for public comment – TARO collection development policy

The TARO Steering Committee has worked with Leigh Grinstead, TARO’s NEH Planning Grant Manager, to create the following  collection development document articulating TARO’s purpose, background, mission, vision, audience, project scope, participation criteria and more.

This document is an important beginning step toward formalizing TARO. Additional documents will also be developed, such as TARO Best Practices Guidelines, and we continue to explore organizational issues and new platform options.

We invite you to read this collection development document and send any comments by April 15
to the TARO listserv (taro-lib@utlists.utexas.edu)
or directly to the co-chairs and project manager:

Co-chairs:
Amanda Focke, Rice University, afocke@rice.edu &
Amy Bowman, Briscoe Center for American Studies, a.bowman@austin.utexas.edu

Project Manager for NEH Planning Grant:
Leigh Grinstead, Lyrasis, leigh.grinstead@lyrasis.org
Thanks,
Amanda

Want to see more details such as meeting minutes and more? Go to the TARO wiki.

Schema transition underway – see the year’s rough schedule

TARO repositories have been sorted into three groups for the purposes of working through schema conversion process.

Each repository will be worked with individually to ensure their documentation and training needs are met.

Scroll down to see what to expect and where your repository is grouped, and please know we will be in touch with your repository to discuss this process and the timing.
Questions right now? Contact Amanda Focke

  • Group A – Spring / early Summer 2016: repositories already creating schema compliant XML with software such as ArchivesSpace, ArchivistsToolkit, CuadraStar, Archon.
  • Group B –   Summer – Fall 2016: repositories encoding by hand in XML editor of some sort, significant current staff experience and documentation
  • Group C –  Winter – early 2017: encoding by hand in XML or text editor, little or no current staff experience and documentation

TARO workflow steps for repositories moving to schema compliant XML submissions, 2016

What to expect: Overall, each repository should expect the conversion process to take about a week, with the work happening via a script run by Minnie Rangel, and the repository not having account access during that time. After that, the repository can submit edited or new finding aids as long as they are schema compliant, and guidance will be provided on how to do that.

  1. Scheduling the conversion, repository by repository

Minnie Rangel and Amanda Focke  to schedule conversion with repository at a convenient time.

  1. Blocking repository account access during conversion

Tuesday of the scheduled conversion week, the repository’s account access is blocked by Minnie to prevent any submissions during the conversions.

  1. Schema conversion of existing files at TARO
    Wednesday of the scheduled conversion week, Minnie runs the dtd-to-schema conversion script on the repository’s existing files in TARO. This may take 2-3 days depending on the number and size of the files. (For example, 800 files might take 2-3 days.) At the end of this process, all the XML files on TARO’s server for this repository will be schema compliant and valid, with no need for the repository to take further steps on them, unless there was an error (see below for further info on errors). The HTML webpage for the finding aids that researchers see online will not have changed at all.
  2. Repository to download their dtd files and new schema files for local backup.

Repository will log in to their TARO account in the usual manner as access will have been restored, and use the secure-shell client’s tools to download all their files. The old DTD XML will be in one folder and should no longer be used for current finding aid editing, only as an archived copy. The newly created schema compliant files can be used for editing if needed.

  1. Error correction on schema compliant XML

In the event of any errors, Minnie will supply a list of such errors which will be helpful in correcting them.

  • Please note that the correction of these errors is required but can be done at the convenience of the repository, since the finding aid seen by users is still the HTML as generated by the old DTD file.
  • Advice and troubleshooting will be available from the TARO Outreach and Committee, and possibly other TARO committee members as needed.
  1. Any new or edited XML submitted will need to be schema compliant and valid

Going forward from your conversion, any edits to files, such as for updates to a finding aid, will need to be submitted as a valid schema compliant XML file in order for it to process correctly and show online as HTML. You will be given the documentation and other info needed in order to do this using essentially the same workflow you already have, it is not a huge change.


 

A note about groups — if you think your repository is in the wrong group, or you don’t see your repository at all, please contact Amanda Focke. The groups were made based on survey responses in Fall 2015 or by email / phone in early Spring 2016.

