Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Final Result

I realize it has been MONTHS since I last updated the blog.  8 months, to be exact.  From the end of August to the end of the granting period, which was November, things were so busy trying to finish everything that I just didn't get a chance to update.  Additionally, we were awarded a new NHPRC grant to host the Archives Leadership Institute and we really jumped right into it immediately after Journeys to America was over.  All in all, it's just been a very busy time for the ladies in the Luther College Archives.  In the spirit of closure, I would like to write one final blog post.

The final 3 months of the project involved a lot of finishing touches and polishes.  We added the .pdf viewer to embed the .pdf box lists so users were not required to download a pdf just to see what was on it.  (See an example: The Matt Bue Collection Box List)  The archival materials at Vesterheim were finished, resulting in over 80 scanned .pdf box lists and over 460 finding aids.  The Luther College Archives' final numbers were 558 total finding aids.  The total linear feet of materials cataloged was well over 2,000.

Recap of our grant activity
  • Project Archivist Sasha Griffin was hired in November 2010 and started working on the project in early December 2010.  Her work with the Journeys to America project ended on November 30, 2012.
  • Created and populated a test version of Archon with Digital Initiative Lead Ryan Gjerde
  • Griffin created inventory templates for spreadsheets for each record group, detailing materials on the folder-level, for her and student workers to input data
  • Griffin created a project blog in English (also accessible in Norwegian) for internal and external interested parties to follow the grant’s progress (http://journeystoamerica.blogspot.com)
  • Griffin and Rachel Vagts attended the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) and organized a MAC Archon User Group Meeting to share ideas and tips with other Archon users.
  • All project staff attended the SAA webinar “Archon: Making it Work For You” on May 12, 2011.
  • Project staff met with Archon developers Chris Prom and Scott Schwartz to discuss our questions and concerns with software customization and use on May 23, 2011.
  • Griffin and Vagts, on behalf of Luther College Library and Information Services (LIS), co-sponsored the two-day SAA workshop “Implementing DACS in Integrated Content Management Systems: Using Archon” on May 24-25, 2011 in Decorah, Iowa.
  • Griffin began working with the contracted web designer in May 2011 to plan and create a customized look and experience for users.  
  • Griffin presented the Journeys to America project during the Norwegian-American Historical Association seminar on June 15, 2011 in Decorah, Iowa (View the slideshow at http://bit.ly/oBY6TB).
  • Griffin and Vagts presented a project report at the Consortium of Iowa Archivists meeting on July 11, 2011.
  • Griffin and Vagts attended the Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting on August 23-27, 2011 and participated in the Archivist’s Toolkit/Archon Roundtable and discussed the project with colleagues.
  • NHPRC Advocacy- Griffin and Vagts have shared information about our project with our current congressman, Representative Tom Latham, as well as Representative Bruce Braley, who will represent this area after re-districting.  They have also spoken directly to Senator Chuck Grassley and have communicated about the project with Senator Tom Harkin’s staff.  In each case they described the project and spoke about the positive impact the project is having on the  institutions and the many constituents who are benefiting from the project.
  • Named the catalog Nordic (Norwegian Digital Catalog)
  • Created a logo for the catalog
  • Welcomed and briefed new Luther College LIS Executive Director Paul Mattson on the Journeys to America project
  • Extended social media web presence to advertise project and promote hidden collections
  • Griffin and Vagts presented project at the Iowa Library Association / Association of College and Research Libraries conference: May 5, 2012
  • Catalog went live at http://nordic.luther.edu/ in May 2012 and Google Analytics was added for metric capturing
  • Griffin and Vagts hosted and presented Nordic at Archon Day: July 17, 2012
  • A number of features were added to Nordic after Archon Day, like keyword search by repository and .pdf viewers to embed box lists and supplemental collection information.
  • The project was publicized along with its methods in 23 news articles, blog entries, listserv announcements, newsletters, and presentations.  (For a complete list, please see the Final Report.)
  • Total number of finding aids available: 1,109


Project Director Assessment
Project Summary
The Journeys to America project has been a great success for both Luther College and Vesterheim Museum.  The goals set out by the project have been reached and we are very satisfied with the final result of having an online catalog that makes our collections more visible and also allows us to more easily manage our collections.  Looking at the Google Analytics that we have applied to the site, the usage of the collection has continued to grow since the site went live.

