Thursday, 12 July 2012

Random Number Generator (a.k.a. EAD and BVs)

This week the internship has reached the final straight – the EAD finding aids!  I decided to conquer the smaller collection first and so tackled the Genesee College.  Even though it is the smaller collection, it is still 22 boxes and 7.9 linear feet of records, processed pretty much to item level.
All went swimmingly until I had to deal with the bound volumes, which are all now individually boxed (and looking splendid).  While I knew that I would have to add in <physdesc> and <genreform> tags and keep my spreadsheet of bound volume numbers tied to box number (in case, heaven fobid, I loose track of my volumes and I have to re-open all 200 boxes and fish around in the red rot), I had not considered how I would actually organize and number the boxes.   There are a couple of ways we can go about solving these issues:
1.       Currently, all of the bound volume boxes are arranged in height order in order that we can house them more efficiently in the shelving in the warehouse.  I can, therefore, number them in height order so that they are in number order on the shelf and easy to retrieve for staff.  The negative of this, however, is that the bound volumes are not in any sort of order on the finding aid.  Also, Archivists’ Toolkit, which we are now using instead of Versatile, allows you to allot an aisle, bay and shelf number to every box and so a box can be located easily without the whole collection having to be stored in numerical order.



2.       Conversely, I can number the bound volumes according to where they appear in the finding aid i.e. the collection.  This seems a little arbitrary for me since, really, it won’t make much difference to the researcher looking at the finding aid whether Box 1 comes after Box 16.  As my supervisor and boss pointed out, however, our funding body will be looking at the finding aids at the end of the project and may be confused by random box numbers – it could look haphazard.  A member of staff from Special Collections did stop by and look at my bound volumes in height order and ask if I realized that they were out of number order (I will comment no further on this exchange).  So, as you can see, those uneducated in the processing of these collections do not appreciate the thought behind the organization of space versus numerical order. 


Really this is not a big deal but it is interesting to take into account the users, staff and funders when making decisions!  We are going with the second arrangement so that the finding aids look more logical.  All that this means is that when staff go to retrieve the boxes from a shelf, they will have around 20 randomly numbered boxes to look through to find the one they want.  Alas I’ll be long gone by then…I might leave a ‘sorry’ note.

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