Group A: roughly scheduled for Spring / early Summer

African American Library at the Gregory School (AS)
Baylor University (CuadraStar)
Rice University, Fondren Library, Woodson Research Center (AS)
Texas General Land Office Archives and Records (AT)
Texas A&M Corpus Christi (AS)
Texas A&M University Cushing Memorial Library (Archon)
University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections (Archon) University of North Texas Archives (Archon)
Vietnam Center and Archive, Texas Tech University (AS)

Group B: Roughly scheduled for Summer / early Fall

Austin History Center, Austin Public Library (NoteTab)
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (Notepad++)
Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo (Oxygen) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin(Oxygen)
Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library, John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center (Oxygen) Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center (limbo between AT/AS)
San Jacinto Museum of History (Oxygen)
Southern Methodist University (Oxygen)
Stark Center, University of Texas at Austin (Notepad++)
Stephen F. Austin University (limbo between Archon/AS)
Tarlton Law Library, University of Texas at Austin (Oxygen)
Texas State Library and Archives Commission (Oxygen)
Texas Tech University Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library (Oxygen)
Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library (NoteTab)
Texas State University (Oxygen)
The University of Texas at Austin. Alexander Architectural Archive (Oxygen) –CONVERTED FEB 2016 IN TARO PILOT WORK
The University of Texas at Austin. Benson Latin American Collection (Oxygen)
The University of Texas at Austin. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History (Oxygen)
Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections,
Moody Medical Library, University of Texas Medical Branch (Oxygen)
University Archives and Special Collections The University of Texas at Tyler (limbo between Archon/AS)
University of Texas Arlington Library, Special Collections (XMetal)
University of Texas San Antonio (Oxygen)

Group C:  early 2017

Tyrrell Historical Library (Oxygen)
Concordia University Texas Historical Online Collection (Oxygen)
Lamar University’s Archives and Special Collections (NoteTab)
Robert E. Nail, Jr. Historical Archives at Old Jail Art Center (NoteTab)
San Antonio Municipal Archives
South Texas Archives at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (Oxygen)
Texas Woman’s University, the Woman’s Collection (Oxygen)
University of St. Thomas Archives
University of Texas El Paso (Oxygen)
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Oxygen)
UT Health Science Center San Antonio
UT Human Rights Documentation Initiative


 

Scheduling the transition to schema compliance in 2016

Dear fellow TARO members,

Our progress towards updating TARO files to schema compliance continues.

Thanks to your participation in our Fall 2015 survey regarding your repositories’ methods for creating EAD finding aids, we have been able to group our TARO repositories into 3 groups for the purpose of scheduling each repository’s schema updates in 2016:

  • Group A includes repositories already creating schema compliant finding aids (for example those using collection management software which exports schema compliant EAD). This group would go through the schema transition first (Spring 2016).
  • Group B includes repositories creating dtd compliant finding aids with significant staff experience and workflow documentation. This group would go through the schema transition second, with assistance from members of the TARO team (timeframe to be determined).
  • Group C includes repositories creating dtd compliant finding aids with less staff experience and workflow documentation, as well as those who are close to creating dtd compliant finding aids and who need training or other support to get started. This group would go through the schema transition third, with assistance from members of the TARO team (timeframe to be determined).

About half of TARO repositories responded to the survey which allows us to sort repositories into these groups for planning purposes.
Our next step will be to follow up in the next two weeks with the repositories who did not respond so we can plan the year’s schema compliance work accordingly. We do realize that in some cases where repositories did not respond, the contact email we have could have been out of date, and we will do our best correct that situation.

Questions about this schema compliance planning process? Contact Amanda Focke at afocke@rice.edu.

Otherwise, stay tuned!
Thanks,
Amanda
TARO Steering Committee Co-chair
TARO blog for public news Wiki as working committee records

Upgrading to schema compliance in 2016!

As promised in August 2015, we at TARO have been working diligently on preparing our system to move to the more modern format of schema-compliant EAD.
We have conducted our pilot project for moving to schema-compliance.

We will start with volunteers for early conversion with the rest following as training and support allows. No one will be rushed into conversion.
We will contact you in January 2016 to discuss this process, answer your questions,  and hear when your repository would consider participating.
A specific TARO contact person will be available to you for questions and assistance throughout this process.

We will be ready starting in January 2016 to begin working with each repository one at a time to:
1.) Convert the repository’s existing files which are on TARO over to schema compliance. TARO’s Minnie Rangel will use an automated process and then work with repositories on manually following up on any errors (at the repository’s convenience, or at the time when the repository wishes to reload a given file for content changes). The time needed for this will vary from repository to repository, but shouldn’t be significant, and is not on a particular deadline.
2.) Give you the information you need in order to start submitting schema-compliant files to TARO from then on.
(You may still submit dtd-compliant files all the way up until the time your repository converts to schema compliant submission.)

We look forward to working with you on this and appreciate your participation, as this step is the basis for any additional TARO improvements.

Sincerely,
Amanda Focke, on behalf of the TARO Steering Committee

Platform evaluation: One down!

Howdy TARO Members!

The WebTex Subcommittee and its team of volunteers have completed our first platform evaluation, as described in our posting from October 29. The platform under consideration for this first round of testing was Access to Memory, or AtoM.

