Hi Noah,


I posted a reply to Michele’s question this morning to the A&A list where I first saw it.


In case you and others on the EAD are interested, I’ve pasted a copy of my reply below.


I might add that whether you are working with Aeon or potentially with another integrative solution, it may be possible to perform container barcode lookups from a database that includes such location information other than the AT. I just mentioned the AT as an example of one commonly used resource that we are working with (our plan is to work with some of currently implementing sites that use the AT to develop what we call an “addon” [think: browser plugin] that can be added to the Aeon client to perform such lookups and data imports; once developed, addons can be shared with and modified by other Aeon sites).







Christian Dupont, PhD, MIS

Aeon Program Director

Atlas Systems - a company promoting library excellence through efficiency

phone: 757-467-7872 x215     fax: 757-467-7875     mobile: 434-242-6096

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-----Original Message-----

From: Christian Dupont

Sent: Monday, April 25, 2011 6:58 AM

To: 'Archives & Archivists (A&A) List'

Subject: RE: Integrating EAD finding aids with LAS to facilitate off-site requests/retrievals



Hi Michele,


We are actually working on integrating automated EAD finding aid requesting with GFA-LAS (and GFA-AIMS) systems for several sites that have adopted our Aeon automated request and workflow management system for special collections and archives. In a couple of these cases, we are also working on integrations with the site's Archivists' Toolkit database to retrieve container location and barcode data to add to the request before handing it off to GFA. The goal, as you stated, is to make the request possible as smooth and painless for the end user ... as well as for the staff in the middle.


As you noted, GFA works off of item barcodes to perform its retrieval functions. Barcodes can be sent to GFA in batch file lists (for storage facilities that have fixed retrieval schedules) or individually (for facilities that support continuous paging).


Many institutions have worked out methods for adding links to their OPAC item record displays that allow patrons to initiate direct requests for offsite materials by clicking on the links and logging into their OPAC account or another system that manages their identity and request history. In such situations, automated requesting of items stored offsite is generally limited to users who are affiliated with the institution (and thus have OPAC or other library accounts). The methods most often used to support this type of functionality involve adaptations of the OPAC's native recall/hold features. For a good example, see the following description of Princeton's Voyager-GFA integration:




In your situation, I understand that you are wanting to leverage your EAD encoding of archival finding aids to provide an automated request and retrieval process for containers housed in an office storage facility potentially managed by a GFA system. Your description of the process suggests that you want patrons to initiate this process for themselves, which, as with OPAC scenario outlined above, implies that you will need a patron management system to mediate the transmission of requests between the finding aid and GFA -- for in order to process a request you have to know what is being requested, where it is kept, and also who wants it.


The finding aid can give you the "what," and GFA can give you the "where," but you still need some means of capturing the "who."


The idea you suggested of creating item records in your OPAC that can be associated with a collection-level bibliographical record would enable you to take advantage of the OPAC's ability to manage patron identities, and so would allow you to have patrons submit paging requests for individual boxes from off-site storage by clicking on the associated item-level links for each container, just as if they were requesting a book/volume. You could also include a link in your finding aid header that points to the associated collection-level record with some instructions to the user on how to click on the link and place requests through their OPAC account.


There are, however, some disadvantages with this method with respect to what you would like to accomplish:


First, it would not allow patrons to request materials directly from the finding aid display. They would have to first browse the finding aid and note down somewhere which containers they would like to request and then click to bring up the collection-level record and scroll through it to find the corresponding request links (of course, you could have the collection-level record open in a separate tab/window so that the user could go back and forth between the finding aid and the OPAC record fairly easily and quickly).


Second, you would need a means of adding patrons to your OPAC user database before they could start placing requests. Perhaps they could fill out an account application form from which certain staff members would be authorized to create OPAC user records and notify the patrons of their initial login credentials. This process could involve a delay of a few minutes or hours or a few days depending on how you staff the service.


Third, it may be tricky to work with the OPAC-GFA process that you use for managing requests for standard materials to allow your staff to review requests for archival materials before they are handed off to GFA. While this might not be strictly necessary, I have found that archives staff typically want to ensure that patrons do not request large amounts of material from off-site storage. Inexperienced patrons may request more materials than they really need, which can place a burden on staff and temporary hold areas. Also, some repositories must pay a portion or even all of the retrieval fees from their own budget.


The foregoing are not necessarily insurmountable obstacles to automating to some degree the requesting of archival materials stored offsite (and potentially, it could be made to work for onsite materials as well), but If you are committed to finding a solution that will enable you to provide patrons with the ability to request materials directly from your EAD finding aids, you will likely need to use some other type of patron identity management system since I doubt you will be able to find a way to leverage your OPAC user database for such a scenario (OPACs are designed to track patrons circulation of their own inventories, but they typically cannot be made to function as generalized patron identity management systems that can interface with external collection management systems).


If you do find such a system to work with, it would probably make the most sense to embed your container barcodes directly in your finding aids to facilitate the transmission of that necessary piece of information to the GFA system. Alternatively, if you are using a system like the AT to store location and barcode information, you could bounce a request from the finding aid to your AT/locations database and retrieve the barcode based on metadata that is already encoded in your finding aids (i.e., accession number and container number); once retrieved, this information can be added to the request stream before it is submitted to GFA.


I hope these observations are helpful to you, and possibly others who may be contemplating similar automated retrieval processes for archival materials.


With best wishes,





From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Noah Huffman
Sent: Monday, April 25, 2011 9:12 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Integrating EAD finding aids with LAS to facilitate off-site requests/retrievals


Hi Michele,

We're in the preliminary stages of a similar project at Duke, so I'm interested in this question too. We have been using GFA to manage offsite storage of books and manuscript material for a few years now. We use Aleph as our ILS and we have created item records and barcodes for all of our manuscript containers (both onsite and offsite). 

Patrons can initiate requests for offsite items through the OPAC (Endeca). Basically, they click a "get this title" button, authenticate through Shibboleth, and then select the items they want.  For circulating library materials (not mss. or rare books), the requests are automatically transmitted to the GFA, the items pulled, and then sent to whatever service point the patron selected.  For special collections material, however, the requests are mediated by reference staff through a very low-tech solution whereby the requests are printed out and then reference staff email lists of barcodes to our off-site stacks managers....not very efficient.  We've found that the mediation is necessary because patrons were requesting more boxes than our shipping and receiving staff could reasonably handle.

So where does EAD come in?  We haven't figured this out yet either.  We are considering implementing Aeon, which allows patrons to make requests from finding aids, but currently we do not encode barcodes in our finding aids and I doubt we will undertake a project to insert barcodes in all of our existing finding aids.  In short, like you, we haven't found a way to initiate requests for material in GFA directly from EAD.

We do display our container lists in our OPAC in a seperate "Inventory" tab, but patrons would have to find the container they want, then toggle to the "location" tab to make a request for that container.

See the following example for the tabbed display: http://find.library.duke.edu/results.php?type=books&recordid=DUKE004190949

At any rate, I'm very interested in this topic and curious what others are doing. Thanks for starting the discussion,



Noah Huffman

Archivist for Metadata and Encoding

Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Duke University

Box 90767, Smith Warehouse

Durham, NC 27708


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