Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final Report

Reflections on the project
During the research on how other organizations handle artists' books, I was surprised to discover that less than a handful of them use finding aids to describe the works. However, it was easy to see (literally) how cultural institutions continue to expand access to their artists' books collections through digitizing them and including entries within their organizations' catalogs. I learned a great deal about how many different ways there are to describe non-standard items (although we used a very abbreviated description rather than a MARC record style description). I found that I much preferred more detailed descriptions with quotations from the artists (if possible). I also enjoyed collections with multiple images of the works that could be magnified and viewed from different angles.

One platform I would like to learn more about (especially how to work with it) is CONTENTdm. This semester, while researching this project as well as my coursework, I discovered many digital libraries using the platform in many different ways. It seems as if the software allows for extensive descriptions, many images, and different cataloging techniques. I hope that I have the opportunity to work with this and experiment with creating a digital library on CONTENTdm.

Because I spent so much time with the artists' books, I have a much greater appreciation for them and works like them. Through a great variety of materials, each expresses different thoughts and feelings of the artist. I feel privileged to have been able to not only study the works at length, but to contribute to their being "seen" online by many more people. Working with the books made me want to spend more time with non-standard archival items and learn more about conserving and describing unique materials.

I learned that I need more practice with and knowledge about EAD. After exploring a range of different finding aids from a few libraries (university and otherwise), I discovered that there is a lot that can be done with EAD. I am planning to take the Manuscripts & Archives course at Rutgers in the spring, where I am sure to learn more about finding aids and EAD. I look forward to expanding this knowledge and putting it to work.

While collecting all the resources for the annotated bibliography, I was especially interested in the copyrights issues studied by librarians. It seems as though an entire course on copyrights could be given in an MLIS program such as the one offered by Rutgers. Additionally, I was inspired by all the sites focused on metadata. They made me want to study metadata as applied in digital libraries in much greater depth.

One of the aspects of this independent study that could be considered a drawback was the lack of access to Special Collections shared drives except through workstations on site (no remote access). Because I accomplished much of my work at home, it was necessary to then transfer files manually onto Michael Joseph's workstation when he wasn't using it to do other work or when he was serving on the Reference desk. While this situation delayed the progress of work, I was able to make up time when working at home on other aspects of the project. However, the situation was not optimal.

Creating the EAD files was difficult for a novice to do within XMetal2, the software Special Collections uses for creating finding aids. Fortunately, Caryn had supplied us with a template to use. The way it worked, when I wanted to see how a changed looked in HTML, I needed to key in a line of code within the DOS prompt to translate the file, then open a browser, and open the correct EAD file within the browser. Recently, I saw someone processing archives using the Archivists' Toolkit, which looked much easier to use and more straightforward. However, I do not have extensive knowledge of the software, and would like to learn how to use it.

Additionally, changes to the style sheet could only be made by Caryn and a limited number of others with access to it. When Michael and I considered offering more images with the finding aid, this option could only be handled through the style sheet, which was not available to us. Because Caryn had already been very generous with her time on this project, we decided not to tax her full schedule further by requesting a change in the style sheet that would offer multiple images with the finding aid. Michael's journal article will, in fact, contain links to all the images available for the collection. So, the images will be available online to those who wish to see more.

My first recommendation is that Rutgers should catalog its artists' books in order to make them more accessible within the online library catalog. This also may be done by creating a collection-level record that links to the finding aid we created. I suggest that this be given as a semester project to an MLIS student interested in cataloging non-standard items.

It is important to keep the newly housed artists' books safe, therefore my second recommendation is to find adequate storage space for the Suellen Glashausser collection within the larger archival collection. I also would recommend cataloging, photographing/scanning, and creating appropriate housing for the other artists' books in the library's possession. Because the conservators have been especially conscious about housing the Glashausser collection, I would suggest that they train an MLIS student interested in conservation in housing these unique and fragile items.

Because there may be many other resources the library could digitize and offer for viewing online, I recommend the library upgrade to a system that could house both the images as well as the catalog records (perhaps CONTENTdm). It would make digitizing collections more seamless than our project's steps (putting images on one server, creating the finding aid on another, and a not-as-yet-written collection-level record in the catalog on still another server).

Finally, I recommend creating a collection number for the finding aid so that it can be released for public use. Because that element is the only outstanding portion of the finding aid to be completed, it should be added so that we can accomplish our goal of making the collection accessible to a much greater audience.

To that end, I include this link so that you can see the finding aid prior to it's being formally "released." The only change (other than a possible photo for the last book) will be that collection number.

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