Friday, 26 September 2014

Article Review: The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the Mid-Twentieth Century American South

Article Review: The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the Mid-Twentieth-Century American South
Author: Alex H. Poole
Publication: American Archivist, Volume 77, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2014, (23-63)

Alex Poole wrote this article in an attempt to describe the “agency and power wielded by archival professionals ”in the writing of history and the implicit fact that the archives are never a neutral space. Poole indicts a generation of archivists for failing to reach out to diverse users and holds them accountable for often exclusive record-collecting and record keeping practices. The title of the article comes from C. Vann Woodward’s 1955 book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, where Woodward describes how the impact of segregation is better understood through the lens of an average person than the laws, themselves.

In the early 20th century, the challenge to African American historians, all six of them nationally by 1935, was two fold; accessing primary sources in segregated facilities, and interpreting the history of African Americans from the South (in materials where they were not authentically represented) beyond the “happy slave” and the "lazy freedman". From a political perspective, there was no way that African Americans could be full citizens if they could not participate in or access the archives.Poole describes the experiences of historians, John Hope Franklin, Luther Porter Jackson, Helen G. Edmonds, and Lawrence Dunbar Reddick to explain his point. Jim Crow reared his ugly head, when archival materials pertaining to African American people were vandalized or removed, African American scholars were only allowed to enter the reading room when the white scholars were finished, Ms. Edmonds was sent to the Morehead Planetarium, across campus, to use the restroom.In some cases, students would have to work subversively with the janitors to get access to materials.

Poole analyzes the actions and declarations of several large history and archival professional organizations (SHA, ALA, SAA, MVHA) to demonstrate how they implicitly condoned segregation through annual meetings in segregated cities or keeping silent about the issue in various instances. In North Carolina specifically, segregation in the state library was legal; which insulated archivists from “confronting moral choices”. Archivists at UNC were further empowered to design their own criteria for “valid” reasons and sufficient evidence for African Americans to provide in order to use the stacks. Poole describes a long list of UNC administrative and library leaders, throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, who would sweep the issue of segregation under the rug in attempts at "civility" and maintaining the status quo, even when the African American patrons did their research without incident.

The Women’s College in Greensboro had a different trajectory; a progressive librarian (Charles M. Adams) went against a more conservative chancellor (Edward Kidder Graham Jr.) when he allowed an African American student to walk through the front door of the library. Under pressure from the Board of Trustees, Adams had to explain that there were very few African Americans who used the library and they were all “professionally minded” in addition, when the library at NC A&T was complete, there would be even less. Armed with similar reports from other North Carolina university libraries,the board agreed that library use by African Americans was sufficiently restricted. By 1955, with the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education, many UNC leaders were surprised and indignant; subsequently vacating their positions or moving toward integration at the pace of molasses, which of course enabled de-facto segregation.

Overall, Poole makes a provocative case about the sins of our (archival) fathers; and gives us a proverbial gut check about acceptable behavior of our times. Are there ways that we can correct errors from the past? How can we be more conscientious and aware today, to ensure that we are remembered on the right side of history? As one of the newest members of the curatorial staff at Southern Historical Collection, an African American woman, and an archivist who believes in our social justice mandate; this article was especially relevant to me. The sheer fact that my training in grassroots archives has become an asset to a department that has been historically run by major figures in the academy, indicates the distance that we have traveled. Thank you Mr. Poole for using archives, to tell a story about archives, a story that keeps me searching for all of those missing pieces.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Society of California Archivists Annual Meeting (2014)

Archives and the Public
Society of California Archivists – 2014 Annual General Meeting
Palm Springs, CA – May 8-10, 2014

Plenary Address: Alan Hess, Form Follows Pleasure: Modern Architecture and the Palm Springs School

Hess’ remarks about Palm Springs architecture reflect the recent interest in how these architects response to the climate, nature, technology, and culture of the Southern California desert. There is a huge preservation effort taking place in Palm Springs, they are leading the nation in this type of work. Palm Springs School is a set of ideas and theories that unite Palm Springs architects. Examples of these ideas include the sun screens over windows, building at the base of a mountain to provide shade, lifting houses up to provide livable shade underneath, and suburban layouts to increase green space. The location near Hollywood and the persistent sunshine helped create a culture of pleasure where resorts were abundantly developed and many homes had swimming pools and other recreational features. The Palm Spring School also included Googie Architecture which captured the energy of the futuristic technology and made it available for everyone in the style of space age restaurants and gas stations. Some famous Palm Springs architects include Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. (Oasis Hotel), Paul R. Williams (Lucy & Desi House and Town & Country Building), Newberg, Wexler, and Fray.
Session 1: The Access Tightrope: Balancing Access with Privacy

This session started with Mallory Furnier from the Autry National Center who discussed her work on the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans collection, followed by her experiences with the David Dortort collection. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were stars of radio and television during the 1940’s and 1950’s and developed quite a fan following. Their archives include letters and photographs from children with terminal illnesses which present access questions related to HIPPA, rights of children, and third party donors. Mallory and her staff evaluated these concerns pragmatically and determined that the collection was a low privacy risk, and that they would continue to track researchers, who use the collection, place a 72 year restriction on any publications, censor names, addresses, and treatment plans.  For the materials donated by the family of David Dortort, the creator of Bonanza, the archivist received a warning from the family that some of the materials were sensitive. After reviewing the collection and discovering intimate revelations from fans, Mallory agreed with the donor’s assessment and because the records were as recent as 2002, deemed the collection a high privacy risk. The sensitive materials in the Dortort collection have a 50 year publication restriction which is noted in the catalog record, and the actual materials are flagged so that staff will remember when items are pulled for a researcher.

