Friday, 24 May 2013

Week 48: Magazine, Schmagazine....

In my 36th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I finished sorting the Black LGBTQ Papers, tinkered with Google Drive, and worked on the magazine inventory.

Last week, Jerome spent a few hours sorting the last box of LGBTQ materials. Since the Black LGBTQ Collection has been identified as one of our priority collections, I decided to come in on Monday to file the last of what Jerome had sorted. The next steps are to enter the folder names into a container list and finish filling in the finding aid. These tasks are much less subjective and I’m planning to delegate to any volunteer who is available, barring any objections with the content.

I was very impressed with our volunteers this week that came in to the museum this week with every intention of using Google Drive. I had uploaded most of the content for Dr. Clayton’s Collection of African American History and Culture, and created folders for the other 38 collections in the institution. I assumed that I could share the documents with volunteers who had Google accounts and they could log in and edit, however I learned that there are some subtle difference between Google Docs and Google Drive. Google Drive is the cloud that can hold all files in all formats, Google Docs is the application that allows you to create and edit the documents. When I uploaded an excel document to Google Drive, I had to open it with Google Sheets in order to edit it, and only the owner of the document could make changes that would save. I think that I have to share the documents while I am in Google Docs in order for others to make changes that would save. I also had to bring in my wireless device to be sure that volunteers could access the internet anywhere in the building where they would be working on the collection. This week I had everyone logged into the museum’s account so that the changes would save, I plan to work out the “share” features in the days ahead. In the meantime, it is good to see everyone’s progress from my office and have consistent file names which provide a clear indicator of which inventories are missing from the collection.

The serials series in Dr. Clayton’s collection has been something that I have approached with reluctance. In the past, the staff has recorded magazine inventories with X’s and O’s as well as entering month and year for each item. I also know that there are random drop offs in the magazine room that have been filed without respect to provenance. Lastly, there have been several attempts to label boxes that have resulted in a variety of alpha and numeric tags. One of our interns, Erick, from San Jose State University did his best to make sense of the magazine room, but last Saturday was his last day working with us. I feel like we have the majority of the information that we need, the problem is that it is scattered across six or seven documents. Through all of my cutting and pasting, as well as sorting I have about 8,000 rows in the excel document. I plan to do some spot checking and re-labeling of boxes in the week ahead, but this is definitely a task that is not appropriate for the faint of heart. 

Week 47: Preparing for Departure

In my 35th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I went in on Sunday, and trained two groups of volunteers on collections processing.

As time is ticking for this fellowship, I feel the need to spend as much time as possible working in my processing space for Mayme’s Papers. A couple of weeks ago, I had sorted out the materials that belonged in other series of Mayme’s collection. I came in on Sunday to get a jump on the inventory for these disparate series. Although the material types indicate a need for these items to be integrated into other areas of the collection, finding those inventories and adding these new pieces is proving to be more complicated than one might think. For example, there are five different files titled “complete” magazine inventory. The photographs need more sleeves than we have available right now. The visual art materials are scattered throughout the museum and the inventories mix Mayme’s materials with an art collection that we have on deposit. It would behoove me as well as the museum to sort out these inventories before I put “new” materials in the queue. Just in case I run out of time, I want to have a record of what I found in Mayme’s Papers and where I think it belongs within the collection. At the same time, I am performing some quality control on the container list that is being created for the boxes that represent my work with Mayme’s Papers.

Early in the week, the donor of our Black LGBTQ collection, Jerome, brought in two volunteers to help with the sorting and filing of his materials. Larry had encouraged me to let other people help with the sorting but I was really afraid that they would misinterpret the categories and ruin everything. I have so many other things going on, that I was forced to take his advice and to my surprise, the sky did not fall. The group caught on quickly, and after 2.5 hours, one large full box was completely filed, with small “question” pile that I addressed without any problems. In keeping with the vein of managing projects rather than spending all of my time “in the trenches”, Cara, Larry and I decided to put together a volunteer training program, for Saturday. In our planning meeting, I was asked to talk about our finding aid formats, and how we were going to process collections from now on. My biggest challenge was trying to get my points across without using archival words and acronyms that would be unfamiliar to the audience of volunteers. For my portion of the training, I decided to “begin with the end in mind” and show them the Online Archive of California. I demonstrated how powerful of a tool that this platform could be by searching for primary documents in the entire state of California about “Black Talkies on Parade”, which has been a community staple for over 30 years, and there was only one hit. I searched for female aviators and there was nothing about Marie Coker Dickerson. These are strengths of our collection and no one knows that they are here.

