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Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography 809XI Introduction to Archives Emporia State University Kelly Brooks 4/29/2013

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

Pugh, M. J. (2005). Providing reference services for archives and manuscripts. (pp. 33-73). Society of American archivists. This excerpted chapter titled Identifying Uses and Users of Archives from M.J. Pugh, editor of the American Archivist and 20 year member of the Society of American Archivists, focuses on two aspects of reference services: the user and the record. Pugh emphasizes the importance of understanding the needs of both present and future archive users and the varying uses of records. She goes on to identify a variety of archival users (researchers, archivists, students, genealogists, teachers and hobbyists) and examines the motivations behind each user and ideas on how they can be served. The final half of the chapter discusses the information retrieval model and in what types of situations information seeking can occurs. Pugh does not provide any methodology as the work is not a study. This is a good resource on reference services for the novice archivist as it provides a framework of the usual patrons of archives, what needs they may have, and an overview of general information seeking behavior. The overview of information seeking behavior extends the chapters applicability outside the realm of archives as well. One weakness of the chapter is its lack of discussion on the reference interview between the archivist and user. Yakel, E. (2002). Listening to users. Archival issues: Journal of the Midwest archives conference. 26(2), 111-127. I selected this article by Yakel, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School for Information and council member on the Society of American Archivists, to address current weaknesses and areas in which archival reference can improve its service to patrons. Its usefulness lies in breaking down the myriad ways that users have difficulty using archives, definitely an important area to include in any bibliographic review. Yakel uses a qualitative

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

methodology and interviews 26 individuals ranging from undergraduates to scholars with the intention of exploring commonalities between researchers who use primary sources. From her research, Yakel draws several conclusions: that researchers are unfamiliar with what archives actually consist of, that archivists overestimate users familiarity with archives, and that reference points and education about the uses of archives are lacking. Yakel goes on to recommend using separate staff for the reference interview and for ongoing reference questions as a way to avoid bottleneck and hasty introductions by busy staff. This articles strength lies in its analysis of where archival reference could be improved; on the other hand, Yakel presents limited suggestions of where the reference process could be improved. The one suggestion she makes is to improve user education, while definitely useful, is certainly not the only area in which archival reference could be improved. Yakel, E. (2000). Thinking inside and outside the boxes: Archival reference services at the turn of the century. American Archivists, Retrieved from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&ved=0CJAB EBYwCQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjournals.sfu.ca%2Farchivar%2Findex.php%2Farchiv aria%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F12742%2F13927&ei=WNyHUdTVNcmxyQG4sYDg AQ&usg=AFQjCNHXVwEiavOhMO5TistEOR3ag4a8ug&sig2=YbWPMA2HiAjosIlu zHEZwA&bvm=bv.45960087,d.aWc This article by Yakel is a call for archivists to look at archive work as being in the container business (p. 2); which essentially means archivists should work to create efficient, organized containers for information so users can get the most out of the experience. Yakel believes effective reference service falls under knowledge management, and should Yakel ties the concept of digital technologies and reference together in a way that underscores the

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

importance of sensible containers for effective information retrieval. This means that archivists can provide more timely reference service and users can more intuitively use the services themselves. Yakels emphasis on building efficient archival containers is based on her desire for archivists to be seen not just as information providers, but as purveyors of knowledge management as well. No research methodology is used as the article is not a study. The latter half of the paper is an examination of types of information needs and the containers available for storing information (Encoded Archival Description, Hypertext Markup Language, etc.). Yakel concludes that the information containers archivists develop must be malleable. I selected this article because it looks at archival reference in a big picture way. One of the strengths of this article is its emphasis on how archives should be built and structured from the ground up and how a well-structured archive will mean better reference service. One drawback of the article was a lot of superfluous information; the article could have been edited to be more direct in conveying its message. O'Donnell, F. (2000). Reference service in an academic archive. Journal of academic librarianship, 26(2), 110-118. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=llf&AN=502843910&site=eho st-live In this article, ODonnell, curator of Archives and Manuscripts at the Harvard Divinity School, explores the similarities and differences between reference in an academic archive versus an academic library, and the relative lack of focus on reference in the archival field. This is a journal article, not a study, thus no methodology is used. The article lists a helpful breakdown of researched reference questions in the past year at MIT; certainly a useful tool for any academic archivist to reference.