The second presenter from the Autry National Center was Charlie Holland, a senior archival assistant, working exclusively on her late friend, Theo Westenberger’s photograph collection. The Westenberger archive includes close to 10,000 photographic prints along with thousands of negatives, transparencies, contact sheets, and studio materials. All of Charlie’s concerns revolve around very legitimate apprehensions about the digitization, uploading, social media and licensing uses of the collection. These concerns are exacerbated with these materials because many of the images feature celebrities, whose lawyers will fight for unauthorized uses of their likeness; or other less famous models or children who (or guardians who) never signed release forms for the use of their likeness. Charlie shared several resources with the audience that she uses to help mitigate the risk of sharing images unlawfully. She has worked with the Autry to develop a risk assessment policy which requires archivists to ask questions about the image, such as: Is the subject shown in a false light or maliciously? From the image, can the person’s identity be determined? Are these people in a naturally occurring crowd? The Getty Institute has model release forms that archivists can use retroactively to protect themselves from future litigation. Charlie has thoroughly read the terms of use agreements for various social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and; all of which indemnify the agency from any persecution if images from their sites are stolen and misappropriated by the social media platform. They are not a safe place for images that are protected under copyright and commercially valuable, such as the work of Theo Westenberger.

Charlie mentioned iconic images of Audrey Hepburn and Che Guevara that have been re-produced unlawfully in so many contexts that litigation would be futile. To ensure that this fate does not befall on any of the Westenberger images, she monitors the photo materials used by researchers and checks the image searching website frequently.

The third presenter was Michael Oliveira from ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California. His talk focused on balancing the needs for access as described in the Freedom of Information Act, and privacy in terms of third party donors. The presentation was full of anecdotal stories from patrons and donors, with an extended discussion of the accession of various photographic collections; the Miles R.Everitt Collection, full of African American subjects and the William Rhoads Collection which features nudes of hitchhikers from the Pacific Coast Highway. In conclusion, Oliveira encouraged the audience to ask donors about any privacy concerns before accessioning new collections. He also cited information from the Harvard Institutional Review Board forms to help archivists determine if incoming materials are appropriate for our repositories.

Session 4: Technology and Archives: Exchange Forum – Programmer and Archivist Collaboration

This was an interesting session because it brought the perspective of computer programmers to an archives conference. Although most of the information was too technical for my experience at small community archives, I felt that there was a substantial amount of information that would serve me well as my career progressed. The first set of speakers was Kim Klausner and Sven Maier from University of California at San Francisco. Klausner and Mair work with the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library where they provide a resource portal to 14 million documents related to the tobacco industry. They use SLR, Blacklight, Grails, and HTML 5 to build their own software to search and display content from various sites. They faced challenges with communication gaps between the archivists and the team of programmers. The team wound up using a wiki, and Redmine (a project management tool) to improve communication between the two camps.

The second pair of presenters was Cristela Garcia-Spitz and Matt Critchlow from the University of California at San Diego Library. Their presentation focused on the basic strategy that the library team was using to complete multiple digitization projects. They employ a team approach, and plug their steps in Confluence (JIRA environment), a proprietary project management tool. The teams are composed of a collections group, a reformatting group, a metadata policy group, a digital library products group, and steering committees. The project leaders would use several techniques to engage their teams in the work, for example they might define sustainable chunks of work and use “sprints” or two week sessions to work on that chunk exclusively in order to finish the project or host a DigiCamp where every stakeholder is invited to a session to discuss a common issue. The presenters explained that a three step process with assigned role players could be tracked with three columns of post-it notes if the formalized software was not available.

Session 8: What the Hell Is It and What Do I Do With it? Cataloging Challenging Collections

This session started with Natalie Russell from the Huntington Library, discussing the recent publication of the Octavia E. Butler (1933-2006) Papers finding aid. Ms. Butler was an accomplished African American female science fiction writer; she lived in Altadena, California and bequeathed her collection to the Huntington upon her death. Natalie has been working on these materials for the past three years, resulting in a 500 page finding aid, 3 pages of cataloger’s notes, and 250 upright Hollinger boxes as well as countless flat file boxes, index card boxes, specialty sleeves kept in binders. As a result of the researcher demand for access to these materials (40 people on a waiting list) the Huntington processing staff decided to process the collection at the item level. The presentation became exhausting as Natalie shared photograph after photograph of notebooks, business cards, floppy disks, news clippings, binders of correspondence, photographs from a complicated writer’s mind. I think that Natalie’s effort to read all of Octavia’s writings and biographical information helped her to make sound decisions with cross referencing and cataloging the collection items. This is a good example of how Octavia Butler’s impressive career and the seemingly boundless resources of the Huntington Library converged to enable the collection to be processed this way; the sheer cost of archival supplies and the allocation of staff time make this project out of the range of most archives.  

Rand Boyd from Chapman University discussed his challenges with the Huell Howser California Gold Archive. The collection includes 5,000 digi-beta tapes, 1,800 books, 50 boxes of program research files, and 7 boxes of personal papers, the furniture from Mr. Howser’s home and office, as well as a memorabilia collection. The archivist ran into challenges on account of the multiple formats of the collection materials and because of the complicated celebrity status of Huell Howser. The program tapes were in antiquated formats and not properly labeled which forced the archival team to watch each tape in order to match raw footage with air footage and shelf the tapes accordingly. While Huell Howser was alive, he presided over the archive with his signature micro-management style, but when he died unexpectedly in 2013; Rand wanted to respect Howser’s personal preference toward privacy in regard to his personal life. When AAA agreed to fund a permanent exhibit dedicated to Huell Howser, Rand’s work with Howser’s personal papers allowed them to include photographs and a rare glimpse into the early career of Huell Howser.

