bloggERS! has gone fishin’

We’re off to SAA! Will you be there too? Check out our list of ERS-recommended sessions on Sched.

If you can’t make it this year, then follow along on Twitter with #SAA16!

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People fishing on Green Lake, circa 1950s. Item 31415, Ben Evans Recreation Program Collection (Record Series 5801-02), Seattle Municipal Archives

 

We’ll be back soon with recaps from recent conferences and plenty of other good stuff.

 

Get to know the candidates: Lora Davis

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Lora Davis

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

This question assumes a discrete “Aha!” moment, which, for me at least, never really happened. I like to say that archives found me, and not the other way around. I was first exposed to the archives (the place, if not the profession) when, as a 17-year-old undergraduate at Susquehanna University, I was awarded a university assistantship that placed me in the employ of a long-serving member of the Department of History, who had undertaken to write the history of the university. Following a brief tour (“My Moody Blues cassettes are in this drawer here, feel free to listen!”) and with a copy of James O’Toole’s Understanding Archives and Manuscripts (1990) in hand, I set about processing the papers of two former university presidents. Seven years later, after completing a master’s in history and opting to leave my PhD program, the archives (this time both place and profession) found me again when the Manuscripts Unit of the University of Delaware Library’s Special Collections department decided to take a chance and employ a grad school dropout at the height of the 2008 economic collapse. This time I was hooked for good. I went on to earn my MLIS online while working my full-time paraprofessional position at Delaware, and have since held professional positions at Colgate University and Johns Hopkins University. It took me a little while to figure it out, but, being an archivist provided me with the balance and variety of work I’d been longing for – the theory and intellectual work of a scholar, the interaction with people I’d missed as a graduate student researcher, the connection to history that had driven my prior coursework, and, perhaps most of all, the exposure to and engagement with emerging technologies I’d missed as a computer hobbyist turned grad student.

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

Above all, I would like to see the Electronic Records Section serve as a welcoming and valuable resource to *all* archivists. In my career I have worked at a medium-sized partially public-funded university, a small liberal arts college, and a private research university, and worked on paper-based and electronic manuscript and university records’ collections, so I appreciate the variety of funding models, resource levels, institutional priorities, and individual knowledge and time we must all strive to balance and leverage in our day-to-day work. Across the profession it is still rare for someone to have the luxury of focusing day in and day out on electronic records; however, it is by no means rare for a 21st century archivist to encounter records of enduring value that exist only in digital form. By striving to be an open, welcoming, responsive, and member-driven community resource for all archivists, the Electronic Records Section can help meet the daily operational needs of its members (e.g. demystifying electronic records jargon and workflows, providing case studies of both successes and failures, serving as a non-judgmental sounding board for new and experienced archivists alike), while also helping to propel the profession forward.

What is your favorite GIF?

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Get to know the candidates: Brian Dietz

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Brian Dietz

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

All current contexts–social, cultural, economic–are historically contingent. We examine those contingencies, often with the goal of exposing power dynamics, through historical inquiry. Support such critical work is what excited me about becoming an archivist.

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

I’m really interested in the idea of more of us making our documentation widely available so that it becomes a little bit easier for some folks to start digital archiving programs and others to enhance existing ones. The ERS could lead an effort around this kind of sharing.

What is your favorite GIF?

I love how affirming this one is:

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Get to know the candidates: Blake Graham

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Blake Graham

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

I love being asked this question. I started my career working as a graduate assistant at a university archives about six years ago. At the time, I was knee-deep in the curriculum – studying southern identity and slavery. I was enchanted by historiography, and discovering how historians debate about the interpretation, nature, and implication of primary source materials. My coursework, as well as my job responsibilities, were related to southern history. While working at the university archives, arranging a nineteenth-century manuscript collection, I stumbled across a slave pamphlet. For anyone unfamiliar, these were handouts for slave-trading events in the antebellum South. The text and imagery included horrific details about physique and “background information” on slaves. I buckled after reading the pamphlet. Handling and reading this document was a powerful experience for me, to say the least. I brought the item to the director, and she broke down crying as well. Because of this, along with a long-list of “encounters in the archives,” I have a better understanding of the power of the written record. My work allows me to continue exploring the relationship between the written record and the human experience. This is why I work in archives, and why I love my work.