I explained how this service was free and easy to adopt, we just need to generate our content in a format that conforms to industry standards. I showed them our accession chart that has identified all of our collections and explained how the inventories are a great start; but only provide a portion of the necessary information about a collection. I pulled up the new Google Drive account and explained that there should only be two, sometimes three files in each collection’s folder; a finding aid, a container list, and sometimes an organizational schema. I handed out a glossary of finding aid terms and we went around the room reading them aloud while I answered questions and provided context. I used the example of a clothing collection to get them to think about how organizational schemas could be created. A pile of clothes could be separated according to color, season, utility, size, designers, etc. The only requirements were that the organization had to reflect original order, and be as objective as possible; I gave candy to anyone who came up with an idea of how to sort a clothing collection. Larry talked to a group about the best practices for giving tours within the museum. He used my biographical note on Dr. Clayton to give the volunteers a more accurate description of who she was when they were walking visitors through the “Remembering WSBREC” exhibit. He also handed out a biography on Jacob Lawrence and shared some contextual information on the Toussaint L’Overture, Hiroshima, Great Migration, and Genesis series pieces that we currently have on display.

Lastly, Larry had me walk the volunteers through the Audio Assault exhibit in the hallway.  The imagery of the Black Power Movement from the 1965 riots in Watts to the Wattstax concert at the LA Coliseum in 1972 is pretty obvious, but there were a few details that I was able to point out. I explained why Dick Gregory and James Baldwin were included. I shared what the Roses and Revolutions album was about. I also talked about how music was grouped at the end, and the details of the album artwork that represent black power themes of self-determination, pride in heritage and uplifting of community. At the end of the training, most of the volunteers commented on how well organized and informative the training session was; and how they hope that I am able to keep working with the museum after the fellowship. The entire experience was very rewarding for me, because I have worked very hard to show the staff, our volunteers and any visitors that making MCLM a major resource for researchers is not beyond our reach. Dr. Clayton did most of the work for us, we just have to keep working in a consistent and strategic manner and let the technology buoy us to the next level.

Week 46: "Corner Boy" Boon

In my 34th week at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, I welcomed one of our new interns, drafted a deposit agreement, and helped with the Leimert Park Program at the museum.

Back in March, Larry and I interviewed three candidates for internship positions. On account of unexpected expenditures, we could only hire two and we changed the time frame from 12 weeks to 8 weeks. Both candidates agreed to the new terms and we are happy to welcome a public programs intern (Laura) and a public relations intern (Susan) to our staff. Although Laura’s job description does not involve collection processing, I was asked to show her around the museum and introduce her to some of the tasks that our volunteers perform. I set her down with a stack of Mayme’s papers to organize, and I was surprised at her reaction. The dust was wreaking havoc on her allergies, the room was too cold, and multiple dead spiders were more than she could take. I commend her for finishing the task, and I am glad that her normal responsibilities will be better suited to her disposition and environmental requirements. I never thought of myself as one who could do the “dirty” work but seeing as how the grime never bothered me, maybe there is job security somewhere among those dusty papers.

A good friend of MCLM is Ian Foxx, a local photographer. Ian had the personal papers of the author, Herbert A. Simmons, an American author and editor. Ian and Herbert became friends when Herbert hired Ian to take pictures for his newspaper in Detroit, back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. Fast forward to 2013, Herbert has passed away and Ian wants MCLM to archive the papers of his old friend. The terms of this accession were not clear to me at first, but another conversation with Ian and Larry cleared it up. The papers would be on deposit with the museum, and Ian would retain the copyright and could remove them at his discretion. The Black L.G.B.T.Q. collection is at MCLM under similar circumstances. When Ian came in to sign his paperwork, he told me more about Herbert A. Simmons. Simmons was one of several black novelists from the middle of the 20th century who were known around the world for their portrayals of the black experience in America. Simmons’ peers include Chester Himes and Richard Wright. The Simmons’ collection is primarily comprised of materials from his novel Corner Boy, about the drug problems in black communities, which was also made into a script and formed the basis of the show, The Wire. I’m looking 
forward to processing this collection and reading more about Mr. Simmons.