Charlotte Thai from Stanford University gave an interesting presentation about her work with the Stephen M. Cabrinety collection. Due to grants from the National Software Reference Library (NSRL) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Charlotte is archiving pieces of hardware and software (many of them unopened) to document the history of micro-computing. The processing workflow is complicated as Charlotte performs item level cataloging for the Stanford Digital Library, and ships the items to NIST in Maryland for them to be imaged, scanned, and included in the national database; then NIST sends the items back to Palo Alto. On account of the project’s reliance on the federal government and traveling by truck across the country, phenomena like a dysfunctional government leading to shutdowns and extreme weather patterns like last winter’s polar vortex have serious implications for the Cabirnety project. Charlotte coordinates the logistics of this process and has to deal with any unexpected cataloging challenges. For example, she has come across software packages that have mold underneath the shrink wrap (ultimately de-accessioned that item); breath mints in the collection which were removed; and over 5000 file name extensions to account for in the catalog record. Another unique problem for this collection is the absence of information about the copyright owner of these video games and software programs from the 1970’s and 1980’s; many of the owners are living but they are difficult to track down.
Session 11: LA as Subject Considered

Jim Beardsley from the Archival Center of the Archdioceseof Los Angeles started the session off by providing a summary of the mission and history of LA as Subject (LAAS). LAAS has between 280 and 300 members and serves as a portal, directory, and resource on the history and culture of Los Angeles. The group started in the 1990’s with major support from Robert Marshall of California State University at Northridge. The group has grown tremendously with the success of the annual Archives Bazaar, and meetings every two months to discuss archives among the members. The next speaker, Claude Zachary, the University archivist at University of Southern California (USC), shared that after five years of being hosted by the Getty, LAAS moved over to USC, where it currently resides. The LAAS website provides an online directory (database) of member institutions, links to their websites and allows for keyword and subject searches. LAAS also provides professional development opportunities for local archivists and opportunities to network with one another.

Ellen Jarosz, an archivist from California StateUniversity at Northridge (CSUN) was the next speaker and she spoke exclusively about the brand new residency program for recent MLIS graduates. The program is anchored by the Autry Center, USC, and CSUN and draws on their rich alliances with members of LAAS. Each year three recent graduates will be assigned to an anchor institution, and rotate through various smaller archive organizations to develop and execute various projects. The residencies last for one year, and the $440,000 grant from IMLS ensures that the program will be funded for at least two cohorts. The residents will be given tasks and assessed based on SAA professional standards with the goal of achieving permanent employment from one of the associated institutions. The residency program was designed based on the study of programs such as Circle of Learning, Mosaic programs, Catalyst Project, the Library of Congress Digital Stewardship and the HistoryMakers Fellowship Program.

Lastly, Ken Bicknell from the Los Angeles CountyMetropolitan Transportation Authority Library and Archive, a member of the LAAS board discussed the diverse users and contributors to LAAS as well as upcoming projects and initiatives that the group was throwing its weight behind. In recent meetings, “TalkShop” sessions have included sustainable social media, digital asset management, and HistoryPin. LAAS is also interested in Wikipedia edit-a-thons, and in the process of planning for this year’s Archives Bazaar on October 25, 2014. Bicknell also praised USC Digital Library for assisting smaller members with content publication, Occidental College for starting the Northeast Los Angeles History Project, and Nathan Masters for using LAAS content for his weekly contributions to Los Angeles Magazine. In conclusion, Bicknell said in reference to LAAS, “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

Arabian Nights in the American Desert: The Cultivation of Middle Eastern Fantasies in California’s Coachella Valley

The lunch time speaker at SCA was, Sarah McCormackSeekatz, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of California at Riverside talked about the historic, kitschy, and problematic nature of the Arabian-zation of the Coachella Valley. Sarah was so clever as she passed out little packages of varied dates and had the audience taste them throughout her talk to emphasize different points. The Coachella Valley was full of native people until the late 1800’s when the railroad arrived. Based on the climate, the United States Department of Agriculture sent people abroad to find new varieties of fruits and vegetables. In other words there was a planned introduction of dates to the desert. On account of their success and the nation’s new obsession with all things from the Middle East, local towns were given exotic names like Mecca, and they developed local attractions with Middle Eastern themes. Films like Lawrence of Arabia, Thief of Baghdad, Queen of Sheba, and The Sheik also contributed to the craze. The “orientalization” of high school mascots, movie theaters, date festivals, architecture, camel races, and parades was full of fallacies and highly problematic for people who came from the region. Sarah’s use of archival images brought validity to otherwise absurd stories about behavior that those communities thought was acceptable. Overall the talk was enlightening, engaging, and informative.    

Monday, 12 May 2014

Smithsonian Institution Presentation

History of America in 101 Objects
Smithsonian Institution Presentation at Los Angeles Public Library
May 7, 2014

Last Wednesday night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending a Smithsonian Institution event at the downtown central branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. The program consisted of Henry Winkler, the actor who played Arthur Fonzarelli on television’s Happy Days, and Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, discussing Kurin’s new book, History of America in 101 Objects. Winkler chose several objects, projected them on the screen and Kurin did a masterful job of explaining why that particular object was included in the book. Kurin showcased two, three-dimensional replicas from the book (child sized slave shackles from the Middle Passage and Abraham Lincoln’s hat) to demonstrate how the Smithsonian is enabling teachers to bring history alive in their classrooms.  I learned so much about the breadth of the Smithsonian’s holdings as a result of this presentation. The original oversized and tattered star spangled banner, from 1814, which was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s lyrics in the national anthem, is there. For California history, they have the first tiny gold flake from Sutter’s Mill in 1848, which marked the beginning of the westward expansion in America. Did you know that Dorothy’s ruby red slippers were supposed to be silver, but filmmakers changed it to red just because of the brand new Technicolor cameras? Those slippers are at the Smithsonian. They also have an eight foot section of the Greensboro lunch counter, Cesar Chavez’s union jacket, pieces of the AIDS memorial quilt, and the Hope Diamond. Kurin shared that the Smithsonian receives 800 million dollars from the government each year, and is responsible for raising 500 million each year. They serve over 30 million people each year at their museums in Washington, D.C.; in fact Kurin used foot traffic as measured by the worn out carpet throughout the museum when choosing which items to include in the book. The task of preserving America’s history can be large and overwhelming at times, it is incredibly important for curators, researchers, and archivists to help us apply context and draw meaning from a discrete group of artifacts.      

