Checkout System: Trial Run

In the last post, our hypothetical team of researchers finished its emulation research and the pages successfully reshelved the console and its associated peripherals.

In this post, I will discuss the trial run that we conducted at the Briscoe Center in which we actually requested the Mattel Intellivision II and watched the process throughout. At this point, I would like to say a HUGE “Thank You” to the Briscoe staff and Pages for helping me with this aspect of my project. The trial run (user study) was an incredibly valuable learning experience and I am grateful for everyone’s participation.

Preparing for the Trial Run:

Before we could test the system, I had to get the items ready and create the access tools I mentioned in earlier posts. A quick note for the reader: many (if not all) of these access tools have been discussed in our blog, especially in the last 5 posts. Please revisit those posts for actual images. 

Stage 1: Stabilize & Maintain the Hardware

I ‘bagged and tagged’ all collection materials, created the abbreviated hardware list, and took pictures of the hardware. The hardware list was available on the UTVA Wiki and all images were uploaded to the computers in the Reading Room.

Stage 2: Request the Hardware

I created (and printed out) the UTVA Hardware Request form and the UTVA ‘Informational Packet’, also on the UTVA Wiki. One might recall that the packet contains, among other things, instructions, guidelines, resources, and helpful tips.

Stage 3: Locate & Retrieve the Hardware

I took images for navigation including ones of the Reading Room, the hardware’s location in the Briscoe, and the shelving system. And again the UTVA Informational Packet.

Stage 4: Assemble & Use the Hardware

I took images of the console and its peripherals during the assembly process and created written step-by-step instructions to accompany the images….and the UTVA Informational Packet.

Stage 5: Reshelve the Hardware

I wrote instructions for the Informational Packet.

With respect to the Informational Packet, I used the Mattel Intellivision II when creating the different components. At the same time, most of the instructions and resources are system agnostic and can be applied to UTVA hardware requests in general. The gaming system worked for me leading up to the test which gave me hope it would work during the trial run.

Training the Pages

I conducted a training session with two pages the morning of November 9th. I showed the available resources to them, including the images, the UTVA cabinet, the UTVA collection in the Briscoe, and the UTVA Informational Packet on the Wiki (after getting them access). In an earlier post, I mentioned undergoing a brief training session similar to one the Pages experience when hired. Training is also revisited (when needed) anytime collections are added to the Briscoe or procedures change.

The Trial Run

The trial run took place the morning of November 12th. Due to an earlier cancellation, we had a different set of pages, one of whom had been trained while the other had not. I feel this worked in our favor as it provided us the opportunity to see how a person with virtually no prior UTVA experience would interact with the system. We had only one hour to test the system, the hour after reshelving and before the Briscoe opened.

I “requested” the Mattel Intellivision II for emulation research by filling in the top of the UTVA Hardware Request slip with the console’s name and SKU#. I handed the slip to the pages and they got to work. Please note that, by design, I stayed in the background taking notes and stepped in only when it was clear that the process needed a nudge. And since we had only one hour, I was a touch proactive in “nudging” so we could hit all of the stages. I asked the pages to narrate the process and talk openly about what they were doing and thinking during each stage.

In the next post, I will discuss the results of the trial run.

Checkout System, Stage 5: Reshelve the Hardware

In the last post, the Pages assembled the system, a suitable location was selected, and the researchers began their emulation research: playing Frogger on a Mattel Intellivision II.

In this post, we approach the final stage of the checkout system/workflow: reshelving the items.

At the end of a normal business day at the Briscoe, researchers have two options. If they are not finished and plan to come back, they can place a ‘hold’ on the materials. Otherwise, the materials are ready to return to their ‘home.’

Considering that maps are usually reshelved soon after a researcher is finished, most objects used in the Reading Room are reshelved the morning of the next business day before the Briscoe re-opens. Until then, the collection materials are stored in the stacks area for safekeeping and security purposes. If a researcher does put a hold on the gaming system, the system will be stored in the same secure place after the RF Switch Box is disconnected from the TV. The system is returned to the Reading Room for the researcher the next morning.

If there is no hold, the items are returned to their respective ‘homes’ the next morning. It is this moment that tracking locations becomes crucial. It is likely that a different set of pages will reshelve than the set that originally retrieved. This can be an issue because, as is, there is no readily apparent relationship between an item’s SKU# and its location. For other archival material, Pages can deduce the ‘home’ location by looking at the label of the box. For UTVA hardware, the Hardware Request slip can aid in reshelving provided the items are returned to the correct polypropylene bags before being reshelved. If the items are not returned to the correct bag, the link between the archival ID tag and an item is broken. I included written instructions for reshelving in the UTVA ‘informational packet’ hosted on the UTVA Wiki.

UTVA_ReshelvingHardwareDigital images of hardware are available on the desktop computers in case someone is unfamiliar with a piece and wishes to double check.

UTVA_Hardware_ResourcesAnd the UTVA Master Hardware Inventory list should still reflect the appropriate ‘home’ location as locations are not changed for research requests. Things would get absurd otherwise.

Proof-of-Concept_CheckOutSystemIn an earlier post, I mentioned a tentative citation format for a researcher wishing to cite game play. For this scenario, the citation should reflect both the game and the console (artifact + activity).  I felt that the following might be a good start:


  • Frogger. Sega Enterprises Inc., 1983. Intellivision cartridge. Mattel Intellivision II (SKU#: 2010_231_00063_002). Billy Cain Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Video game. Publisher/distributor/manufacturer, Release date. Format. Platform (Inventory Number). Collection name, Repository.

Once the materials have been returned, we have come full circle and return to Stage 1: Stabilize and Maintain the Hardware. As suggested earlier, hardware should be inspected yearly and these inspections represent a unique opportunity to begin (and then leverage) relationships with other departments in the UT community for help with the process.