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

ODonnell argues that archives have traditionally emphasized management and preservation, viewing reference as the last step in a chain of accession, preservation, and description (2000, p. 111). Reference services, he says, are critical to ensuring archives future, because without patrons, there will be no archives. A great deal of the article is a comparison of processes between academic libraries and archives; while illuminating and helpful in distinguishing the differences in these two somewhat related organizations, there are moments when ODonnells writing seem slightly defensive towards librarians who dont understand the how much more time an archive-based reference transaction requires than a typical academic library question. There is certainly further opportunity for another paper topic, perhaps even a comparative study between lengths of time required to answer a reference question in each organization. ODonnell concludes the piece by advising scholars to recognize the separate nature of archives and the role they play in an academic library setting. I chose this article because it treats on archival reference in an academic setting, an area that was not represented in the bibliography until this point. Duff, W., & Fox, A. (2006). 'You're a guide rather than an expert': Archival reference from an archivist's point of view. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 27(2), 129-153. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=23462859&site= ehost-live Duff is an interim director and associate professor in Information Studies at the University of Toronto; Foxs credentials are not listed. This article focused on archival reference from the perspective of archivists. While this bibliography has already summarized an article regarding user experience, it seemed fitting to include a corresponding article that examines

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

reference transactions from an archivists point of view. To demonstrate the variety of reference interactions, Duff and Fox interviewed thirteen reference archivists in two different countries and examined contributing causes to ineffective reference services: poor critical examination in the reference interview and little training on providing reference services (2006, p. 130). One major advantage of this article is its focus on actual cases and a breakdown of strengths and weaknesses within that interaction. Other articles in this bibliography have discussed the lack of literature surrounding archival reference services; this is the first to make a concerted effort to address the issue. The results from the survey found that the majority of archivists time was spent teaching users how to use the archives. Some of Duff and Foxs recommendations include improving interpersonal skills, training in FAQs, and allowing for on the job training. It is a concise, wellorganized look at archival reference services and offers practical, grounded solutions for improvement. Beattie, D. (1997). Retrieving the irretrievable: Providing access to "hidden groups." In L. Cohen (Ed.), Reference services for archives and manuscripts (pp. 83-94). Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=q43HNBSbEHYC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=Diane Beattie, "Retrieving the Irretrievable: Providing Access to 'Hidden Groups' in Archives," in Reference Services for Archives and Manuscripts&source=bl&ots=SGBAw JjVu4&sig=CjhmNMTLAX6JX51cE0i4XSWsC_4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=AY yKUbSqJKGNyAGo0IDADQ&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAQ Beattie, who is part of the Manuscript Division of the National Archives of Canada, discusses providing reference service for groups that fall outside the traditional realm of provenance. Beattie refers to the difficulty of providing access to information about underserved groups as women and minorities, and lists ways to better serve users who are trying to locate this

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

information. I selected this chapter because mention of service to or about minority groups was hitherto lacking in the analysis of archival reference services. Beattie argues that an alternative methodology (1997, p. 84) besides provenance is required to provide access to such hidden groups. Her recommendation for broader results is to search by subject of function and occupation, rather than traditional topic/name searches (p. 84). Topic/name searches are more likely to retrieve results about men and events, which often make little mention of these hidden groups. Subject indexing is one of Beatties suggestions for improved access, as is utilizing authority control systems. Beattie concludes that with the rise of Internet prominence in information access, provenance is not as functional a system as it once was, and to better serve users who are often working without an archivist or other guide, different methods should be employed to make searching simpler and more efficient. Strengths of the chapter include its emphasis on providing access to underserved groups and a critical evaluation of current systems. A weakness of the chapter is it provides little discussion on the types of users who may want access to information about minority groups; Beatties emphasis on improving subject access appears abstract with little real connection to actual researchers and users. No methodological information is provided as the chapter is not a study. Reference and outreach services. (1999). M. Roper & L. Millar (Eds.), Managing archives: A procedures manual (pp. 35-48). Retrieved from http://irmt.org/documents/educ_training/public_sector_rec/IRMT_archive_proc.pdf This chapter is the most basic instruction for providing reference instruction this researcher has encountered. Millar is a records and management consultant and author of several books on archives. Roper has served as Secretary General of the International Council of Archives and is Honorary Secretary of the Association of Commonwealth Archivists and