Monday, 21 April 2014

Library of Congress Images Webinar

Diving Deep into Pictures at the Library of Congress
American Society of Picture Professionals Webinar
April 8, 2014

This webinar was prepared by Helena Zinkham, a staff member from the Library on Congress’ Prints and Photographs Division. Ms. Zinkham started her presentation with a brief summary of the mission and highlights of the Library of Congress’ photograph collections. They hope that photographers will use the collection for creative inspiration, to see changes over time, and learn from master photographers.  There are over 15 million items in the print and photograph division including cartoon, drawings, posters and items created domestically and internationally. One surprising fact that Ms. Zinkham shared is that there are 950,000 copyright free images in the Library of Congress! If you type “no known restrictions” after your search terms, the rights free images will pop up. If the rights to an image are undetermined, they will only post a thumbnail of the image to inhibit use by the general public. Users can easily search the database by keyword; but be advised that exact phrases cannot be found with quotes, you have to click the advanced search option. The Library of Congress has created several points of entry to their collections including the Guide Records link to search collections by creator, subject, or format. You can also bookmark a record, saving the URL and easily returning to it on a later date.

Some of the subjects that the Prints and Photographs Division is best known for include Civil War, News Photography, Great Depression, World War II, American Architecture, Landmark and Vernacular Structures, and Baseball. Their most popular collections include CQ/Roll Call, Toni Frissell, Art Wood Cartoons, US News and World Reports, and New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper. For the Audio Assault exhibit at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, we found quite a few images of civil rights protests in the New York World Telegram and Sun Newspaper collection. When I lived in Phoenix in 2011, I was able to visit the Anne Bonfoey Taylor Fashion exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum; I had no idea that the photographs were rights free from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is constantly adding new digital content to their database, and users can influence this process and access un-digitized materials, if they are doing research in person or are able to hire a Washington D.C. based researcher. With the exception of nitrate negatives, which are stored off-site and only retrieved once per month, there is a two week turnaround for digitization requests in the Duplication Services department.  

To discover more images from the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions; researchers have a number of options. The Flickr Commons features 1.25 million photographs from 82 different libraries, archives, and museums. The Library of Congress hosts two blogs, Picture This, and The Signal; and other resources to help users obtain lawful access and use of collection materials.

Monday, 7 April 2014

LIB 122: Week 11-12 (April 1, 2014)

In class this week, our guest lecturer was Nancy Steinman, an assistant archivist at Mount St. Mary’s College, working on her MILS from San Jose State University, with 20 years of computer programming experience. Nancy talked to us about the origins of XML, the symbols and rules of well-formed XML, and we practiced writing in XML and exporting our Content DM collections into XML. Nancy reiterated how simple and elegant XML can be throughout her presentation; which is true, but my mind went back to countless hours in Oxygen trying to incorporate series, boxes and folders in c01, c02, or c03 levels, with straight quotes, in order to get my XML to validate. It is definitely a concept that requires a great deal of practice to master. One concept that Nancy mentioned which I’ve seen on my Twitter feed from other archivists but have not acquired any direct experience is TEI, or Text Encoding Initiative. TEI is very popular strategy within Digital Humanities, using computers to perform content analysis. I appreciate the way that she mentioned TEI and XML in the same discussion because they share the theme of tags as a layer of information on top of a data. Tags can be formulated to indicate whatever is meaningful to the user, in the case of EAD, unittitle or bioghist, for TEI, it could be couplets or word counts. Nancy concluded with several websites that we could consult if we had more questions; and w3schools (XML tutorials).    

Sunday, 6 April 2014

LIB 122: Week 9-10 (March 18, 2014)

In our first class after Spring Break, we talked about description in museum culture and the evolution of VRA. Linda started off with a reminder that museums do not have a long standing tradition of exchanging data nor a standard in resource description. This is why the implementation of CDWA, or Categories of the Description of Works of Art (with its 512 categories and sub-categories) was such an important set of guidelines for these institutions. CDWA morphed into CDWA Lite (35 categories and subcategories) which included a data standard, Cataloging Cultural Objects, and XML encoding.  The next step in metadata schemas for museum objects was VRA which looks a lot like Dublin Core. VRA relies heavily on the one to one principal, differentiating between the record of an original work and the various derivatives of it. We also discussed some of the differences between VRA 3.0 and VRA 4.0, although most systems have only adopted VRA 3.0 at this point. Our in class assignment required us to take pictures of art works from around the Shatford Library and describe them using VRA categories. Our assignment was twofold because we created tables in Microsoft Office Word to describe the “work” and created records in ContentDM (Project Client) to describe the image of the art. VRA has now joined Dublin Core, MODS, and EAD in m y repertoire of metadata schemas; it’s like learning new languages, very exciting. At our professor’s request, class the following week was cancelled; we will be making up the lessons in the weeks ahead.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chapter Review: Interviews

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 10: Interviews

This chapter describes types of job interviews and advice on how to get through one successfully.

Take-away Points:
Interviews are inherently stressful, but applicants should take confidence in the fact that they beat out many other applicants to make it to this point. When a search committee sends you a list of potential interview times do you best to choose one, it would be easier to manipulate your schedule than to ask them to manipulate the schedules of four or five people. While it is smart to have some notes available during a phone interview, don’t write a script; it’s important that the conversation flows and does not feel forced. Even if the interviewer does not ask directly, have your “describe a time when…” questions prepared. Feel free to have questions prepared from your interpretation of the job description. It is okay to ask if you answered the question completely, or if they can repeat the question. It is a good idea to pause before answering a question in order to compose yourself; during a panel situation start off looking at the person who asked the question, after the first sentence look at the rest of the panel. Always remember that even during day long interviews, nothing is off the record. You should endeavor to be warm and personable yet professional and respectful. When interviewing at a place where you would be the only librarian, keep library jargon and acronyms to a minimum. There is no way that you can be successful without doing background research, it will help you ask better questions and be engaged in subsequent conversations; remember no questions translates to “not interested”. When all else fails, you can ask, “what do you like about working here?” Bring a portfolio with materials to take notes and mints (not gum) to keep you prepared and throughout the interview. Another thing to remember is that you can make up for not having the most experience by being enthusiastic, speaking cogently about topics, and knowing why the job is important.

