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.