Sasha Griffin, Project Cataloging Archivist, was an exceptional addition to the archives staff and invaluable to the project.  Her ability to work with Archon and her participation in the development community was very useful to the project as it went on.  She also encouraged the archives additional usage of Web 2.0 tools, She brings a fresh perspective to the project, and her skills with technology and Web 2.0 applications have been very useful not only to the project, but to the overall functioning of the Luther College Archives.  I am particularly pleased with her initiative on several projects including the plan to use QR codes for location of materials and the blog that she has been keeping about the project.


Challenges
We discovered a number of issues with our previous implementation of Archon, but created a test instance that the project staff used to create the new searchable database.  The test version of the database replaced the original version with the updated records and descriptions in May 2012.

By creating a test instance of Archon, we were able to implement a new searchable database while the project was going on and still maintain access to the limited online database we had previously used at Luther College.  

We did have the unanticipated challenge of having a majority of our team experience the joy of having a baby.  This delayed the project slightly with family leave, but in the end only resulted in a 3 month extension of the project.

Benefits
The completion of the project has not only improved access to our collections for researchers, but it has improved our management of the collection and has helped to strengthen the connection between the archival collections at Luther College and Vesterheim Museum.  Based on our success so far, we are interested in reaching out to other similar collections to see if they would like to add their collections to Nordic.


Project Impact
This project has had a significant impact on Luther College, Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, the Archon community, and student and external researchers.  Over 1,100 finding aids are now keyword searchable through the open Web, resulting in higher usage statistics in the repositories and a strong example of how to create effective and efficient digital archival catalogs.

At Luther College, having a second full time staff member has also helped with managing student workers.  This has benefitted the Journeys project immensely.  During the first summer, the addition of a grant-funded student intern helped move the project along with regards to collecting box and folder inventories.  The Luther College Archives also cost shared student work time, resulting in many hours of inventories and data entry that otherwise would not have been completed.  This has helped the granularity of description in the collections, which ultimately results in better search results for the user.  

This additional supervision for the student workers has also impacted the general workflow and efficiency of the Luther College Archives.  Several important projects have been addressed since the additional of a full time staff member, such as a large-scale weeding project that had been sitting on the back burner for about a year.  The project has made a huge impact on the speed in which reference requests can be answered and on the ability for patrons to self-serve to find answers and develop their research. The catalog went live in May 2011 and the Luther College Archives used it extensively with much of the research and internal support relating to Luther College’s Sesquicentennial anniversary events.

The project has made Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum Archives' collections especially accessible to staff, making it easy to finally know what is in the collection.  This helps make conversations about and planning for exhibits and publications much easier.  Long range planning has also been aided.  Vesterheim is now working on a master site plan and are updating their collections plan.  Having Nordic allows staff to understand the scope of the collection, what is processed and what is unprocessed, and where there are collection gaps.  This helps inform what is needed to be done and what to do with the collection on both physical and intellectual levels, which helps drive the strategic plans.  Nordic is driving about 5 reference requests per month and has increased the productivity of staff.  Because the collection is housed in a building away from staff offices, it is now more efficient and time-saving to search the catalog to determine if materials are available instead of  having to do a physical search of the materials in the storage area.  Also, records for new materials can be entered immediately upon receipt, even if the materials are not  (or are maybe never) fully processed, making them immediately accessible to staff and the public. The digital catalog has also helped the museum demonstrate it is a good steward of the materials--donors have been proud and thrilled to see "their" materials listed on line and have shared links to Nordic with family members and friends.   