And we await the next researcher!

In the next post, I will discuss the preparation for, and the results from, testing the checkout system/workflow. Stay tuned!



Checkout System, Stage 4: Assemble and Use the Hardware

In the last post, the Pages received the UTVA Hardware Request slip that the team and Briscoe staff filled out. By using both the UTVA ‘informational packet’ on the UTVA Wiki and the UTVA Master Hardware Inventory list, the Pages were able to intellectually locate the console and its associated peripherals. After completing the Request slip, the pages were able to physically locate the items within the Briscoe by using, if needed, navigational images and pre-existing floor-by-floor maps of the Briscoe.

In this post, we move to the fourth stage of the checkout system/workflow: assemble and use the hardware.

Once the console and the peripherals have been assembled, the gaming system must be set up. For this step, it was possible that both the Reference staff and the pages would be unfamiliar with the Mattel Intellivision II. Considering that this system was first produced in the early 1980s and that the pages are college freshmen, our system might be twice as old as those responsible for putting it together. With this in mind, I took steps to help in the process.

First, I wrote some assembly instructions that were added to the UTVA ‘informational packet’ shown in the screenshot below. These instructions are system agnostic and can be applied (hopefully) to all hardware requests.

UTVA_HardwareAssemblyInstructionsSecond, for the Mattel Intellivision II specifically, I wrote step-by-step instructions and took digital images of the system along the way. The instructions and digital images are labeled using the console’s SKU# and hosted within the console’s folder on the desktops of the Reference and Page’s computers in the Reading Room. I felt it best to keep all of these access tools together in one place. The console’s folder made the most sense.

Mattel Intellivision II (SKU# 2010_231_00063_002a)2010_231_00063_002_img_052010_231_00063_002_img_062010_231_00063_002_img_072010_231_00063_002_img_082010_231_00063_002_img_09


















To complete the system, one piece of non-collection material is needed: a TV. The TVs are located in, or near, the UTVA cabinet. I used a Panasonic TV when I wrote the instructions. Digital images of the TVs and the UTVA cabinet are hosted on the desktops of the staff computers. As I mentioned in the last post, the “Resources” page on the UTVA Wiki presents a list of the locations of the photos.









So we have the objects and are ready to assemble. But where?

Deciding where to set up the system presents an issue because the games have sound. The A/V stations in the Reading Room come with headphones. But we currently do not have a dedicated spot for game play because the hardware is collection material. As such, it cannot remain in the Reading Room and must be reshelved. For the class tours, we set up in a conference room on the opposite side of the Briscoe as the Reading Room.

And the Briscoe’s public service space will be undergoing renovations starting February 2016. Researchers will be directed to the Benson’s Special Collections Reading Room instead. Unfortunately, requests that involve game play will not  accommodated during our time at the Benson due to space and patron traffic. It is possible that, after the renovations, there will be a location reserved solely for A/V equipment. Game systems would be set up in this room as well. Perhaps with a TV reserved for such a purpose.

Finally, after working with the system, I tried to predict some potential problems and wrote a troubleshooting guide. The guide is also included in the console’s folder.

Mattel Intellivision II (SKU# 2010_231_00063_002b)Once a location is selected and the system assembled, the researchers are able to get to work. In the next post, we will move to the final stage of the checkout system/workflow: reshelving the hardware.


Checkout System, Stage 3: Locate and Retrieve Hardware

In the last post, the imagined research team has made its request and, with the help of reference staff, filled out the top portion of the UTVA Hardware Request slip using the name and SKU# of one of the Mattel Intellivision IIs. In this post, we move to the third stage of the system/workflow: locating and retrieving the hardware.

At this stage, the responsibility shifts to the page(s). In an earlier post, I mentioned that pages would likely be the ones to retrieve and assemble the gaming systems. And recall, in the imagined research scenario, there are other patrons in our reading room and the reference archivist tends to all their needs.

Finding objects in the Briscoe’s collections is a two-part task. Items must first be located intellectually via access tools. Then items must be located physically within the building via navigational tools.

Once given the UTVA Hardware Request slip, the pages access the UTVA Hardware Master Inventory List hosted on the UTVA Wiki page.

Proof-of-Concept_CheckOutSystemUsing this list, the pages can fill out the rest of the request slip by writing down the location of the console and the SKU#s, names, and locations of the associated peripherals. Please recall that this in an excerpt of the real list. When using the bigger list, utilizing a search feature will likely be helpful.

If needed, there are written instructions available for this stage in the previously mentioned UTVA ‘informational packet.’

ResearchRequest_UTVAWikiOnce the request slip is complete, the pages have to find the different locations in the building. Note that one item is in the UTVA cabinet in the reading room and the others are in SRH 2.322 (SRH as the Briscoe’s building).

As I mentioned earlier, I took digital images of many things during this project in order to give people as many different access tools as possible. Some of these images reflect the different locations in the Briscoe: the Reading Room, the UTVA cabinet, SRH 2.322, etc. Some examples are below:














Along with images of hardware, navigational images are found in folders on the desktop of the staff computers in the Reading Room. I created a “Resources” page on the UTVA Wiki that staff can use when looking for access and/or navigational tools.

UTVA_Hardware_ResourcesPreexisting floor-by-floor maps of the Briscoe that indicate the locations of the various collections and rooms are already posted in the staff elevator and on every floor, usually multiple times.

The UTVA-specific access tools that I created were designed to help staff and pages get started on a UTVA hardware research request. Once locations have been identified, the retrieval process folds (hopefully) into existing Briscoe practices.

In the next post, the pages will have gathered the collection materials and will move to assembly.