Tuesday, July 31, 2012

E-records use testing: Introduction

Howdy, campers! Some of you may be aware from my various ramblings on Twitter etc. that I have volunteered/been enlisted to be the electronic records guy at the UWM Archives. This is not entirely an unwanted position-- I am very interested in this kind of stuff, and it's only going to become more important as the shift from paper goes on-- but it is nonetheless a challenging role because I am sort of making it up as I go along. I didn't take a single course in Library School specifically on any of metadata, databases, electronic records, or digital imaging (to say nothing about programming), and now that I have undertaken an effort to rethink the way we are dealing with e-records, that lack of specific training is obvious (to me, at least... I don't know how much it appears to be so with my colleagues, most of whom are less techie than I am).

Luckily, I am far from the only person in this particular boat. SAA has been very good about getting in front of this issue, most recently through their Digital Archives Specialists certificate program. Said program purports to "provide [its participants] with the information and tools [they] need to manage the demands of born-digital records" through a series of courses at various skill levels and in various domains of practice for electronic records. The full certificate program involves 9 courses and is not cheap, so for right now I'm not focusing on finishing that (although I would like to be able to do so in the future). I was, however, able to take a course from the sequence, Arranging and Describing Electronic Records, which I found very useful in introducing me to tools and topics for getting a better handle on processing these. And so, in light of that course, I thought, "Hey, I bet other people would be interested in what we're doing with these tools and processes here at UWM. (and/or happy to tell me what it is I'm doing wrong)." And so, here we are.

I am going to structure this post series as a chronicle of working with Archives collections through the lens of various tools that I am testing, having been tipped off to the existence of said tools through the ADER workshop and other sources. (Chris Prom's Practical E-Records blog in particular has been invaluable for this.) My intent is to present my experiences and difficulties with these born-digital collections in order through the various stages of Archival Records, to wit Ingest-->Accession-->Arrangement-->Description-->Access-->Preservation. I am also cognizant, however, of the fact that the best laid plans of mice and men oft gang agley, and that not all of the tools I'm going to be looking at fit neatly into one of these categories (e.g. Archivematica and the Duke Data Accessioner). I am, however, going to give my best shot at providing a chronicle of working with these records from beginning to end, whenever "end" might be. (I'm also aware that "end" might not end up so easily defined.) Of course, because this whole process is in fact in process, the beginning is not especially well-defined either-- see next post for details-- but I'm hoping working through it in this form will help fix it for the next accession to come down the road.

So that's going to be this blog for the next few posts. Hope my readers (all 3 of you) find it useful, or at least interesting. Do feel free to comment/point out miscues/heckle/etc., as that will help me figure out where we're going wrong and point at ways to fix it. (Oh boy, I've just given people license to flame on my blog... Asbestos underwear at the ready...)