The community of users of the open-source software Archon have also benefitted from our project.  In May 2011, Luther College hosted a workshop by the Society of American Archivists’ that taught how to use DACS description standards with Archon for electronic finding aids.  This was hosted at Luther College for a variety of reasons: it helped us with the travel costs for our Archon consultants that was built into the grant proposal (their travel was paid by SAA for teaching the workshop instead of by us), it helped us connect with other Archon users in our region for support, and it helped publicize the catalog.  Project staff Sasha Griffin and Rachel Vagts put together a Midwest-regional Archon Users Group that met at the Midwest Archives Conference in 2011 for users to build relationships with each other.  Additionally, in July 2012, Luther College hosted Archon Day, a no-cost, day-long workshop focused on connecting Archon users and interested parties to teach and learn together.  Thirty-one participants from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri attended the program.  Our catalog Nordic was used extensively in demonstrations and instruction, providing publicity and learning opportunities for other repositories.  

At the end of the project, Sasha Griffin was elected the Vice Chair / Chair-Elect for the Society of American Archivists’ Archon/Archivists’ Toolkit Roundtable.  Continuing to build these relationships with other Archon users is very important, as the user community develop new ways to the use the software to make collections more accessible and discoverable.  Additionally, a number of library and archives colleagues have contacted Griffin for further information and instruction on how to create their own catalogs using Archon.  They had heard of the project through presentations, the project blog, and word of mouth.  Our code and designs have been shared with other users to give back to the open source software and community.

Of all the groups who have benefitted from our project, the most significant and long-lasting impact has been on the community of researchers and patrons.  In August 2011, Google Analytics were added to the catalog and for the five last months of the project, the site saw 835 unique visitors and nearly 11,000 page views in six different countries.  Additionally, within just a week of going “live” the Nordic catalog had generated six reference requests, showing how strong its impact is for user discoverability through global search engines.  Student researchers have been able to use Nordic for their first-year research papers and for their more in-depth senior papers.  During library instructional sessions and class sessions, the catalog is demonstrated in helping students and faculty find primary sources.  External researchers have benefitted greatly from the catalog and have been setting up appointments and sending reference requests for materials.  This began as early as the Norwegian-American Historical Association-Norge (NAHA-Norway) conference that was held at Luther College in June 2011.  Researchers have been able to access materials more easily not only by using our online catalog, but also by having access to two archivists to assist them with reference.  
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I would like to thank the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for the grant funding to make our materials discoverable.  Additionally, the project team is thankful for the cooperation and collaboration of Luther College and Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in order advance the field of Norwegian-American research.  Finally, a huge thank you to the project team themselves: Faust Gertz, Ryan Gjerde, Jennifer Kovarik, and Rachel Vagts.  Without you all, there would be no product to show.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that this project has given me.  I have learned so much from this experience and I look forward to continuing work at Luther College and at Vesterheim.  - Sasha


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finding my home at Vesterheim

I've been at Vesterheim all summer now and, while I thought I'd be wrapping the collections up about now, I am still far from finished.  It took awhile to fully get settled into a methodology once I got all of the PastPerfect collections imported.

The names of the personal papers are the most important and those are already searchable since the collections have been created.  So, the biggest priority has been completed.  Now, I am working on scanning all of the box inventories that were created by students (and handwritten on legal paper and stuck in each box) and attaching them as digital files.  I am entering very little data into the other fields and only including a short description of the collection under the Scope note.  See an example here: The Knut Bergh Collection

By doing it this way, it will include the important information that's needed, while also being time sensitive.  Since I'm not actually inputting any detailed box inventory or child content to the collection, this means that Archon will only display this brief overview page and not a full finding aid.  The reason for doing it this way is that the museum world usually catalogs materials on an item-level basis.  Each item in these boxes has its own folder, description, etc. and unfortunately, that is just too detailed for this project.  I tried doing it this way (see The Dr. Alf H. Altern Collection), but it took over a day to decipher the box inventories, cross reference the inventories with what was written on each of the item-level descriptions, input it all into an Excel sheet, and import it.  And that was only for 1 box!  Since I'm attaching the original box inventory onto each of the collections, this is setting up for an excellent student project opportunity.  Students will be able to look at the attached .pdfs, enter that data into the Excel sheet, and then we can import it on a case-by-case situation once we have time.

