• Professional status of archivists is weakened
      • Please! Professional status should not be based on finding aids


                          "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                                           39
                            Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
“Insanity is when you do
things the way you’ve
always done them, but
expect a different result.”

                -- adage ascribed to both Albert Einstein
                             and Ralph Waldo Emerson




         "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                            40
           Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010
“The best time to plant a
tree is twenty years ago.
The next best time is
now.”
                                 --African proverb quoted by
                                   economist Dambisa Moyo




       "Moving the Past into the Future,"
                                                               41
         Oxford, UK, October 13, 2010

								
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