This chapter mentions Skype as a form of telephone interviewing. Their advice about looking into the camera rather than at the screen would have been helpful when I Skype interviewed with the Houston Public Library. I read a few blogs about Skype interviewing and none mentioned that tip. I was surprised when I read that it is acceptable to send one thank you note to the group who interviewed you. In the past, I had been stressed about remembering everyone’s name, but this tip would take me off of the hook. Also, it is worth it to send a handwritten note, rather than an email. There were a lot of friendly reminders in this chapter about dressing appropriately and being pleasant during the interview. I think this is standard interview advice for any profession.

Chapter Review: Cover Letters

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 9: Cover Letters

This chapter gives advice about how to write a strong cover letter.

Take-away Points:
A cover letter is a bridge between the applicant and the job that she is applying for. The vacancy announcement should be the guide as you write the cover letter. Talk about how your work experience, coursework, research, publications, workshops, conferences, or training would bring value to their organization. Try not to parrot back the exact phrasing from the job posting, but use your experience to demonstrate how you have done what they are asking for. Even if you have not done everything on the list of desired qualifications, do your best to describe your authentic strengths and help the potential employers make the connections between your skills and their needs. Be sure to do some research to determine who to address the letter to and use information about the institution within the letter. Refrain from using “to whom it may concern” because it may appear cold and generic; also avoid a gimmicky or infomercial sounding cover letter. Other tips include writing the position number and how you discovered it in the introduction, and don’t repeat your contact information in the body of the letter. The letter should have a professional (concise and direct) tone and be conservative in format and presentation. In some cases, like re-location you can include personal information such as, “my spouse accepted a position in Minnesota” as a reason you are leaving a position in Arizona. The authors recommend applicants apply in enough time to write the cover letter, allow a couple of days for someone else to read it and review it yourself before the submission. A good gauge for the length of the cover letter is the position level that you are applying for, entry level jobs should be 1-1.5 pages, a library director position might be 3-5 pages.   

I often get stuck on what to include on a cover letter, so this chapter helps me a great deal. Since most employers are swamped with applications, I try to keep the cover letter at one page in length. I feel like I could always do more background research on the institution to incorporate into the cover letter and I hardly ever have someone else go over my letter before submitting it. Perhaps, a nice circle of friends could make ourselves available to each other for the review of our application documents. The biggest reason that this is hard for me is the turnaround time; waiting on someone to respond with feedback could make me miss the application deadline. The advice from this chapter gives me an ideal to strive for, and if I keep striking out doing it my way, an incentive to find a way to do it their way.  

Chapter Review: Resumes

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 8: Resumes

This chapter discusses the components of a strong resume and advice on content and conventions that everyone has to consider.

Take-away Points:
Since every resume has to be tailored for the job that one is applying for, it would be a good idea to create a master resume and pull the relevant information for each unique resume. Applicants should also create a career portfolio of his/her accomplishments for his/her own memory and it could be the basis of future projects. The authors encourage students and new graduates to talk about technology and current theories to make their resumes more appealing.  

Before going to the IE LEADS conference, I thought I had a strong resume because I incorporated a lot of narrative in my resume in order to help potential employers see how my experience was relevant to their requirements. After reading this chapter and talking to a career coach, I understand that the dots need to be connected more subtly. Choosing the relevant information from my master resume is less overwhelming to committees than a paragraph of prose that details why I would be a good fit. 

Chapter Review: How Employers Hire

Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray
Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 6: How Employers Hire

This chapter starts off with some basic information on what happens to your application after you submit it; then it discusses the differences in timing and procedures among various types of libraries and institutions.

Take-away points:
Most employers do not do anything with your application materials until the application deadline has passed. Some employers don’t communicate well, while others are overwhelmed with applicants to respond to everyone. Search committees and hiring directors start with the basic requirements and continue to sift through applicants until they are left with a small number of resumes. Most places will do a telephone interview before inviting an applicant to interview in person. Academic libraries may pay for travel to a long distance applicant and successful applicants could meet with an academic dean or a library director during the notably longer interview process. Public libraries typically hire local applicants and won’t pay travel expenses of out of town applicants, these libraries usually function as a part of city or county departments their processes are standardized. In many cases, the resume will not substitute for an online application, applicants must follow instructions carefully. For school librarians, teaching experience is critical. For federal and state government libraries, positions have to be filled within 80 days of their postings, and all hiring and selection decisions are based on scoring matrices in order to avoid any suspicions of impropriety. In special libraries and non-library environments, applicants must attempt to distinguish him/herself through internships or networks. Lastly, the authors encourage applicants to be resilient in the job search and not take any rejection personally.   


The article compares finding a job to finding a mate, which I think is quite appropriate. We can read all of the job finding and relationship books that are out there but it is probably the chance encounter at an event that leads to the best opportunity. I was surprised that the authors did not mention video chat sites like Skype or Oovoo, as many institutions are using these in lieu of telephone or in-person interviews. I have been on several hiring committees, and believe that the advice that this chapter gives is relevant and accurate  

Speech Review: The Power of Archives: Archivists Values and Value in the Post Modern Age

Speech Review
Title: The Power of Archives: Archivists’ Values and Value in the Post-Modern Age
Author: Mark Greene
Publication:  The American Archivist, Volume 72, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009

In 2008, Mark Greene, then president of the SAA, proposed a set of archives professional values that included professionalism, collectivity, activism, selection, democracy, service, diversity, use and access, history. In 2011, a committee of the SAA adopted the following professional values; access and use, accountability, advocacy, diversity, history and memory, preservation, professionalism, responsible custody, selection, service, and social responsibility.

