Tomorrow Jane and I will be taking part in a course for archivists who want to find out more using technology to interact with users and colleagues in new ways. Jane has organised the event with Brian Kelly, who works for UKOLN and maintains the UK Web Focus blog.
I’m looking forward to hearing more about The National Archives’ wiki, which has recently been launched to the public. Jane and I went along to its internal launch in Kew last year and were very impressed. It’ll be interesting to see how many contributions have been submitted from members of the public.
If you are attending the event, feel free to post comments here to let us know what you thought of the day and whether you plan to implement any of the technologies that we’ll be looking at.
The ‘Lone Arrangers‘ blog alerted me to this excellent PowerPoint
presentation by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner (on the Twin Cities Archives Round Table blog) about cutting down the time it takes to provide access to modern archival collections.
It has some highly sensible recommendations, including:
The Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists has organised a great campaign in support of the City of Regina Archives, currently under threat of extreme budget cuts as it has been identified as a “discretionary item that is not a core service for the City of Regina”.
The website allows you to send an e-postcard to the City Council’s Finance and Administration Committee, which meets on 8th May to debate the report. It only takes a couple of minutes to do and you can personalise the message. Please consider supporting our Canadian colleagues by sending a postcard or an email – I’m sure international interest in this issue will be a huge help.
I’m here with Jane at the International Standards for Digital Archives conference. Lots of presentations about EAD, EAC, METS and related standards. I was talking about the Spokes software yesterday (the EAD day). The picture shows the inside of the Umspannwerk Ost restaurant where we had dinner last night. It used to be an electrical substation. The conference venue (the Umweltforum) used to be a church. They’re good at recycling here.
Today was all about EAC and METS – Daniel Pitti was one of the speakers giving the background to EAC in the morning. Apparently there have been complaints about the complexity of the standard, so Daniel was asking for more details on this problem, as work is about to start on rebuilding it ‘from the ground up’. I enjoyed his closing comment which was along the lines of “it doesn’t matter what you do in the privacy of your own repository, but if you’re going outside, please dress up in a standard” (or a nice hat, of course).
A new report has been published by the Research Information Network (RIN) and the Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL): Researchers’ Use of Academic Libraries and their Services [pdf format]. This is based on information gathered from more than 2,000 UK researchers and 300 librarians. After being somewhat critical in an earlier post about the RIN’s Researchers and Discovery Services report, I feel honour-bound to record here that this report is much more comprehensive and well-written. Its authors are Sheridan Brown and Alma Swan of Key Perspectives Ltd. The report covers a number of areas, including the impact of digital services, problems of attracting enough funding, communication between library staff and researchers, and changing patterns of use.
Archive services within academic libraries get a number of mentions, with the interesting statistic that:
Archives are rated “very useful” by 50% of arts and humanities researchers and special collections by 46%. By comparison the figures for life science researchers are 10% and 8%.
Really? 10% of life scientists find archives “very useful”? Wow!
The report also noted that:
Most researchers use digital finding aids to locate both digital and print-based resources. Print finding aids are used by very few researchers, and these are mainly in the arts and humanities. This highlights the need for libraries to ensure that they provide online high-quality metadata for their holdings, and that they address cataloguing backlogs. Information resources that cannot be found electronically may well be overlooked, since few researchers will invest the time required to track down items that cannot be quickly be identified using digital finding aids.
And in the same vein:
Libraries have made significant efforts to optimise the visibility and usage of their archival or special collection material through digitisation programmes. Feedback from researchers is very positive, but many information resources that could be useful to researchers remain under-used currently, mainly because they exist only in hardcopy or are inadequately catalogued.
…material that is digitised and for which there is easily-available and accurate metadata will be visible and usable by scholars. What remains in print may well be sought out, but probably only if it is digitally catalogued. Indeed, some researchers as well as librarians pointed out that more use would be made of library holdings overall
A post by Brian Mathews (a librarian at the Georgia Institute of Technology) on his Ubiquitous Librarian blog compares undergraduate levels of library usage and satisfaction in UK and US universities. He looked at information from SCONUL and compared it with statistics from the US Association of Research Libraries (ARL). He notes that usage of libraries by undergraduates is much higher in the UK:
…86% indicate daily or weekly use, while the US is around 50%. When asked about using library web resources they were at 77% daily/weekly, while US was between 40-50%.
but that levels of satisfaction with space and resources are much lower and that our printed materials and journals are ‘barely adequate’. He expresses surprise at this, but it sounds like an issue of under-resourcing to me and probably won’t surprise staff working in UK universities. The difference in usage levels are interesting though – why are they so much higher here?