Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reappraisal and Deaccessioning: A Literature Review Part 3 of 5

This post is part of a series on a literature review of reappraisal and deaccessioning in archival collections. Click on a link below to read further:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4
Part 5

The articles advised that a strategic reappraisal and deaccessioning plan was needed to avoid the possibility of negative reactions from resource allocators, peer institutions, donors, researchers, and colleagues. Reappraisal and deaccessioning are controversial because the archives symbolize permanence, and archivists view themselves as impartial guardians of the past, which are both illusions. Greene writes, “We have inadvertently weakened our repositories and our professional standing by our unwillingness and lack of action,” and the profession is difficult “not because we are good at saving things, but because we are able and willing to decide what does not get saved” (p. 8, 11).

He also notes that the professional literature rarely discusses reappraisal and deaccessioning. For instance, Terry Cook’s 2000 appraisal bibliography reports that 3.5 percent of the listings were about these topics. Some articles inadvertently discuss it, such as Timothy Ericson’s 1991 article “‘At the Rim of Creative Dissatisfaction’: Archivists and Acquisitions Development,” which urges archivists to define “collecting focus” for better acquisitions (p. 66). Wojcik used reappraisal strategies to define why records were preserved (the “collecting focus”) at the State Archives of Michigan.

Greene believes that archivists avoid reappraisal because reconsidering past decisions may dramatically change their collections. Wojcik reports fiery debates among her own colleagues regarding reevaluation for this reason. She writes, “The goal of these projects was not to influence a radical shift in the State Archives’ collecting practices (the scope and purpose of the collection), but to document why certain records were preserved and others were not” (p. 154). Additionally, the staff questioned reevaluating past decisions, when the backlog was believed to contain many records of marginal value. Greene writes,
Gerry Ham, who issued a famous jeremiad against archivist becoming “nothing more than a weathervane moved by the changing winds of historiography,” a decade later embraced reappraisal and deaccessioning as a “creative and sophisticated” act “that will permit holdings to be refined and strengthened. It allows archivists to replace records of lesser value with collections of more significance, and it prevents the imposition of imperfect and incomplete decisions of the past on the future.” (Ham, p. 13, as cited in Greene, p. 9).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Reappraisal and Deaccessioning: A Literature Review Part 2 of 5

This post is part of a series on a literature review of reappraisal and deaccessioning in archival collections. Click on a link below to read further:

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

In “I’ve Deaccessioned and Lived to Tell about It: Confessions of an Unrepentant Reappraiser,” Mark A. Greene discusses how the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming regularly performs reappraisal and deaccessioning based on comprehensive analysis of major collecting areas. Greene reports that 60 percent of deaccessioned records were placed at other repositories, while 20 percent were returned to donors (p. 11).

Caryn Wojcik explores reappraising government record backlogs at the State Archives of Michigan in “Appraisal, Reappraisal, and Deaccessioning.” The archivists ranked government agencies by their potential to produce archival records, similar to the Minnesota Method of appraising modern business records. They constructed an appraisal mission statement, criteria, mechanics, and methodology, which they applied against the backlog.

In “Reappraising and Reaccessioning Wisconsin State Government Records: An Agency-wide Approach,” Helmut M. Knies discusses a four-year project to reduce Wisconsin Historical Society’s collection by 40 percent. The archivists approached the records by agency, rather than by series, assuring that the project “eliminated the records of no single agency in toto, and as a general practice deaccessioned entire series only rarely” (p. 36). Knies describes the “almost archaeological quality” of constructing a “genealogy” the agencies in the context of their antecedents, related agencies, and administrative and regulatory functions (p. 36, 39).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reappraisal and Deaccessioning: A Literature Review Part 1 of 5

This post is part of a series on a literature review of reappraisal and deaccessioning in archival collections. Click on a link below to read further:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

This literature review examines reappraisal and deaccessioning as discussed in three Archival Issues articles about multi-year projects conducted at large institutions. After describing the projects, I offer a critical assessment, exploring reappraisal and deaccessioning experiences that can better inform archivists considering such undertakings.

A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology defines reappraisal as “the process of identifying materials that no longer merit preservation and that are candidates for deaccessioning” due to flawed original appraising, collection policy modifications, or changes in the records’ perceived value (Pearce-Moses). The glossary defines deaccessioning as “the process by which an archives, museum, or library permanently removes accessioned materials from its holdings.” These records may be returned to donors, transferred to other institutions, or destroyed.

