Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Email from a student about an assignment

Last week, I received an email from a student who was working on an assignment. The student, in hopes that I could help with the assignment, asked some very specific questions about "encoding and converting" approx. 2,000 pages (some typed with handwritten notes and the remainder in MS Word files). The student also mentioned 16 mm film that needed to be converted. The instructor for the class have provided some details; enough to get the student thinking (and perhaps panicking). The one word that really stood out to me in the message was the word "webmaster." {BTW I have not duplicated the student's message since that would be a violation of copyright.}

I wish I knew who the instructor was since I'd like to tell the person about this interaction. Specifically I'd like the person to know what answer I gave. Since I have no idea who the instructor is, I'm posting my email response below. Perhaps it will help (or not) other students in this West Coast class.
You use the word "webmaster". From my experience, the people creating finding aids in EAD are librarians who have been trained to do the work.
  • Do you need the handwritten notes?
  • Could you digitize the finding aid, then add the handwritten notes later?
  • Given the way typewriters did and did not work, would it be easier and more efficient to retype the finding aid into EAD?
  • Could you mark-up the MS Words files so they could be "converted" to EAD?
  • Is it more important to do the work cheap and fast, or does it need to be accurate?
  • Have you checked to see if there are conversion tools for converting MS Word documents to EAD?
There seem to be many places that can digitize the film. Did you do an Internet search?
Remember that you want the film digitized using the appropriate guidelines.

You'll notice that I haven't given you any answers. I teach a class in digitization for Syracuse University and know that a big part in learning about this topic is wrestling with the questions and answers. (see

BTW this may be an assignment with multiple correct answers. (Although I don't know that for sure.) Therefore, it may be how you get to the answer that is important as well as what the answer is.

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