Sunday, April 19, 2009

Populating Resources: MARCXML vs. Finding Aids

Choosing how to populate resources in the AT was an important consideration for Manuscripts and Archives, one that ultimately had us reversing course and scrapping our initial plans. Our initial dilemma was that we lacked finding aids for all of our collections, with many of our University Archives finding aids lacking inventories for some accessions (some in paper only, some taken in with no inventory). As a result, we initially chose not to import our finding aids, choosing instead to import MARCXML, which we transformed via a stylesheet into EAD for batch import. Given the lack of data normally provided by importing finding aids, we developed a script to tie our container data (Paradox) to the resources. Several things didn't quite work, so we had to reconsider our options.

Having attended the AT User Group meeting at SAA last Fall, we realized that our approach caused too many complications and problems of sustainability. As a result, we speced out importing our finding aids. Again, given our lack of finding aids for all collections, we worked out a plan to hire a consultant to help standardize our findings aids for import. We successfully imported 2000/2500 finding aids and turned our attention to how to utilize the AT as a collection management system. We then realized we faced the problem of editing editing or significantly revising finding aids, especially on the University Archives side where offices regularly provide accessions inventories ready to copy and paste into EAD. Without a simple means for importing partial EAD for accessions, and without wanting to re-enter these manually in the AT, we reconsidered our plan again. Since our current EAD creation and editing process is sufficent, we decided that the AT is not currently capable of meeting our needs and that to try and have a consultant customize it to meet our needs would be beyond our means.

As it stands now, we're back to square one; MARCXML is it (again). Unfortunately, given the considerable amount of work spent cleaning up and standardizing our finding aids, we will have to come up with a means for importing data from a separate AT EAD import (e.g. Resource Titles, Finding Aid Titles, and Citations) into a fresh AT instance populated via MARCXML. In addition, to meet our needs and function as a full collection management system, we will work with a consultant to modify the Toolkit to marry our container information with our resources and allow for easy export to our ILS (Voyager). Hopefully the need to easily import partial EAD will be worked out and we can use the AT as intended, populating resources via finding aids.

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