The evaluation proceeded according to four user personas crafted to present the needs of a range of hypothetical *archival staff* end users with diverse job descriptions and levels of experience. That approach helped our volunteers step off of the “beaten path” of their own typical use of such a platform and into areas they might not otherwise consider. The varying levels of experience of the volunteers themselves also provided insights into how intuitive the front-end and back-end interfaces were, the initial learning curve for getting acquainted with the platform, and the strength of the documentation provided.

Testing with the user personas occurred in early November; after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the Subcommittee held a conference call with the evaluation volunteers to discuss their experiences with the evaluation procedure, and the platform itself. That information will be helpful in planning our next platform evaluations, and the Subcommittee is grateful for the commitment of the volunteer pool to continue testing the other platforms.

Analysis of this round of platform evaluation will be complete before the holiday break. After the start of the new year, we will call on our volunteers again to put the next platform through its paces. The diversity of the institutions which participate in TARO — in size, history, mission, and personnel — makes a broad scope of input imperative as we update and enhance the services which TARO offers.

 

 

Overview of Encoding Survey

Last month, I solicited EAD templates and documentation from partner institutions to get a clearer picture of TARO’s EAD landscape. Thank you to the 24 institutions that answered the questionnaire and provided documentation. The responses and accompanying documentation illuminate some of the shared (or similar) encoding practices across the TARO partners, as well as areas of encoding diversity. This knowledge will help me and the Steering Committee make useful recommendations for incorporating a schema-compliant workflow into existing practices. The goal is to find that sweet point between breadth and specificity, so that participation in TARO is both convenient and beneficial.     

Overall, there is plenty of common ground amongst the respondents in regards to encoding workflows and processes. The following is a very general overview of the survey responses:   

24 total responses

17 of the 24 of the institutions that responded to the survey described a process of encoding by hand using previous finding aids and/or templates as guides. MS Word and Excel are common tools used for creating collection inventories that are then copied and pasted into an XML editor.   

13 use Oxygen XML editor  

Finding aid creation is a multi-step, multi-tool process for everyone, and common ground bodes well as TARO moves toward greater standardization. Common tools, such as MS Excel and Oxygen XML editor can be incorporated and leveraged in best practices guidelines.  

As of right now, fewer organizations use archival management systems, while a handful of respondents expressed plans to adopt an AMS in the near future.

7 use AMS

3 ArchivesSpace
2 Archivists’ Toolkit
1 Archon
1 CuadraStar

As you may be aware, ArchivesSpace generates schema-compliant EAD. In fact, the AS output is sometimes stricter than the EAD 2002 schema . Currently, the institutions that use these archival management systems must reverse edit their EAD back to DTD to make it TARO compliant. With more organizations adopting (or at least considering) management systems, TARO must plan to accommodate current and future developments in technology. Updating the XML in TARO will not only improve the front-end user experience, but will also broaden potential participation.

The greatest variation across the respondents appears (quite obviously) in the documentation, instructions, and templates of each contributing institution. A large consideration going forward is finding the optimal level of standardization that benefits all contributing institutions. Participation in TARO should be easy, perhaps effortless. With this goal in mind, the question we need to ask is:

How can we reduce redundancies between unique institutional workflows and contributing to TARO?

Feel free to continue this conversation, especially if you feel that the overview above does not represent how your institution creates EAD.

 

Web Platform and EAD Resources

The first platform evaluation is fast approaching, and the WebTex Subcommittee is in search of volunteers. The first platform to be evaluated will be Access to Memory (AtoM). If you’re interested in volunteering, we’d love your help! You can find out more by reading this blog post. ArchivesSpace and XTF are slated for evaluation in the spring.

In preparation for the upcoming platform evaluations, we have gathered some resources on each one. Additionally, we’ve gathered some basic resources on EAD.

The approach to finding resources began with the most easily located pages: the main websites for each of the platforms. The WebTex team also did some brief brainstorming on resources that we were already aware of, such as Yale’s blog on ArchivesSpace and SAA’s EAD documentation page. Links to wikis, GitHub, and other blogs were mined from these. Additionally, we performed Google keyword searches to locate more blog posts related to specific platforms, which led to more link mining and discovery of additional front-end interface examples.

We hoped to build a list that would help us and others learn more about each of the platforms and bolster preexisting EAD knowledge. However, the list is not comprehensive! Please feel free to share additional resources in the comments so that we can add them to the list. You can view the list of resources along with brief annotations on the Annotated Bibliography page.

TARO User Volunteers Needed! – Archival Description Platform Testing

As you all know, TARO will undergo some big changes in the next couple of years. We are looking into moving to an new archival description platform.

But which one? This is where your help is vital to the success of the new TARO.

If you agree to volunteer to test the following archival platforms, you will be contributing to the improvement of a valuable resource for the larger regional archives community.

And, you’ll be helping yourself (possibly) by doing research that can inform your institution’s own descriptive practices.