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

I admire and appreciate all of the work in BloggERS – I believe it is a gateway for collaboration and innovation among our professional communities. If I was asked about foreseeable goals and accomplishments, I would take a bet on ERS leaders proactively seeking different voices to participate in the blog. In 2015-2016, roughly 80% of authors and ERM discussions on BloggERS come from university settings – a percentage that is also reflective of the Section’s leadership. To revisit Kyle Henke’s “Get to Know You” post last year, “I see the purpose of this group as a method to facilitate communication and encourage collaboration across the profession.” I also believe one of the best ways to learn how to improve one’s knowledge of, or develop new skills in, a topic of interest is to simply talk about it with colleagues across the profession. I would like to help move BloggERS in this direction by proactively initiating a dialogue between professionals working in a wide range of settings. I think targeted outreach and education is one of the ways we can accomplish collaboration across the profession.

What is your favorite GIF?

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Get to know the candidates: Brad Houston

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Brad Houston

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

A combination of two things: 1) A summer internship with the Truman Presidential Library, which introduced me to the work of an archivist and made me realize that said work was something I could see myself doing. 2) My subsequent experience researching for my senior History thesis, much of which took place in small town historical societies and other poorly-described and poorly organized repositories. This experience elicited a vow: “I want to help make sure other people don’t have to work this hard to find what they’re looking for.” (I hope I’ve been doing a good job on both the description and reference sides of this!)

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

While chair of the Records Management Roundtable, I helped institute a semi-regular series of Google Hangouts, which give our members a chance to hear about archival and records management issues from various experts in the field and interact in real-time to ask questions or work through examples. I think this is a model that would work well with a lot of the content put out by ERS– Hangout facilitators could walk people through using a particular tool or workflow as discussed previously on the blog, for example. The hangout format offers more interactivity than a webinar or Twitter chat (though incorporating elements of both!) and it seems like a great opportunity to expand ERS’s educational engagement with its members.

What is your favorite GIF?

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Get to know the candidates: Dorothy Waugh

The 2016 elections for Electronic Records Section leadership are upon us! Over the next two weeks, we will be presenting additional information provided by the 2016 nominees for ERS leadership positions. For more information about the slate of candidates, you can check out the full 2016 ERS elections site. ERS Members: be sure to vote! Polls are open July 8 through the 22!

Candidate name: Dorothy Waugh

Running for: Steering Committee

What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

The glamour.

What is one thing you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

I’m excited about the many opportunities for a group like the Electronic Records Section to engage practitioners working in this dynamic and fast-paced field. To give just one example, I’ve been really impressed by the Section’s development of bloggERS! during the past couple of years. The site has fast become a go-to resource in which to share ideas, address challenges, and celebrate successes. Should I be elected to the steering committee, I would be keen to support the ongoing growth of the Blog as the online hub of the ERS community. Taking a lead from what’s already been achieved, I’d like to build out the types of content that we provide and encourage active participation from both members of ERS and our close colleagues—I’d love to invite contributions from researchers who are using born-digital materials, for instance. In particular, I’m interested in identifying content that is not available elsewhere. I’ve always thought, for example, that the informal nature of a Blog makes it the ideal venue for a regular “It Didn’t Work” column, focusing on real-life examples of failure in digital archives and inviting collaborative (and good-natured!) problem-solving. If elected to the ERS steering committee, I’d like to build on the momentum of the work already underway and help the Blog become a forum for discussion, a home for shared resources, and a welcoming and inclusive space in which to ask questions and work towards solutions.

What is your favorite GIF?

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The ERS annual meeting approaches!

The Electronic Records Section will meet at the SAA annual meeting in Atlanta on Thursday, August 4, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm. Following a short business meeting, the session will feature a presentation from Mike Strom, Wyoming State Archivist, who will provide an update on Council of State Archivists’ State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) and the PERTTS (Program for Electronic Records, Training, Tools and Standards) Portal.

Following the business meeting and presentation, the Electronic Records Section will break into an interactive unconference-style small group discussion.

This is where we need your help! Do you have an intractable electronic records problem you would like to discuss? Or a hot new topic in digital preservation that you’re excited to share with like-minded archivists and electronic records professionals? Add your ideas to the list of discussion topics for the unconference!

Session topics are being collected here: http://bit.ly/SAA16-ERS-Unconf-Ideas

Submissions will be considered until the day of the section meeting, where participants will select discussion topics.

Have any questions? Email ERS Chair Dan Noonan at noonan[dot]37[at]osu[dot]edu.