Reappraisal may lead to deaccessioning, but not always. Conversely, deaccessioning often results from reappraisal, as well as other reasons. Deaccessioning is not weeding, or the removal of unwanted documents during processing; rather, it removes entire series, collections, or record groups from a repository.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review of M-libraries: Libraries on the Move to Provide Virtual Access

M-libraries: Libraries on the Move to Provide Virtual Access

My review of M-libraries: Libraries on the Move to Provide Virtual Access. Edited by Gill Needham and Mohamed Ally. (London: Facet, 2008).
Published in New Library World, 110(5/6), 2009.

Mobile devices are getting smaller and more powerful as everyday tools, even in the developing world. M-Libraries: Libraries on the Move to Provide Virtual Access, based on the 2007 First International M-Libraries Conference at the Open University (OU), United Kingdom, explores how mobile technologies have revolutionized information provision and services. With delegates from 26 countries, the conference examined how research, education, and recreation have been revolutionized by the global adoption and growth of mobile devices. To meet contemporary information needs, librarians and educators must design and deliver information on mobile phones, PDAs, palmtop computers, smartphones, and other devices. Editors Gil Needham, Head of Strategic and Service Development at the OU Library, and Mohamed Ally, Director of the Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University (AU), Canada, emphasize the importance of developing mobile libraries (“m-libraries”) in an evolving information landscape.

Traditional libraries combined place, people, and services, vertically integrated around collections. A networked environment, however, only provides services. In the foreword, Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC’s Vice President and Chief Strategist, notes that, “The position of the library as a functionally integrated, discrete presence, whether on the web or as a physical place, becomes diffused through various manifestations (a physical space to meet, a toolbar, a set of services in the course management system, a Facebook application, a set of RSS feeds, office hours in a school or department, and so on)” (xxviii). Anytime availability challenges libraries to provide services without diluting core values of universal, equitable information access.

Moving from the general to the specific, the book is divided into four sections. Part 1 examines the changing landscapes of mobile technology and libraries in a networked society. The second part explores technology and the development of mobile information delivery. M-library initiatives, innovations, and challenges are examined in Part 3. The final part presents case studies of mobile technologies in libraries around the world.

In “Libraries in a Networked Society,” John Naughton, Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology, OU, examines media theorist Neil Postman’s theory that communication change creates cultural change. The ubiquitous Internet has changed competencies and expectations in knowledge construction and collaboration that are only just beginning to be understood. An information literacy gap has grown between those who have matured with the Internet and information professionals raised with earlier technologies. In a networked environment, librarians are no longer intermediaries between patrons and services, and they must keep pace with mobile technologies to remain relevant.

In “An Effective Mobile-Friendly Digital Library to Support Mobile Learners,” Yang Cao et al. discuss how distance education has shifted to mobile learning. The authors write, “Digital libraries delivered through mobile devices could offer increased flexibility in terms of access and forms of content; increased interaction between students, instructors and tutors; and increased hands-on learning opportunities” (109). The authors discuss how AU library systems have accommodated many devices through template-designed dynamic pages, rather than redesigned pages for every new device.

In “Open Library in Your Pocket—Services to Meet the Needs of On- and Off-
Campus Users,” Hassan Sheikh et al. discuss how OU has adapted mobile technology to deliver specialized services and content, optimized to render on smaller devices. Creating flexible, suitable materials and just in time applications for mobile users is challenging because of their unique requirements.

Mobile technology’s biggest impact will be to increase the level of education in the developing world. Mobile devices bridge the digital divide, providing educational opportunities to economically, socially, or geographically remote or disadvantaged areas. Case studies explore teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa, mobile SMS and OPAC delivery at the University of South Africa, and information access for community-based health workers.

The conclusion explores the conference participants’ opinions on the future role of libraries, technology, content, and personalization. This section could have been improved with more summation and fewer direct quotes. Throughout the book, more illustrations of information presentation on mobile devices would have been informative, especially in the case study chapters.

M-Libraries: Libraries on the Move to Provide Virtual Access offers a compelling mix of theory and practice, assisting libraries to create information systems that keep pace with technology and patrons on the move. Information professionals seeking strategies to improve access for itinerant or remote patrons would benefit from reading this volume.