On Saturday, the monthly “Black Talkies on Parade” series featured a documentary about Leimert Park Village, a community of artists in Los Angeles. Lloyd Clayton had orchestrated an event that included historic photographs on display in the hallway, and a panel discussion including the film’s director and the author of a local history book about Leimert Park. We had over 150 people in our great room for this event. Our volunteers also turned out in high numbers; greeting guests at the door, checking them in, and answering any questions about the museum. My biggest contribution was probably cutting the fruit, cheese, and vegetables for the light refreshments table.  

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Professional Development Call: Gretchen Gueguen

Professional Development Call: Ms. Gretchen Gueguen

Professional Development Call: April 25, 2013
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (University of Virginia) – Charlottesville, VA

Ms. Gueguen earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Anthropology from Pennsylvania State University.  After graduation, she worked at an engineering consulting firm. She did not have any library experience until her job as a graduate assistant at the University of Maryland, in their Digital Humanities department. This experience led to her first professional appointment as a Digital Collections Librarian at the University of Maryland.

University of Maryland
Gueguen’s main tasks at the University of Maryland included coordinating projects across multiple departments, building the digital repository and digitizing pieces from the Special Collections. Other skills that she picked up involved project management, coordinating people, and communicating across departments. One challenge that she encountered was managing expectations, for example, what the Special Collections thought should be digitized did not always mesh with the digitization work flows.

East Carolina University
In 2008, Gueguen accepted a position as the Digital Initiatives Librarian at East Carolina University. This position was more about organizing born digital records and integrating the department with other units on campus than building a digital library. Gueguen published and encoded finding aids while working at ECU. She also worked on their institutional repository, searching across platform capabilities and the 300,000 pages of government documents that came through the library each year.

University of Virginia
Since 2011, Ms. Gueguen has worked in Charlottesville, Virginia as the Digital Archivist at the Albert Shirley Small Special Collection Library at the University of Virginia. She works with exclusively digital collections as well as hybrid (paper and digital materials) collections. Gueguen strives to use sound archival principals and look at digital materials in a broader perspective. She is a part of an international team that is working on a white paper which will discuss how archivists can use burgeoning software to arrange, describe, and provide access to born digital material.

Career Advice
Ms. Gueguen was very generous in sharing the wisdom of her experience in the field of archives. She encouraged us to think of digital archives as a continuum of analog archives, as opposed to something completely foreign. Archivists will need to become familiar with all kinds of metadata standards, such as MARC, EAD, METS, and MODS. Regardless of how archivists feel about digital collections, the reality is that the amount of digital materials is going to dwarf the amount of paper materials very soon, and archivists are going to need to know how to speak intelligently to technologists. We should also consider our users in this move toward digitization; having materials available online has become the norm.

Staying Competitive
The good news about all of these technological advances is that archivists have ample opportunities to increase our knowledge base. There are webinars that explain how web harvesting and web archiving work, or the basis of computer scripts. Ms. Gueguen encouraged us to learn what computational synching is, and become familiar with XSLT, ArchiveSpace, and Archivist Toolkit. Social media is still a critical skill set, especially website design and blogging. There is no better way to get familiar with these technologies than to practice and get involved in the professional communities. She recommended taking an introduction to Computer Science class, checking out free coursework from Harvard University, learning through the Code Academy (CSS, Python, Java, and Ruby) or building a dynamic website for your own branding.

Ms. Gueguen expressed that there are plenty of challenges in her current position. She stressed the importance of communication and collaboration while working on a team, many of her projects have diverse stakeholders that need to have their perspectives considered. In terms of the digital environment, there are challenges related to storage, data migration and antiquated technologies. She has to do some cost benefit analysis when approaching certain collections because the time and monetary costs of accessing the information could outweigh the collection’s value to the institution. In some cases, her institution has asked the donor for additional funds for the staff to get through those materials.