I have many more collections to do, but now that I've put together a manageable method, things should pick up.  I'm averaging about 20 collections a day and I'm hoping to recruit some student work now that the school year has begun.  I think I'll be continuing work at Vesterheim throughout September.

Additionally, we have some changes in the works for Nordic, inspired by Archon Day.  First, users now have the ability to search all repositories, only Luther College, or only Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum.


This will be particularly useful for reference requests that come directly to Luther's College Archivist or Vesterheim's Registrar. 

We've also started using Google Analytics on the Nordic site.  The plan is to wait a month or two and see how the data starts coming in and then create a plan of action that will mean harvesting specific data every month to monitor changes.  This data will then be a part of the larger reporting that happens within Luther College's LIS, such as the Annual Report for 2012-2013.  I'd be interested in speaking to anybody who is already collecting data, specifically to figure out what has/hasn't been useful and how those metrics have been summarized for the higher-ups.

Hopefully we'll be implementing some other changes soon, like embedding PDF Viewers for the box lists (so that users wouldn't need to download the whole files) and creating stronger support for Scandinavian characters like (Å/å, Ä/ä, Ö/ö, Æ/æ, Ø/ø).  Also, I am very interested in incorporating social actions within Archon on the finding aids, like a comment box and the ability to share/post on Facebook and other sites.

I also have an SAA recap blog post brewing in my brain, so stay tuned for that shortly.  We have an interim report due at the end of Sept, so for now I'm trying to get as much as possible done to include into that.  But, keeping up with the blogging is on my list of to-do's.  I promise. :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Archon Day

On July 17, Luther College saw over 30 archivists joined together in Preus Library for the first ever Archon Day.  Co-hosted by myself, Rachel Vagts, and Tom Steman (St. Cloud State University), we invited Archon users from around the country to join us in Decorah, Iowa, for a community-based teaching and learning opportunity.  Archivists and info professionals  came from organizations as north as Minnesota, as south as St. Louis, reaching East to Indiana, and nearly to the South Dakota border.  It was a wonderful day dedicated to sharing with each other experiences, knowledge, and encouragement.

The day started with a Show and Tell time slot that were essentially demonstrative lightning talks.  Six individuals showed off their Archon installations, starting with early implementation and ending in advanced customization.  (You can see the entire Archon Day schedule, along with links to the Show and Tell Archon links by visiting: http://goo.gl/NZn8h)

Though we initially planned on doing concurrent sessions, it became clear that some people were interested in all of the proposed topics listed on the Google Form.  So, we just held all of the sessions sequentially.  Looking back, it may have been better to offer sessions concurrently, as some of the feedback that we received seemed that the more advanced Archon users were bored by the basic stuff and some of the beginner users said the advanced tech things were a little over their head.  But, in the end, all of our evaluations were positive and 100% of the responses said they would love to have another Archon Day in the future.  (See a summary of all of our evaluation responses here: http://goo.gl/BU3fK)

For some of our participants, taking one of the SAA workshops on Archon may be helpful.  While none of the Archon workshops are currently on the schedule, there is the possibility of co-sponsoring one of the workshops at your own institution.  We co-sponsored the DACS/Archon workshop last May and it was a very successful and beneficial workshop.  The workshops will give some of the education that participants asked for in the evaluations, like hands-on time creating a finding aid.  Also, a participant expressed that they would have liked time to "test drive" the software. I recommend playing around with the Archon sandbox (http://archon.org/sandbox.php) - it is a good way to get a feel for the interface (both public and admin) without committing anything yet.