 

Electronic Records Section call for nominations

Election season is fast approaching, and the Electronic Records Section has some exciting opportunities for service, both in elected and appointed positions!

The ERS needs to elect a new Vice Chair/Chair Elect and 2 Steering Committee members. We are also looking for a volunteer to serve as Communications Liaison. All nominations must be received by June 1st!

Vice Chair/Chair Elect (1 position open)

The Vice Chair serves a 1-year term beginning immediately following the 2016 Annual Meeting. Their responsibilities are to assist the Chair in leading the section and representing the section in the absence of the Chair. Upon completion of the Vice Chair’s term, the Vice Chair assumes the position of Chair, at the conclusion of the incumbent Chair’s term. Upon completion of the 1-year term as Chair, he/she serves one final year as Past Chair.

Steering Committee (2 positions open)

Steering Committee members serve for a term of 3 years, beginning immediately following the 2016 Annual Meeting. Their responsibility is to assist the Chair and the Vice Chair in leading and organizing section activities.

Communication Liaison (1 position open)

The Communications Liaison facilitates communications between the Steering Committee and the Section membership and other audiences, including but not limited to the SAA microsite, electronic mailing list, blogs, social media, and other forms of online communication not yet in use by the Section. This role is open to all eligible Electronic Records Section members. The appointee will serve a renewable one-year term. Note that this role is appointed and not subject to election.

How can I nominate someone?

To nominate yourself or someone else, or to volunteer for appointment as Communication Liaison,  please send to Marty Gengenbach (martin[dot]gengenbach[at]gmail[dot]com):

  • the nominee/volunteer name,
  • contact information, and
  • position (Vice Chair/Chair Elect, Steering Committee, or Communication Liaison)

Important dates:

June 1All nominations must be received by this date. The steering committee will review and confirm nominations the following week.

June 15 – Candidate statements due.

July 1 – Supplemental information such as candidate photos or biographies due.

For more information on Electronic Records Section leadership, please see the ERS section bylaws.

Introducing NEW Steering Committee members!

We are happy to announce the results of the Electronic Records Section elections for 2015:

Chair-elect/Vice Chair: Kyle Henke (DePaul University)
Steering Committee: Ann Cooper (College of William and Mary)
Steering Committee: Carol Kussmann (University of Minnesota)

In order to get to know them, the bloggERS! sent out a three-question interview to each new member:

1. What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?
2. What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?
3. What is your favorite GIF? 

Kyle Henke (DePaul University), Chair-Elect/Vice Chair

Q: What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

KH: My interest in archives came from an uncertain search result. As an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, majoring in History, I made a cursory search using the Library ILS and found some results that gave me a location of “Special Collections and Archives; Non-Circulating.” Having no idea what this meant, I sought out the object and had my first experience in an archival reading room. It was awkward, entering a closed-off room unsure of what I was doing. Luckily, the staff was courteous and helpful, making the process manageable. I found using primary sources was enthralling and continued to come back for nearly every paper I had to write, utilizing any primary resource I could that was relevant.

From there I took a second job in the Archives where I was treated like an intern, given projects intended to see varying aspects of the field to see if this was a profession I wanted to pursue. Some of it was routine, but always mentally engaging. Fairly quickly, I was pretty certain this was the right place for me. While content is always king, I find myself interested by the properties and structure of objects. Preserving the continuity and integrity of the object became the prevailing goal, whether it is the physical properties of a paper document or the digital properties of an mp3 file.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time as chair?

KH: For a number of years now I’ve worked in archives, focusing on digital content and systems. I’ve managed digital repositories, cross-walked metadata, developed policies and workflows and so much more. The pivotal component to my growth in the profession has been collaborating with colleagues in the field. I see the purpose of this group as a method to facilitate communication and encourage collaboration across the profession. I would like to continue developing methods of outreach and education for those within the profession and those on the outside. I like the direction the ERS blog (BloggERS) has gone and would like to promote and use this resource to directly involve our community and gain a wider audience.

Additionally, I’m interesting in investigating a way to connect one another to a project or idea that would contribute towards collaboration. I know I’ve had ideas for presentations or workshops that are halted as I become uncertain of the next steps or outcome. However, having informal talks with colleagues at work or at conferences allows fresh and different perspectives. Perhaps these informal collaborations could possibly lead beyond discussions and to outcomes such as posters, evaluations, speaking sessions, tutorials, workshops, instruction, etc.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?

https://31.media.tumblr.com/66783baac87573d10a182246f4037e09/tumblr_inline_nqvh9xlzEj1rpcnpz_500.gif

Ann Cooper (College of William and Mary), Steering Committee

AC: I decided to become an archivist because my interests and professional strengths fit a lot better with this field than they did with being a history professor. I haven’t regretted it and I’m happy doing what I do now.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time as chair?

