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Mr. Robyns' previous postings to the archives and archivists list (not all
of which have been made accessible to those who read this list only) and the
message below suggests a number of premises, both stated and implied, that
need to be examined carefully.

1.    Archivists ought not do anything whose value has not been demonstrated
by "numerous published assessment and user studies."

If this is so, stop virtually everything you are doing today until someone
else studies it and publishes the results.  That includes creating MARC
records and putting traditional inventories in HTML on the web.

2.   Implicit in the previous premise is the assertion that assessment and
user studies are the only way we might know the value of a given archival
practice.

To take this approach invalidates all individual judgment and the collective
experience of our profession.   Where is the "proof" of the benefit of
respect des fonds to users?   User studies may well be helpful but as Wendy
Duff suggests it is difficult to frame let alone conduct and evaluate such
studies.

3.   Structured searching is the principal user benefit of EAD.

No one I know has asserted this.  I suspect that research will show, when it
is done, that structured searching produces (as it does with print
materials) better results for those who understand the structure of the
metadata being queried and the nature of the indexing but that the majority
of users will still prefer to use full-text searching.   On the other hand,
the ability to bring together multiple finding aids in union catalogs with
the resulting benefits of fuller access and consistent presentation are
powerful user benefits.

4.   The only benefits of EAD are those that accrue to the user.

Hardly.  In his initial posting, Mr. Robyns asked how he could get his data
our of HTML. He has, in effect, answered his own question.  He can't because
HTML treats his finding aid as text for display and not as data for
manipulation and reuse.  HTML is a one-trick pony, a nag that's good for one
race only.   As archival descriptive systems evolve, it will be especially
important that the investment in creating electronic versions of our
information not be lost because it has been spent on a technology that
cannot migrate forward.

5.   EAD is not widely implemented.

Even a cursory following of the announcements on this list, including major
initiatives in the U.K. and France and too many in the U.S. to recount,
reveals the fallacy of that assertion.

6.   Responses to his posting to the archives list confirm his position.

This hardly qualifies as a scientific survey and the replies are not
unexpected given the forum in which they were asked.  Had the question been
posed on this list, there might have been a different mix of replies.

There are many good and valid reasons for implementing EAD, or not.   See
the summer issue 1997 issue of American Archivist or chapters 2 and 3 of the
EAD Application Guidelines for further discussion of some them.

It is one of the interesting aspects of having been around the block a
couple of times in this profession is that one sees repeated evidence of the
truth of the adage that the more things change, the more the remain the
same.   Mr. Robyns'  complaints remind me too much of similar conversations
15 years ago about MARC.   The detractors then said MARC was too complicated
and expensive for anyone but the "big boys", that it added no value, that
small institutions would never adopt it, and that the federal funding
agencies were "shoving it down our throats."   I realize that this
comparison does not absolve us from having the discussion again.   NEH
provides a useful rationale for the use of EAD in projects that it funds
that might serve as a starting point for further conversation.

Michael Fox

 Greetings:

Would the EAD partisans out there please provide links and/or citations to
any EAD assessment and/or user studies.  Given that EAD is about ten years
old and that several hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in
its development and implementation, I believe it is reasonable to expect
that there should be numerous published assessment and user studies.
Perhaps I am missing something, but I see no such links or citations from
the Library of Congress EAD web site.

This request is not spurious, but a serious attempt on my part to get a
handle on EAD's effectiveness to the profession and our users.

Thank you for your help!

Marcus C. Robyns
University Archivist
Northern Michigan University

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