Friday, January 23, 2009

New Tech Solutions for Improving Access

University Libraries Explore New Technology Solutions for Improving Access to Resources in Archives and Special Collections

Archivists in the Ball State University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections are always exploring new ways to improve access to the unit’s unique resources for teaching, learning, and research.

This past autumn, Maren L. Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections, and Carolyn F. Runyon, Archivist for Digital Development and University Records, attended a Society of American Archivists’ workshop at the University of Kentucky entitled, Implement DACS in Integrated CMS: Using the Archivists' Toolkit.

The workshop focused on describing, managing and providing greater access to archival collections through the use of Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) and Archivists’ Toolkit (AT). Personnel in the Archives and Special Collections have begun implementing DACS for describing collections and have launched a pilot project to explore the use of Archivists’ Toolkit.

The Society of American Archivists officially adopted DACS in 2004 as the standard for describing archives, personal papers, and manuscript collections. The system provides both specific rules for describing archives and illustrates how these rules might be implemented in MARC and Encoded Archival Description (EAD) format.

Using DACS and creating XML-based EAD finding aids allows for bibliographic control and greater user discoverability of archival finding aids through search engines like Google. Our archivists hope to replace the existing PDF finding aids on the Web site with EAD finding aids over the next year.

Archivists’ Toolkit is an open source archival data management system. It was developed by a consortium of archivists from the University of California San Diego Libraries, the New York University Libraries, and the Five Colleges, Inc. Libraries and is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The main goals of the AT are to support archival processing and production of access tools, promote data standardization, promote efficiency, and lower training costs.

Archives and Special Collections is currently testing the system to see how it might aid in better management of resources as well as establish greater bibliographic control. Using DACS and AT, Archives and Special Collections anticipates that they will be able to improve reference and online services for students, faculty, and researchers. For more information on DACS and AT, contact Maren L. Read, Archivist for Manuscript Collections, or Carolyn F. Runyon, Archivist for Digital Development and University Records,, 765-285-5078.

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