More descriptions of archival value system, according to Mark Greene:

Professionalism: We should be developing our specialized knowledge (via research and publications). We should also strive to be motivated by our professional mission, rather than rules and obligations.

Collectivity: This principle works on two levels. On one hand, we should continue to focus on aggregates in digital and analog forms in terms of arrangement and description. In another sense, we can work with other library professionals to make a wider variety of materials available for users.

Activism: Greene bundles activism with agency, our role in shaping the historical record, and advocacy, bringing attention to challenges in the archives. When agency and advocacy are in practiced, we can give voice to under-documented individuals.

Democracy: Archives are critical to keeping the government accountable to the governed.

Service: We provide service to our institutions and to society in general. We should also place the needs of our users over the needs of our collections.

Diversity: This can be a tricky value because although it has the power to increase the relevance and access of the archives it can blind us to the negative impact our intervention. Greene focuses on the importance of encouraging diverse individuals to enter the profession and accessioning/processing diverse archival collections.

Use and Access: Greene’s views on access and use included a discussion of electronic records and revised processing methods. Consistent with his ideas of putting the needs of the user above all else, he states that “rights holders’ interest laws” amount to censorship and diminishes access. He believes that HIPPA and FERPA regulations should have time limits. In all questions of access versus privacy, he would error on the side of access.

History: Most people associate archives with historical resources. Our focus on primary sources is the source of historical accountability.

I started this blog entry with a discussion of professional values because Greene asserts that an embrace of our professional values is the key to asserting our power with resource allocators and the general public. It is kind of interesting to think that the American Medical Association was established in 1847, the American Bar Association was founded in 1878, and the Society of American Archivists was founded in 1936. I’m not sure how long it took those groups of lawyers and doctors to establish their core professional values, but I am guessing it was less than 75 years. Greene’s central message in this presidential address is how can we expect other people to value us, if we don’t value ourselves, and by the way, here are some quotes about our challenges and potential solutions (as stated by some of our favorite archives scholars and leaders).

David Gracy:
  • ·       The depth of the problem was demonstrated with he commissioned a survey on how archivists were perceived by resource allocators. Some of the comments included, “roles not worth fighting budget battles for”, “admired but frivolous activity”, “appear as hoarders”
Mark Greene:
  • ·        “We have to demand, cajole, finagle, bargain, collect points, win friends, influence people, whatever it takes to build and exercise power for our programs.”
  • ·        “We wield power by shaping the historical record, providing access to government information, protecting citizen rights, educating young minds, affecting the ways scholars use and interpret repository materials; provide substance for powerful entertainment.”
  • ·        “We can advocate for the archives by creating concise definition of what we are and why we are important, participating in Archives Month, draft press releases to institutions and local media, talk ourselves up with donors and supervisors.”
  • ·        “Too many institutions behave like janitors clearing away the refuse; not selecting at the onset and de-accessioning at the item level. We are scared of throwing away something important.”
  • ·        “We are trained to appraise and select, let’s do it with confidence; it is one of our powers!”
  • ·        “The resonance of the word primary, in the phrase primary source. Primary connotes first, most, important, chief, key, principal, major, and crucial.”
  • ·        “Assigning professional values can be seen as exclusionary, but this could be a good thing. We should endeavor to share our values, not just degrees, records, repositories, affiliation, or function.”
John Fleckner
  • ·        When it comes to expressing our value, we have to move beyond how [we work] to why [we work].
Gerry Ham
  • ·        “If appraisal is so important to archivist, why do we do it so poorly?”
Maynard Brichford
  • ·        “Not all accession materials are worth extraordinary conservation efforts.”
Susan M. Heathfield
  • ·        “Living your values is one of the most powerful tools available to help you lead and influence others.”

Monday, 10 March 2014

LIB 122: Week 8 (March 4, 2014)

In the past, I have only learned about metadata schemas as they were utilized in the particular projects that I was working on, namely EAD. In this course, I am increasingly appreciative of the exposure to the history and functionality of various metadata schemas. The more that I review archives job descriptions and tried to educate myself on the relevance of alphabet soup terms like METS, MODS, EAD, XML, I thought I would need some clever mnemonic device to keep them straight in my mind. Of course no rote memorization technique is better than genuine understanding, which I have come to obtain through learning about the reasons that these standards came into place, who was invested in their success, and which descriptive void it attempts to fill. 

So far we have Dublin Core which was devised to help librarians catalog the internet which explains its broad interpretations. Now, we have MODS which came out of the MARC camp which was full of old school library catalogers, challenged with the advent of shelf ready library in the 1990’s. The intention of MODS is to provide more granularity than Dublin Core, and it has the added bonus requirement of being written in the highly interoperable XML programming language. The 50 elements within MODS, are based on the 900 MARC fields, but they are given intelligible names rather than the three digit numeric codes that only library catalogers are familiar with. Lastly, MODS does not require catalogers to user AACR2, and it supports any controlled vocabulary or thesauri. Our assignment at the end of class was to match up the Dublin Core elements that we had used for our photo project last semester with the MODS elements that we just learned about. I definitely ran into some confusion as the “dc: description” field could be used for both “mods: abstract” or “mods: tableofcontents”. Once again local standards would determine which elements should be used and we could be consistent within our organization.

