Cooperation, Co-Everything, and One (of many) Excellent Question(s)

Hi, everybody.  Long-time reader, first-time poster.  I’m Mark Custer, and I’ve been working as an Archivist and Metadata Coordinator at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library for just over two years now.  This past year, most of my job duties have centered on ArchivesSpace. In addition to co-chairing Yale University’s ArchivesSpace Committee with Mary Caldera, I co-taught two ArchivesSpace workshops last year that were offered by Lyrasis, a membership community of information professionals, which was formed by the combination of two other regional consortiums.  In October, I helped out at a Boston workshop as a trainer in training; and in December, I co-taught a workshop that was co-sponsored by the Rochester Regional Library Council and the University of Rochester.  Looking back on the year 2014, then, what stands out most to me in my professional life is the increasing importance and necessity of partnerships. The Latin prefix co- was everywhere, and I don’t think that this notion of co-everything will be taking a backseat anytime soon.

These partnerships are precisely the sorts of things that have me so excited about ArchivesSpace.  To me, the most important thing that is emerging from the ArchivesSpace project so far is the community, not the system — don’t get me wrong, though, I’m extremely impressed by how the software has been able to combine the features and functions of Archivists’ Toolkit and Archon into a single project in such a short amount of time!  I’d even venture to say that the community is not only influencing the development of the software by making itself known through its individual and institutional voices, but that the community is also showing signs that it intends to nourish and nurture that software with a collective voice.  And, full disclosure, I’m also currently serving on the ArchivesSpace Users Advisory Council, so if you don’t agree with that statement, please let me know.

Of course, there’s still a long way for us to go.  For instance, at the end of the two-day ArchivesSpace workshop in Rochester, one of the participants asked an excellent question, which I’ll paraphrase here:

“How can I adopt more efficient workflows using ArchivesSpace?”

Each of the instructors, myself included, as well as a few of the other participants, provided a few suggestions to this important question.  What struck me by those answers, though, is that none of the suggestions were ArchivesSpace specific just yet.  That shouldn’t actually surprise me, given the relative newness of ArchivesSpace – both the software and the community – but it does remind me that we have a lot of work to do.  But it’s precisely this sort of work that I’d really like to see the archival community communicating more about in 2015.

As Maureen has already talked about in another blog post (http://campuspress.yale.edu/yalearchivesspace/2014/11/20/managing-content-managing-containers-managing-access/), one of the ways that we’d like to enable more efficient workflows in ArchivesSpace is to enhance its container management features, ideally by really letting those functions run in the background so that archivists can focus on archival description.  A few other (collective) workflows that I hope that ArchivesSpace will make more efficient include:

  • Assessing archival collections
  • Printing box and folder labels
  • Publishing finding aids to external aggregators, such as ArchiveGrid, automatically
  • Integrating with other specialized systems, such as Aeon, Archivematica (check out what the Rockefeller Archive Center has done with Archivematica and the AT in this blog post http://rockarch.org/programs/digital/bitsandbytes/?p=1172, for example!), Google Analytics, SNAC, Wikipedia, etcetera

I’d love to hear how others would like to create efficiencies using ArchivesSpace, so please leave comments here or send me an email.  I think that we need to strive for cooperative systems that promote cooperative data, including web-based documents, and I really do think that the ArchivesSpace community is poised to achieve those goals.

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