Over, Under, Around and Through

Our paper on obstacles that archivists experience with adopting Encoded Archival Description (and how to get around them) is out!

Over Under Around and Through: Getting Around Barriers to EAD Implementation [pdf].

We are holding a webinar for the RLG Partnership tomorrow and I’ll share the link of the recorded session later.

The paper covers both “social” and “technical” barriers to implementation, and also gives suggestions for how to get around them. This is not a “how to” manual and it is not meant to be read all the way through (although I’m not going to stop you if you want to do that!). The paper is a collection of tips and tricks, and is as much about attitude adjustment as anything else.

Some high level thoughts:

  • EAD is 12 years old, but still has not reached the point of industrialization. There are others laboring in the same fields that you are and this paper is chock full of links to existing tools. So many that you should not need to invent your own! Use what’s out there rather than reinventing the wheel (or the stylesheet).
  • The paper makes much of consortia, and indeed, these organizations play a vital role in the creation and dissemination of EAD encoded finding aids. Many of these organizations are at risk, or could be at risk. We all are stakeholders in their continued existence.
  • I was surprised that I couldn’t find any high level talking points to “sell” EAD. We came up with some. Use them.
  • There are many barriers that can be bridged, but the standard is complicated and should be rethought, and fortunately there’s a call for the EAD Working Group to do just that.

Many thanks (and congratulations!) go to my co-authors: Michele Combs, Mark Matienzo, and Lisa Spiro. We look forward to your comments.

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One Comment

  1. Congratulations on a very useful report! I shared it with the NWDA membership in yesterday’s NWDA News.

    One comment around barriers to implementation: the most important one, IMHO, is that that EAD is hard to explain to administrators. The best tactic I’ve found is to point out that while digitization usually offers access to only selected collections, EAD offers efficient access to much larger collections.

    But we do have to face the fact that replicating paper finding aids on screen is not the best use of the standard or the technology that supports it. Scholars who are trained to use finding aids work with them well. Others don’t, as one user study after another tells us.

    Didn’t library catalogs also go through this stage, creating screens that looked just like catalog cards? Is this an essential stage of evolution? Can we evolve out of this stage soon?

    I would also argue that a very significant barrier to implementation is institutional workflows. Too often, institutions address EAD as an extra step rather then reworking their workflows to integrate it. That can mean that once some form of special project support goes away, so does the encoding. If you’re still creating finding aids in Word and converting them, it may be prudent to re-examine workflows.

    Also, some tools that NWDA offers to anyone are missing from Appendix II. These may be found at http://orbiscascade.org/index/northwest-digital-archives-tools and include:

    Encoding template (http://orbiscascade.org/index/cms-filesystem-action?file=nwda/tools/nwda_template_20080408.xml)

    Short training videos for aspects of the NWDA best practices.

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