Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Digitizing finding aids

I have spent time in the last two days working on an article for the next issue of WNYLRC Watch. Once the article has been published (which will be a matter of days), I'll post it in the blog, since I think it is a good introduction of "what" should be digitized.

The article, and recent consulting work, has made me think more about digitizing finding aids. The article says:
Digitizing the finding aid for the collection, before digitizing the actual material in the collection, would allow researchers and those interested in the topic to fully understand the scope of the collection. For example, the University of Buffalo has a Finding Aid for the North American New Music Festival Archive (http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/units/music/spcoll/NANMF/). The online finding aid includes:
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content Note
  • Series Description
  • Container List
  • Related Resources
We tend to want to rush into digitizing "entire" collections, but it seems to me that we should put some emphasis on digitizing finding aids (or creating digital finding aids). This would allow people to know what is in our collections and not just what we saw fit to digitized. The finding aids would be real entrances to our collections, pointing people to what we have available. By tracking the usage of the finding aids, inquiries, etc., we would then know better what to digitize. That would be useful, especially with collections where we're unsure if there would be value in having them fully accessible online.

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