Next week is Spring Break at Pasadena City College, so I’ll be back to blog on March 18, 2014…. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

LIB 122: Week 6-7 (February 18, 2014)

In class this week, Dan McLaughlin, one of the founders of the Pasadena Digital History Collaborative (PDHC), talked to us about assigning subject headings to photographs. Through my HistoryMakers fellowship, I had been taught to use a given subject heading if at least 20 percent of the oral history was about that subject. I knew that would be hard to apply to a photograph, so I was looking forward to Dan’s thoughts on the assignment of subject headings. The advice that he shared which has stuck with me is, “if someone was looking for an example of “x” from a certain time period, what would “x” be?”. In other words, if there is a faint outline of a bird in the background, birds should not be a subject heading because there is nothing to be learned about birds from that image. Just like the HistoryMakers had to establish some local practices, Dan shared the subject heading handbook that the PDHC uses for consistency when dealing with images that their catalogers come across frequently. One thing that the PDHC encourages that The HistoryMakers did not is the use of a notes field to record any of the relevant findings that a cataloger comes across while performing subject heading research. I understand that this could spiral out of control for super detailed individuals but it does create richer metadata records that enable more contextual linkages over time. Cataloging managers have tough decisions to make when deciding how detailed the records should be throughout a given project. Dan showed us some resources on the Los Angeles and Pasadena Public Library websites that would help us to identify the people, buildings, and businesses in the images that we would be working with on our homework assignment. Both of the images that I worked with had some significant historical context that I was happy to include in the notes field of the record. Thanks to this class, I now know who Baron Michele Leone is!

The following Tuesday, Dan came back to our class to give commentary while everyone took turns showing our assigned images on the projector and sharing how we arrived at our particular choice of LCSH terms. The class seemed to drag on as the same individuals chimed in to give me and my classmates, additional terms to search in the LOC subject authority’s website. Once again the subjectivity of cataloging photographs met with the criteria of the assignment. After four or five terms, I’m ready to move on to the next photograph, but some people seemed intent on staring at an image until they have exhausted all of the possibilities. In conclusion, I would love to be photograph cataloguer with a sensible manager that understands when enough is enough….according to me, J

LIB 122: Week 5 (February 11, 2014)

In class this week, we continued our discussion of Dublin Core metadata elements. We spent a significant amount of time looking at how different institutions manage the “rights” field in their metadata records. Some require users to contact the department to determine terms of access and others use blanket statements about fair use, public domain, and relevant copyright laws. My favorite came from East Carolina University who had a rights statement related to orphan works which essentially asked end users to let them know if a particular image fell under copyright and should be taken down. I liked it because it did not assume that the cataloger was an authority on the content of the digital object, and encouraged the general public to participate in the identification of the origins of the image. Linda went on to help us differentiate between the “type” and “format” elements in Dublin Core. I find that the distinctions are easier to discern if the cataloger has a good grasp on what the record is describing, the analog item or the digital object. For instance, a metadata record for a physical photograph (analog) would have a dc: type value of “image” and a dc: format value of “8x10”; and a metadata record for a scanned photograph (digital) would have a dc: type value of “image”, and a dc: format value of “image/jpeg”. It also helps if I can remember that the DCMI is the controlled vocabulary that populates “type”, while the MIME controlled vocabulary corresponds to “format”. Today’s class also featured discussions on medium, extent, coverage, description, and subject elements. My experience with archives have enabled me to get familiar with Library of Congress subject headings but there are so many more to learn about; I’m looking forward to utilizing the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM), Union List of Artists Names, and Thesaurus for Geographic Names (TGN). Our midterm assignment requires us to select a metadata strategy and identify metadata elements; determine if they will be required, searchable, or hidden, if they should utilize a controlled vocabulary, and what our data entry protocols will be.  

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

LIB 122: Week 4 (February 4, 2014)

In class this week, we had another overview of the Dublin Core metadata schema and discussed at a greater detail, the elements related to intellectual property. Other than its wide application (on account of the flexible field definitions), Dublin Core is important because it is the lowest common mapping element for all metadata schemas; which is critical for harvesting metadata. Most of the content of this week’s lecture was very familiar from my previous archives jobs, and last semester, but several details did help me connect some dots in my understanding. For instance, when a fellow archivist volunteered to enter descriptive metadata about the Black LGBT collection, he asked if we should put the titles of the artifacts in brackets. I said no, because I had not used that convention before, but I learned today that putting “made up titles” in brackets is mandated by AACR2, the data standard for libraries. Linda added that additional brackets in metadata records should be omitted because they can interfere with searching and retrieval. We also discussed qualifiers for “dc: title”, and “dc: date” fields. I also learned that “unknown” is not appropriate to put in a date field, it would be better to leave the field blank. The logic is that the energy required to troubleshoot or analyze the data is wasted on entries that provide no information. Another mistake that catalogers make is to put “circa” in a date formatted field, which the software will not process; a solution is to make two date fields, one formatted for text, the other for traditional date information. When we talked about the subjectivity involved in identifying an object’s “dc: creator”, “dc: contributor”, and “dc: publisher”; I could see why pinning down a local procedure/standard is critical for the consistency of the data entry. We spent the second half of the class working in Photoshop, using a scrip to convert a batch of 30 TIFF images into JPEGS, then individually rotating, cropping, and adding descriptive metadata to their records.      

LIB 122: Week 3 (January 28, 2014)

Today we discussed some general rules that an archivist should consider when deciding which metadata schemas or elements to use on given project. I made a checklist based on the content of Marie Kennedy’s 2008 article on the Texas Digital Library website, “Nine questions to guide you inchoosing a metadata schema”. I liked the way that the article used examples from the University of Southern California medical library’s digital collection to demonstrate the points. Questions like, who will be using the collection, or do you have the funding to maintain the metadata over time seem impossible to answer for a small community archive. I would definitely use this article at the onset of a project to indicate the great deal of human and financial resources that need to go into the endeavor, but in the back of my mind, I would be prepared to have “unknown” as an answer and make other concessions. Other concepts like NISO standards, and consistent data entry protocols should be in place regardless of the institutional structure. 