The WebTech committee is looking at the following platforms:

Over the next year we need 10 volunteers to help us test AtoM this Fall; AS and XTF in the Spring.

Volunteers will be given access to an instance of the platform and will use a set of prompts similar to a usability test to help us determine which platform best addresses the core needs as we see them:

  • Finding aid discovery
  • Finding aid creation

Should you agree to test AtoM, you will receive an electronic packet of links for the three testing sections consisting of:

  1. Evaluation Matrix: The matrix is divided into sections mapped roughly to the user stories provided in your evaluation packet.
    • Indicate how you would prioritize each criterion (High / Medium / Low)
    • Indicate the availability of the criterion for the platform you are evaluating (Yes / No / n/a)
  2. Follow-up Questions: Follow-up questions are short-answer questions that address topics related to the new TARO platform that cannot be addressed using the other evaluation tools provided.
  3. Comments: The comments section is entirely free form. We ask that you provide feedback about the evaluation process, the TARO planning grant, your institutional orientation towards TARO, etc.

From November 2 – 13, volunteers will evaluate AtoM with the materials to be e-mailed out next week.

We anticipate that the volunteer time required will be no more than 2 hours over the evaluation period of two weeks. The work does not need to be done in one sitting.

Volunteers can sign up by filling out the google form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1f8ubEINFbMRGboqaWhPjUBsi2jzD-PEmvYHswu8avNs/viewform?usp=send_form

Contact Daniel Alonzo or Jessica Meyerson if you have any questions about the volunteer process.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Schema Compliance Intern

Picture of Hannah
Hannah helping remote researchers at the Harry Ransom Center

Hello TARO! My name is Hannah Rainey and I am the schema compliance intern for the 21st Century Collaborative Planning Project. I am very honored and excited to join the effort to update TARO. I am passionate about improving access, both in the reading room and behind the scenes.

Before I describe my role in the project, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in lovely Boise, Idaho where I developed a love for the outdoors. I attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts where I developed a hatred of winter. In 2010, I completed a BA in Cinema and Media Studies. I began working at a music library as an undergrad and have since worked in a variety of libraries and archives, including a short and very fun stint at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation. Currently, I am a Graduate Intern in Reference and Public Services at the Harry Ransom Center. If all goes as planned, I will graduate with a master’s degree from the UT School of Information this December.

From now until January, I will work directly with archivists at the Briscoe Center and librarians at UT Libraries to develop workflows for testing EAD finding aids. My goal is to identify common pain points in the transformation from DTD to Schema, and get a general sense of the time it will take to correct common errors, both manually and programmatically. My work will comprise a small portion of the overall effort to update and adopt shared encoding standards across the TARO consortium.

If you have any questions or comments please email me: rainey.hannahleah@gmail.com

TARO changes behind the scenes this Fall

Fellow TARO members –

TARO is preparing to update its systems to accept schema compliant EAD.  

This is very exciting news! But what does this mean for you?

Updating to fit the modern environment

Since TARO’s beginning in 2000, repositories have been asked to send in EAD xml files of the “dtd-compliant” variety. Over time, the larger archives community has moved to what is known as “schema” compliant format. The difference between dtd format files and schema format files is relatively minor in terms of how we encode our finding aids, and will likely not be apparent to researchers browsing and searching finding aids.

More importantly, any design updates TARO needs will depend on our files being in schema format. At the same time, more TARO repositories have moved to using collection management software such as Archivists Toolkit, Archon, CuadraStar, or ArchivesSpace — all of which only export schema compliant EAD.  Currently those repositories have a variety of challenges in continuing to contribute to TARO in its current set up.

Clearly, TARO needs to shift into schema-compliance so that:

  • Our EAD is in alignment as we move forward with much needed upgrades to TARO’s infrastructure
  • repositories can have an easier path to participation in TARO, no matter how they create their finding aids

How will this work?

Most of TARO’s finding aids will batch convert seamlessly to schema-compliance without the  need for any additional work by TARO member repositories. However, some of our finding aids will require hand-encoded updates to work with the new system.

In Fall 2015, the TARO Steering Committee will conduct a pilot project that will convert a sampling of DTD-compliant TARO finding aids to schema-compliance. Based on the findings of this pilot project, we will evaluate what portion of our finding aids will require this attention, then create training and documentation for hand-updating existing finding aids. In addition, we will make tutorials that explain the installation steps for the schema-compliant EAD template to be used as members submit new finding aids. A schedule for the transition to schema-compliance will be released to TARO members after the conclusion of the pilot project and an evaluation of members’ need for assistance with hand-encoded updates to their EAD.

How will you know what is going on?

Should I keep submitting TARO finding aids right now?

Yes – please do! The only downtime for submitting your finding aids will be during the time we arrange with you to use the script to edit your files.