Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer at the UWM Archives

So it occurs to me that I've sort of written myself into a corner here with this blog. I promised myself that it would be a professional-topic only blog, but the truth is I've been a bit unconcerned with professional issues lately. At least part of the reason for this is that on May 30, I got married to a very lovely and amazing woman (the one who made fun of me for not understanding the concept of Rhetoric), and we've been on honeymoon in Quebec City since May 31. So yeah, kinda busy in personal life, so not a whole lot of leeway to keep up with the professional side of things.

"But Brad, what about the Library of Congress archiving Twitter? I thought you said you were going to blog about that!"

I may have said that, and then I may have forgotten to do so. It happens. Anyway LoC came out with a press release that answered a lot of the questions I posed on my Twitter account shortly after I posed them. I still would like to write an article about this or about appraisal of social networking sites in general. We'll see if it happens.

"But Brad, what about the brouhaha on the A&A list? That's interesting, right?"

Maybe if you're a giant process nerd (which, to be fair, most of the people who read this blog are). I suspect other people would find that IMMENSELY boring and trivial. Suffice to say, it sucks that PK felt like he was being censored, and I think RAIN is an incredibly useful resource, but some of the people who jumped to his defense were perhaps a little too vehement in said defense. (What? Overreaction? That never happens on The List!) That's all I'm going to say about that.

"Well, what about the post title? Are you doing stuff this summer since you're done with all the wedding crap?"

Funny you should ask. Yes, this summer should be a very productive one for the UWM University Archives program (note use of the word "should"; best laid plans of mice and men etc etc.). A lot of good opportunities in particular for electronic records and other alternate formats, because that's the way things have worked out. (It should come as no surprise that Summer is when things get done at University Archives; no more excuses of "Oh, we have to deal with students"). At the risk of overextension, here are a few of the things I'm hoping to get done before the end of August:

  • Create a good way to harvest University Communications press releases. This is actually something I've been wanting to do since I got here a few years ago but only now am I getting the actual chance to do so, having finally met with the University Communications staff through the intercession of my boss. They gave us all of their HTML press releases, which I'm having a student convert to PDF for preservation and presentation and then processing via an index. That much is good; getting the stuff from the University Communications CMS is better. Supposedly this is easily accomplished by a harvester program which the tech guy at University Communications can set up. We'll see. In any case, a good e-records case study.
  • Talk with Student Activities about harvesting defunct student org files from their new CMS. Student Activities has actually been very good about keeping me in the loop about what they're doing with their records. When they decided they wanted to move their student org files to a CMS, they contacted me to ask about records management and archives specifications, which I was naturally pretty happy about. They picked the system I liked better but I haven't yet seen what the RM/Archiving capabilities are like. This is a good opportunity, though, to get in on the ground floor and make sure that proper RM is being used throughout the life of the system. Another great e-records opportunity!
  • Properly appraise and (maybe?) digitize historical center tapes. We processed the PAPERS of the founder/director of UWM's Center for 20th Century Studies earlier this year; most of what he gave us, however, were reel-to-reel tapes of lectures given by him and other figures. Some of these are easy to appraise (Buckminster Fuller!); others are not. I'm hopefully working with some people from the Center to identify key topics and speakers and preserve the ones that have some historical value. I don't actually know if digitization is in the future for any of these, but it's a nice dream. In any case we can finally get rid of the tapes that DON'T have value and clear out some space.
  • More subject guides! We've put a number of research guides on various UWM History topics, including the history of the school's mascot, Vietnam War protests, and the history of the school's football program. These guides include timelines, photos, and bibliographies for additional resources and are, in my opinion, pretty cool. I'd like to make more of them, both on specific topics and on general things like collections dealing with The Arts at UWM.
  • Process the Photo Services collection and make it more accessible. In January, we accessioned probably 120,000 negatives and contact sheets from the campus photo services department. That's good! Unfortunately, most of these are not labeled adequately. That's bad. Happily, we also accessioned the indices that Photo Services was using to access the negatives. That's good! Unfortunately, these indices are all paper, meaning that it is impossible to search them except manually. That's bad. Even worse, the later ones are HANDWRITTEN, which also means we can't OCR them. So we need to figure out a way both to provide initial access to the negatives (which I think we are going to be able to do since a large number of them correspond to the contact sheets we also received) and then to provide detailed, searchable access via the indices (which I suspect is going to involve some outsourcing and/or manual data entry. My students are so lucky....) This might get its own post later this summer.
  • Maybe get going on a campuswide EDMS initiative? Maybe? We've been stalled for a while on getting EDMS going on campus because of various budgetary concerns, but there are a few things that might get it going again:
  1. Our interim provost, who is in his day job the dean of the iSchool here and so has some appreciation for RM concerns;
  2. The systemwide adoption of the HRS recordkeeping system for Personnel Records, which might get other departments also thinking about how to keep their e-recs (it helps that the CIO here is heavily involved in its implementation);
  3. The fact that we're demoing some RM software at the UWROC summer meeting, which, while this campus doesn't like the particular software being demoed, might at least get the UWROC ball rolling on how to implement SOMETHING across the various campuses.
I don't have to tell you, o faithful readers, that getting a bunch of academic departments to do ANYTHING is akin to herding cats. But maybe, just maybe, if we get the infrastructure in place some people will sign on. In the meantime, I think some additional e-recs training is in order. Remember kids, only YOU can prevent the digital dark ages! Speaking of:
  • Develop online training for Records Management. This is really neat-- UWM Employee Development met with me the week before I left for my honeymoon and indicated they wanted to work with me to develop some online training modules for records management, including interactive quizzes and possible certificates. Which of course is something I've wanted to do basically since 2008, but it's good that it's finally happening. In particular they validated my argument, ignored during the UWROC webcast process, that the average employee has a 15 minute attention span and so the 50-minute behemoths aren't going to cut it. Very exciting. This WILL have its own blog post as it develops.
So yeah! Good stuff. Also in August I'm going to SAA, so I intend to blog about that as well (hopefully on the Library's dime, because D.C. is expensive, yo.) Stay tuned!