One of the best things that has come out of our Archon Day is a group of people who are wanting to update the Archon documentation.  Currently, the manual is for version 2.21 and needs brought up to speed.  Also, there is interest in supplementing any gaps or clarifications to make it a bit more comprehensive.  This will be a great opportunity for the Archon community to really join together and contribute to the project.  More info to come on the project, but in the meantime, if you're interested in contributing, contact me at sgriffin@luther.edu.

In my opinion, our Archon Day went very well.  A big thanks to Rachel and Tom and I hope that we can have another day like this.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Starting at Vesterheim

In between vacation days and workshops and "paperwork days", I began working at Vesterheim in June. I  am happy to report that quite a lot has been accomplished so far!  Basically, I'm going to do the opposite workflow of what I've been doing at Luther.  At Luther, I was doing box inventories, then taking those inventories and uploading them and describing the entire collection at that point.  Instead, since there are already shells of collections created within PastPerfect (not all of Vesterheim's materials, but many), I'm going to create those collections within Archon first, then refine the descriptions and add additional collections as needed, at the time that I go through the boxes individually. 

Together with the museum registrar, Jennifer, we've established a record group classification, which mimics the organization at Luther College and makes the collections much easier to digest to a browsing user.
RG01  Personal Papers
RG02  Cultural Groups and Events
RG03  Photographs
RG04  Immigrant Records
RG05  Institutional Records

So far, I've exported all existing collections and metadata from PastPerfect (508 collections), rearranged the spreadsheet to match the collection spreadsheet within Archon, and imported them to Nordic.  They aren't pretty, nor are they complete, but it's a first step (see https://nordic.luther.edu/index.php?p=collections/classifications&id=45). 

Some issues that I'm currently dealing with and putting under "Projects For Another Day":

Subjects
When I imported into Archon, I had a number of collections that had subject tags and no place to put them.  The most appropriate header that I could find was "Other Note."  Now, I do plan on getting these tags put into the Subject Manager, but I didn't want to lose them at the time of importing, since they were already attached to the rest of the collection.  Anyway- I've found that Other Note is not one of the fields that is searchable through Keyword Search.  Someday, either myself (or possibly a student worker) will put them all into Subject Manager and assign them to the collections through Archon's admin interface.  I expect this will take one or two days.

Duplicates
Coming out of Past Perfect, there were many duplicate collections that were off by just a punctuation mark (i.e., Allen,H vs Allen,H.).  In hindsight, I should have deleted these duplicates while it was in the spreadsheet form.  Now that I've imported them, the only way to delete these is to go into each collection individually and delete them.  I will probably remedy this as I go through each box and do inventories.


Record Groups
I ran into a little hiccup in assigning classification IDs under the "Record Group" column and after a day's worth of trying countless permutations of ID numbers, ID names, ID titles, it turns out that the most common sense combination was the answer.  I could have sworn I tried it as one of the very first options, but regardless- lots of various brains were picked to get an answer on this one!  The cell ended up formatted like this:  VMA/RG01  After all of that, I copied/pasted that cell into the entire column, thinking that the PastPerfect collections were all Personal Papers.  Turns out that they aren't all belonging into RG01, despite being imported into that classification.  So, as I go through the collections one by one, I will reassign classifications as needed.  For example, the Luren Singing Society collection and the Nordic Fest collection will be moved to RG02 Cultural Groups and Events.