AC: I’d like to see us develop and make available some guidelines for training staff in working with electronic material in specific situations or some sample training materials for archivists to use.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?

AC:
https://media.giphy.com/media/3oEduGjJPPpPLGnDO0/giphy.gif

Carol Kussmann (University of Minnesota), Steering Committee

Q: What made you decide you wanted to become an archivist?

CK: As with a fair number of people I run into, I am an accidental archivist. My previous dream job was working in a museum; I was the Assistant Registrar at the Spurlock Museum and I loved every minute of it. One day the archives called and were looking for information on a photograph in their collection. After doing a bit of digging I found the information they were looking for. It is that problem solving that I love. I soon found myself pursuing a Masters of Library and Information Science. After an out-of-state move, I started working with electronic records on the Minnesota Historical Society’s NDIIPP project around preserving and providing access to state government records. It was my job to research, explore and problem solve many different topics relating to digital preservation. After the grant was over, I worked with the Minnesota State Archives to develop their electronic records program.

Once during an annual review focused on electronic records I was asked, “What was something you didn’t do correctly and how did you handle it?” I answered that there were many things we tried when exploring tools to use to assist with electronic records processing, but if it didn’t work, it wasn’t a failure–it was part of the learning experience. You learned from it and moved on to keep looking for a solution to the problem you were trying to solve. It is that exploration that I love and being able to put the successes into practice in my new dream job as a Digital Preservation Analyst at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like to see the Electronic Records Section accomplish during your time on the steering committee?

CK: I think that many of us are in the same position – we are doing a lot of exploring. We need to share our experiences with each other. Often times we wait until we are done with a project before sharing, and then usually only the “successful” parts of the exploration are shared. We can’t be afraid to share the whole experience. Facilitating ways to do this would be something I would like to see the ERS accomplish. The listserv and blog are good steps, but other methods that allow people to talk more freely or share things that are still in progress would be useful as well.

Q: What is your favorite GIF?

CK: It’s not a GIF, but…
https://wearetheryan.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/never-forget.jpg?w=540&h=319

 

Thank you to all who voted in the 2015 election for the Electronic Records Section Steering Committee members, and thanks to former Steering Committee members whose terms have ended!

The current ERS leadership roster is available here.

Computer Generated Archival Description

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In our archive at Carleton College we have implemented a number of automated and semi-automated tools to assist with processing our digital records. We use several batch processes to create access copies, generate checksums, validate file formats, extract tagged metadata and are working on a data accessioner that can automate many of the repetitive steps we perform on our Submission Information Packages (SIPS).  While these improvements have been tremendously helpful with processing collections quickly, there is one area that is consistently backed up in our workflow: the creation of descriptive metadata. Minimal descriptive metadata has improved our processing time for electronic records, but I can already see that this will not be enough in the near future.

In light of the accelerating growth rate of digital accessions in our repositories, how sustainable will human created descriptive metadata be in the next few years? Perhaps we should be turning to automated, computer based methods for creating descriptions just like we have for other processing steps. We are already relying on optical character recognition (OCR) to improve access to scanned print documents, but there are other methods that hold great promise. Voice to text software, while not fully baked yet, is being used by some digitization vendors to create transcriptions of video and audio files. Facial recognition could be a powerful tool for photograph identification – I could see these same methods being applied to the recognition of buildings as well. Geospatial data based on known reference points, such as an address, can make images of locations more searchable and usable in dynamically generated maps. Analysis of text could even be used to generate subject categories.

These methods would of course change how we work as professionals and how users access our records.  Our descriptive metadata would be much more extensive, but would probably be filled with many more errors than we are currently willing to accept.  To use this data, researchers might turn away from the traditional finding aid, detailed biographical descriptions and human assigned subject headings in favor of term searching, ranked results and faceted displays.  These new tools and changes may be unsettling, but in light of our mounting backlogs of electronic records, we may have no choice but to embrace them.

Do you have any experience with this kind of cataloging?  Does the idea of trusting a machine do this work cause you to feel dizziness or shortness of breath?  Please let us know in the comments below.

Nat Wilson is a Digital Archivist at Carleton College.