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

Records Managers (ACARM). They provide step-by-step instructions for providing archival reference services; no methodology is included. This is also the first resource included in this bibliography that remarks on forms of reference other than in-person inquiries. Other types of reference listed include electronic, letter, or even faxed reference. A useful discussion on answering inquiries is also included in the chapter: the authors advise having written policies in place to make triaging simpler and more effective. Millar and Roper advise considering staff resources, the needs of in-person researchers versus inquiries by other forms of communication, and time constraints of the inquiry (M. Roper & L. Millar (Eds.), 1999, p. 45). While many of Millar and Ropers recommendations are fairly obvious, (labeling the research room door, ensuring finding aids clearly marked, etcetera) for beginning archivists these tips may act as a useful manual to refer back to, which will assist in providing a smoother, more helpful experience for the researcher. Another strength of the chapter is its thoroughness and attention to detail on procedures ranging from filling out the attendance register to ordering material to returning documents to the storage facility. However, the chapter makes no mention of conducting a reference interview. In this authors opinion, a reference interview and the sleuthing that ensues is reference. The other details, while related to the reference process, are low task technologies that can be learned by anyone. True reference procedures require a skilled professional to assist the researcher in finding relevant information. This chapter would have been strengthened with a discussion of interpersonal skills and knowledge required to complete a successful reference interview. Millar and Roper do not provide any conclusions for the chapter; each section is a complete thought and little to no theory is involved.

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

Duff, W. M., & Johnson, C. A. (2004). Chatting up the archivist: Social capital and the archival researcher. The American archivist, 67, 113-129. Retrieved from http://elearning.emporia.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-647859-dt-content-rid3038165_1/courses/LI809XI201310/LI809XI201310_ImportedContent_2013011011225 9/LI809XI201250_ImportedContent_20120806024835/LI809XI201210_ImportedConten t_20120109092525/LI809XI201150_ImportedContent_20110707082337/johnson & duff chatting archivist.pdf Duff and Johnsons study is primarily a discussion of the relationship between researchers and archivist from the perspective of historians. The authors assert the importance of social capital, which essentially means that having a social relationship with an archivist will ensure better research will take place because archivists are knowledgeable about collections in ways that historians are not, and go on to consider the ways that relationships between historians and archivists have been undermined by the increasingly solitary nature or research made possible by the Internet and by the large numbers of archivists retiring who take specialized collection knowledge with them to retirement. In light of this, Duff and Johnson encourage archivists to actively make connections with historians in a number of ways. Some of these ideas include archivists presenting papers at meetings of historians, connecting with Ph.D. students, and becoming embedded in universities to introduce students to archives (Duff and Johnson, 2004). The article includes interviews with a variety of historians who discuss how his or her relationship (or lack thereof) with an archivist impacted effective utilization of archives. This paper lends important perspective to the social aspect of archives; if users are too intimidated to seek interaction with an archivist, then many opportunities for both the researcher and archivist are missed. The emphases on interaction and

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

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user perspective are useful takeaways from this article and are a unique addition to this bibliography. Prom, C. J. (2004). User interactions with electronic finding aids in a controlled setting. The American archivist., 67(fall/winter), 234-268. Retrieved from https://elearning.emporia.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-647858-dt-content-rid3038217_1/courses/LI809XI201310/LI809XI201310_ImportedContent_2013011011225 9/LI809XI201250_ImportedContent_20120806024835/LI809XI201210_ImportedConten t_20120109092525/LI809XI201150_ImportedContent_20110707082337/prom findg aids.pdf Christopher Prom is Assistant University Archivist and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois. This study seeks to answer the authors question, How do users interact with online findings aids? The sample was drawn from a diverse population, ranging from archival and computer experts to novices and consists of standard user study procedures, which included an administered survey, an observation of the users searches, and a post interview. Prom concludes that different groups utilize searches differently and will have varying levels of success based on how effective their search strategies are, and that collections that are browsing-enabled would greatly assist users. This particular study was chosen for this bibliography because it addresses the current issue that many archives are facing: collections and finding aids are going online, so how best can user needs be met in an online environment? One weakness of this study was its verbosity; it could have been improved by editing the lengthy, minutely detailed discussions of users searching and focused on what could be done to improve user interaction with finding aids. Instead, the discussion of improving electronic

Archives and Reference Services: An Annotated Bibliography

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finding aid searching for users is limited to the final page and a half of the study; a great deal of information must be waded through until the useful part of the study is discussed, and that only briefly. Alternatively, Proms detailed breakdown of novice archivists and computer users can serve as a reminder to archivists who are comfortable with advanced searching that many, if not most users, are not at the same level. Disappointingly, no mention of teaching archival literacy or familiarity with databases is mentioned. Proms recommendation is based solely on mimicking a Google-like search box with browsing capability.