In class, we also discussed the “One to One Principle” in terms of metadata records. In the past, I had learned about it in terms of FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), with a memorable, albeit foggy understanding of what could be done in describing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a book, a movie, and an audiobook. Similar to metadata records, all related but conceptually different entities should be represented by separate records. In other words, the container matters. A digital object should have a separate record than the analog object, even though the intellectual content is the same. We can use the “dc: source” or “dc: relation” elements to explain what the record in question is referring to. Linda mentioned how this concept is becoming increasingly important as large databases like WorldCat had been full of description for analog objects for a long time; with the influx of digital objects (often with similar intellectual content) catalogers need to be clear about what they are describing within the record. Is this a book at my local library about Anne Frank, or an e-book that I can access online, certain metadata fields should make this distinction, when the title, subject or date fields are all the same.     

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

IS 289: Week 4 (January 28, 2014)

IS 289 Community-based Archives
Guest Lecturer
University of California at Los Angeles – January 28, 2014

As a result of my role as facilitator for the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum’s Collection Advisory Board, I was asked to be a guest lecturer in Dr. Anne Gilliland’s course on community based archives at the UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. When I arrived to the sunlight filled classroom, I was pleased to find a nice group of fresh faced students listening to their instructor, taking notes, and no PowerPoint presentation in sight. I took a seat in the back and listened as Dr. Gilliland talked about strategic planning for community archives, and used examples from diverse archives around the world to illustrate her points. I found myself taking notes on the information that would help me articulate ideas at MCLM and trying to capture the details of the institutions that I hoped to visit in the near future. She talked about how the National Japanese American Museum is located on the site of the deportation of thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps to demonstrate how the location of the archive can provide incredible resonance with the mission of the archive. She mentioned how the government archives in Cologne, Germany fell through the floor and into the metro station below because the proper floor load measurements were not considered. In terms of raising money, she shared how the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan suffered a detrimental hit to their fundraising efforts, when their campaign roll out was scheduled within days of the events of 9/11. The wide spread negative perception of Arab Americans forced them to re-visit their strategy for securing funds.  

When it was time for me to speak, I decided to forgo my written notes and let the photographs on my PowerPoint keep me on track for the presentation. I shared how Mayme’s interview with The HistoryMakers, and the IMLS funding facilitating my move to Los Angeles to work on Mayme’s collection in 2012.  I told Mayme’s story about wanting people to know that “black people had done great things”, how she spent her whole life collecting evidence of that simple fact, and how her collection arrived in an empty courthouse in Culver City, CA. I relished the opportunity to spend some time discussing how MCLM has been able to capitalize on Mayme’s history of community engagement to enlist community buy-in and meet the minimum expenses of keeping the door open. I talked about Black Talkies on Parade (film festivals), Student and Independent Filmmakers Awards, Annual Awards Programs, and Celebrity Golf Tournaments, from the late 70’s to the early 2000’s which are documented within Mayme’s Papers. I went on to talk about our current challenges, as I saw them, mainly a lack of adequate staff and the absence of strategic planning. I gave examples of the negative impact of exorbitant reliance on volunteers, and how we have to re-do tasks, when they were not done consistently over time. I mentioned our Collection Advisory Board as a strategy to help us consider multiple angles before decisions are made at the museum. I finished with a slide from Kate Thiemer’s 2009 SAA presentation on Archives 1.0 versus Archives 2.0, and how we can bring MCLM into 2.0 territory. The students asked very perceptive questions about the museum’s accessions, collaboration with other black archives, and how we manage volunteers. Overall it was a very successful presentation, and I plan to visit their class for my own edification as time permits in the near future.

As I sat through the rest of the class, I listened as Dr. Gilliland brought up complex philosophical questions about the function of community archives. One point that has stuck with me is the questioning of the implementation of description standards, and the needs of our users. She gave an example of a former student who is working as a metadata specialist at UCLA, trying to make an English finding aid accessible to a group of older group of Armenian community members. There is no doubt that the collection would be of use to those individuals, and even if she managed to have the finding aid translated into Armenian (with appropriate script), who is to say that the words we use are the words that they would use to describe the content of that collection. In my LIB 122 class, we talk about data schemas and standards (semantics) as the best way to share information among different institutions and make it accessible to their users. Dr. Gilliland encouraged us to ask community members what they would call a given item, and compare it to what an archivist would call it, in order to determine how critical the problem is for a given archive. When I consider that little test, I think that is valuable for the staff of MCLM to aspire to the standard; the proper names, material types, and subject matter of Mayme’s collection are not so far removed from the mainstream to warrant its own classification. Not that community archives are designed to be controlled by the hegemony, but I do like the idea of being versed enough in the language of the standards to be a “crosswalk” for the community archives in my sphere of influence.   

Monday, 27 January 2014

LIB 122: Week 2 (January 21, 2014)

This week we learned about how metadata works to help us manage/discover content, the different types of metadata, and had an introduction to metadata standards. One critical technological component for metadata to be effective is the existence of a digital asset management system. An excel spreadsheet will not cut it. The digital asset management system is the central requirement to connect the storage “dark” archive (.tif files), the institution’s integrated library system and the web interface for users to access materials. The digital asset management system also allows for changes to be made in one place and updated in every other place, to fully unlock the power of metadata, this system is critical. We also discussed descriptive, structural, administrative and preservation metadata. When began to talk about metadata standards, I made note of a chart that will serve me well into the future:

Data Structure
Data Standard
Data Format
   CDWA = Categories for the Description of Works of Art, CCO = Cataloging Cultural Objects,
   MARC = Machine Readable Cataloging, AACR2 = Anglo American Cataloging Rules
   EAD = Encoded Archival Description, DACS = Describing Archives a Content Standard

We also discussed different data structures/schemas, like MODS, and Dublin Core. One of the more interesting aspects for me was the idea of semantics or data standards within each schema. How can we standardize our descriptions if we aren’t speaking the same language? During my fellowship, I kept talking to my executive director about appraising records, without an archival background, he would get frustrated, thinking I was talking about monetary appraisal. We were not using the same “data standard” or semantics. During class, we practiced assigning creating different types of metadata elements and entering metadata values for a wide variety of digital objects. Even as my community archive is missing some of the equipment and software requirements to full utilize metadata, we can capture information according to the standards as we catalog our assets.