Collection IDs
Last October, I came up with a way to use names as Collection Identifiers for manuscripts within Luther's RG15.  (See: Collection Identifiers for Manuscripts)  Currently, Vesterheim's collection identifiers include a qualifier that indicates that they are Archives (ARCH.) and then similarly uses a last name, first initial format.  This was great since it is consistent with Luther.  However, there are a number of names that have the letters æ, ø, å, ü, and ö.  I remember awhile back that I had trouble importing titles with these characters (it caused the name to be funny looking in the web output), so I changed them to normal English characters and made a list of names to change back once they were in Nordic.  The list isn't terribly long, but is definitely something to work on another day.  Also, more on a personal productivity note, it is so much easier to make those letters on a Mac than a PC... In fact, I've been a Mac user since Justin Long first told me that he was a Mac, and working at Vesterheim on a PC has been enough of a challenge in itself!



The next step is to go through the boxes individually.  Some have box inventories that were done by students that may need polished and described a bit more thoroughly.  Some have box inventories that were done by the registrar that are 100% ready to go.  Some have no box inventories at all.  Some collections are either partially or completely unprocessed.  And some collections don't have any shell structure yet, and will be brand-spanking-newly created from the start.  I estimate that I'll be spending about 100 hours on it this and by the time I go to the Society of American Archivists' Annual Meeting, I should be pretty much through (or almost through) the Vesterheim collections.  Of course, if history is any indication, I will probably go a little long, and am allowing the remaining 3 weeks of August to be at Vesterheim.  This will be to finish any cataloging that needs done and also to train the registrar on the ins-and-outs of Nordic, how to maintain the collections, and how to add/edit.  I expect to be back at Luther College sometime in September.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Action Alert


The following message was sent to me from the Society of American Archivists.  Please consider contacting your Senator by 5 pm Eastern Time tomorrow (June 8).  Luther College has been awarded around $350,000 in NHPRC funds in the last two years and has been vital in the exposure of our collections, our repository, our library, and the College in general.

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Action Alert: Stop the Fiscal Disaster for Historical Records in the United States!
Tell the Senate Appropriations Committee to Fund NHPRC at $5 million
If your Senator is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee:  Please call or fax the Senator’s office – before close of business on Friday, June 8, 2012 – to ask for support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the “grant-making” arm of the National Archives and Records Administration. The Senate Appropriations Committee will be acting on the bill to fund NHPRC on Tuesday, June 12; all comments must be received by Friday, June 8. (See the list of Senate Appropriations Committee members below.)
The Issue: The President’s FY13 appropriations budget request proposes only $3 million for NHPRC, a $2 million reduction from the current level of $5 million. This amount is not sufficient to support the ongoing programs and mission of the NHPRC at even a minimal level. It is up to Congress to preserve this program, which has already been cut substantially in previous fiscal years. For FY 2013 we urge the Senate to provide at least $5 million (level funding) for the NHPRC grants program. 
Take Action! Call or fax your member on the Senate Appropriations Committee to express your support for restoration of $5 million for NHPRC funding as part of the National Archives budget. In your call or fax, speak to the specific benefits of NHPRC for your state/organization/users. The more the Senator understands the benefits to his or her constituents, the more convincing your message will be. Your message need not be extensive—a brief phone call or a one-page fax that speaks directly to the positive benefits that NHPRC brings to your state or organization can have a significant impact!   Please encourage archives, libraries, and other historical organizations to call or fax on behalf of their organization and users, too. 
More detailed contact information for your Senator can be found on the Senate website at: www.senate.gov.
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are:
Democratic members
Daniel Inouye, Hawaii                         202-224-3934 | fax 202-224-6747       
Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont                   202-224-4242 | fax 202-224-3479
Tom Harkin, Iowa                               202-224-3254 | fax 202-224-9369
Barbara Milkulski, Maryland              202-224-4654 | fax 202-224-8858
Herb Kohl, Wisconsin                          202-224-5653 | fax 202-224-9787
Patty Murray, Washington                 202-224-2621 | fax 202-224-0238
Dianne Feinstein, California               202-224-3841 | fax 202-228-3954
Richard J. Durbin, Illinois                    202-224-2152 | fax 202-228-0400       
Tim Johnson, South Dakota                 202-224-5842 | fax 202-228-5765
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana                   202-224-5824 | fax 202-224-9735
Jack Reed, Rhode Island                     202-224-4642 | fax 202-224-4680
Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey           202-224-3224 | fax 202-228-4054
Ben Nelson, Nebraska                         202-224-6551 | fax 202-228-0012
Mark Pryor, Arkansas                         202-224-2353 | fax 202-228-0908
Jon Tester, Montana                           202-224-2644 | fax 202-224-8594
Sherrod Brown, Ohio                          202-224-2315 | fax 202-228-6321
Republican members:
Thad Cochran, Mississippi                  202-224-5054 | fax 202-224-9450
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky                202-224-2541 | fax 202-224-2499
Richard Shelby, Alabama                    202-224-5744 | fax 202-224-3416
Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas               202-224-5922 | fax 202-224-0776
Lamar Alexander, Tennessee             202-224-4944 | fax 202-228-3398
Susan Collins, Maine                           202-224-2523 | fax 202-224-2693
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska                       202-224-6665 |  fax 202-224-5301
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina        202-224-5972 | fax 202-228-4611
Mark Kirk, Illinois                                202-224-2854 | fax 202-228-4611
Dan Coats, Indiana                              202-224-5623 | fax 202-228-1820
Roy Blunt, Missouri                             202-224-5721 | fax 202-224-8149
Jerry Moran, Kansas                           202-224-6521 | fax 202-228-6966
John Hoeven, North Dakota                202-224-2551 | fax 202-224-7999
Ron Johnson, Wisconsin                      202-224-5323 | fax 202-228-6965



