Hi Merrilee,
    I've been spending a good bit of time with ArchiveGrid since you sent out the notice earlier this year that it would be available for a few months without cost, and I'm wondering if I have anything to offer to you as a result of that.  I've been doing only one large search, locating all of the congressional papers collections through a simple search for "congressional papers," and the results have been fascinating for the diversity of presentation.  As Dennis Meissner said in an article in the early 1990s in AA, EAD is not the issue; how we compose finding aids is.  I would add that how we display information is, as well, but it's not so much computer format as what is given priority.  For instance, the Truman Library presents one with a somewhat flashy page that at first doesn't look overly informative, but it is one of very few repositories that tells me instantly that this person whose collection has been pulled up by ArchiveGrid actually was a member of Congress and when.  The John F. Kennedy Library, on the other hand, requires a second click to get any information at all beyond creator's name and then, like many others, requires that the viewer read through multiple paragraphs of biography to find out whether the person was a member of Congress.  (At least half of the hits from my search are not.)
    There are of course implications for searches in how one uses EAD to express finding aid information, so clearly it is not all finding aid format, but I would contend, with Dennis, that what we are doing with finding aids, regardless of how we encode them, is the major issue.  If I am not mistaken, the term "finding aid," which to many patrons is a completely meaningless term, refers to an aid created by archivists for their own use in finding materials for patrons and was at first a list of box contents.  Indexes and catalogs of correspondence came a bit later and were useful to patrons as well.  But in the archival community, we don't seem as yet to have focused clearly on the user's perspective, although SAA's DACS (Describing Archives: A Content Standard) is a wonderful start in that direction.  We need user studies, though, and with serious researchers about how they would like to be able to search if they could have the research strategy of their dreams. 
    Enough from me.  It's a topic in which I'm intensely interested, as is perhaps obvious.
Kate Cruikshank

Kate Cruikshank, Ph.D.
Political Papers Specialist
268E Wells Library
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405
Tel. 812-856-4601
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From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Merrilee Proffitt
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 8:00 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Help me by filling out a survey on collection descriptions


I am gathering information for two reasons:

I will be speaking at the upcoming SAA conference on a panel called "The Future of Finding Aids"  -- because RLG hosts ArchiveGrid, I know a fair amount about rough proportions of archival collection description in MARC, EAD, and HTML.  I know nothing about other formats (such as Word, PDF, etc) for collection descriptions, so I'm hoping to get a handle on this.

If it turns out that there are significant number of "other formats" this is interesting information for future development of ArchiveGrid.

The survey will only take a few minutes if you have:

A rough idea of the number of described collections in your institution;
A rough idea of how many of those collections are described ONLY in Word, PDF, or other formats aside from MARC, EAD, or HTML.

I will be happy to share results (although not personal data) after the survey.

Here's the URL: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=268672174268



Merrilee Proffitt
RLG -- www.rlg.org
2029 Stierlin Court, Suite 100, Mountain View, CA  94043 USA
voice: +1-650-691-2309
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