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Four Weeks of Nonstop

Since my last blog post, there has been a LOT happening here.  Let me break it down...

1)  Nordic is live!!!  http://nordic.luther.edu is up and running and most of the inventories have been imported and are searchable.  I'm still working on getting the collection descriptions done, but for now the data is (mostly) in and will provide search results.  Also, the design is mobile friendly!  Try resizing your browser to the size of an iPad or tablet and then again to the size of an iPod or mobile phone.  You'll see the different design templates.  Lots of conversation went into this: We ended up putting this up on a virtual server, rather than LIS's current server.  We also needed to know what to do with our first implementation of Archon (what we are calling Old Archon, which happened before the grant began) and our test instance of Archon (what we are calling Test Archon), as Google search results would be actively pointing people out to these catalogs.  We disabled the public viewing on the catalogs and put up a makeshift notice (see it for yourself: http://lis.luther.edu/archon/).  We'll probably include some extra info that indicates that the user must repeat his or her search in Nordic.  Old Archon lives on, but just from an admin side.

2)  Rachel and I presented at the ILA / ACRL Spring Conference last Friday.  I discussed our project's process and showed a demo of Nordic and Rachel talked about the grant process.  We also touched on our ongoing outreach initiatives to help increase use of our collections.  It was a great conference and I learned a lot about librarianship and other institute's repositories.  It was an eye opener for me, as I have usually only attended archives-specific conferences.  Attending this library specific conference helped get me out of my usual bubble and into a new context.  I very much appreciated getting together with colleagues and hearing others' experiences.  I also took some time to meet with some fellow Archon users from Drake University and looked over their collections with them and gave them some advice here and there.  It was a wonderful time to catch up and share some Archon stories.

3)  I am having some serious issues with Excel and my dates.  We are formatting our dates 3 October 1999 and have had issues in the past with Excel saving as 3-Oct-99, but they were fixed with a quick "Format Cells" change.  Now, every time I am saving them as .csv, closing them, and re-opening them, the dates continue to revert to the funny format, no matter what I do.  If I save as text, it saves as 34974.  I'm not sure what the change is, but I've spent a ton of time working on them.  My current work around is just eliminating the day and month and only using the year.  While this isn't as informative, it is a suitable alternative and beats going through individual records in Archon to change date format.

4)  This summer, we will be hosting an Archon Day for regional users here at Luther.  More info to come, as we continue to plan with Tom from St. Cloud.

5)  Work at Vesterheim will begin June 11.  I need to finish describing and importing Luther's inventories and over the summer, Rachel will be doing the last record group: RG 04.  We've made some decisions about RG 15, Manuscripts / Personal Papers.  We already have basic descriptions for 80% of the collections, so we will not include box/folder listings.  For about 15% of the record group, we have detailed descriptions and some box/folder listings, which we will include.  About 5% of the collection has nothing, except for creator name.  For this 5%, we will include extent information (i.e., how many boxes and linear feet) and together with the name, it should be sufficient for the user's purposes.  Over the next two weeks, I will finish these and Nordic will be 95% complete.

6)  I am working on statistics and analysis.  We'll be adding some Google Analytics code to the site to get some basic info on user behavior, but I am disappointed in how Google Analytics work for light to moderate traffic.  It seems best to use it for widespread websites and does not focus in on individual visitor activity, like other products do, such as StatCounter.  Does anybody have any suggestions?

7)  I would like to do some usability testing this summer/fall.  We are already at budget with our web design, so any changes that the usability testing results may recommend will have to be fairly basic.  If anybody has any suggested readings or tips/tricks due to related experiences, I'd love to hear them!

8)  I've tried doing some EAD exporting/importing, and unfortunately it isn't working quite as nicely as I had hoped.  In Old Archon, a student worker had wonderfully inputted and described each and every audio and video item in our collection.  In the description field, he included everything from accession number to location.  I've been experimenting with exporting this collection of over 3,000 items as EAD and then re-importing them as EAD into Nordic.  Unfortunately, it isn't the smoothest transition.  It isn't transferring over the description field under the <c02> level.  I wonder if there is a way to create a <daodesc> element and map the description field to that from Archon.  Also (semi-related), I would like to investigate how to remove the <unitid> element, as I don't really need the Old Archon unit id's tacked onto the items in Nordic.   I've started a forum topic here: http://forums.archon.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1259


Whew!  In the future, I hope to not wait over a month between postings so as to avoid long, rambling entries such as this... :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Moving Forward


I'm pleased to announce that our web design is finished and that over the month of May, we'll be applying the design and moving our working instance over to a live, advertised URL!  It's all coming together!  Also during the next few weeks, I'm going to be wrapping up some of the work here at Luther.  I'm going to finish importing the inventories that will be finished by the student workers this semester, then synthesize exactly what needs to be accomplished over the summer by Rachel and our student worker.  Additionally, I'll show her what I've been doing and teach her some tips/tricks on how to maintain the catalog for new additions.  This will be particularly helpful, as it's hoped that our small backlog will be tackled this summer.

In June, I'll be starting at Vesterheim.  I intend to first assess the collections and then come up with a work plan.  Now that I've been playing with Archon enough to know how it works and the different methods of data input, I should be able to have a pretty good plan within a week or so.  I'll stay at Vesterheim, working on their archival collections through the end August.  It's a much smaller collection and they already have inventory lists, so it should be a relatively straight-forward process.  I'll again summarize what I've been doing there, how to continue inputting data on an infrequent basis (it isn't really a growing collection), and then teach the museum registrar the tips/tricks on maintaining their repository materials in Archon.

When the academic year begins in September (contingent upon a budget extension due to the parenting leaves), I'll finish up and polish the work that was done over the summer without me.  I'll wrap up the remaining inventories and then tend to the extra projects we've come up with.  Particularly, I'd like to implement the QR code cataloging system that will link the box locations with the catalog URLs.  I'd also like to import Luther College's "Iconic Historical Photos" as digital content in Archon.  I'd also like to try to write a paper or article for presentation or publication about this project.  I think that we've really covered a lot of new ground that may be helpful for others starting projects similar to this.