Some of my researchers like a simple printed finding aid so that they can easily take notes or indicate boxes for us to pull. I agree that the navigation in some of our finding aid discovery systems can be a bit distracting or less intuitive than a print finding aid. They are great for searching collections and sorting results, but sometimes less helpful in reviewing a single collection in its entirety.

Carolyn Runyon
Assistant Head of Collection Services and Director of Special Collections
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library
615 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN  37403
[log in to unmask], (423) 425-4503
Dept. 6456, LIB 439D

On Jan 22, 2018, at 10:19 AM, Bowers, Kate A. <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

Printed finding aids are vital. Not just because of the look of horror on researchers' faces if you were to take them away, but because archivists, too, need to understand whole collections wholistically sometimes.  Especially for large collections with large finding aids, print is essential.  PDF online or print eliminates confusing and distracting navigation, searching, filtering, and branding stuff that sits on a website. Then there's the problem of eyesight and projected light as opposed to reflected light....hurrah for print!

Kate Bowers
Collections Services Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Standards
Harvard University Archives
voice: (617) 998-5238
fax: (617) 495-8011
Twitter: @k8_bowers

From: Encoded Archival Standards List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Custer, Mark <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, January 22, 2018 9:45 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [EAD] Accessible PDF finding aids? Print finding aids at all?


I've just embarked on a project to update how our PDF finding aids are created to ensure that they are compatible with the PDF/UA standard (, by converting ArchivesSpace-produced EAD3 finding aids to PDF (yay, EAD3!).   So far so good, but getting things set up was a bit more trouble than I expected, though that's probably because I knew essentially nothing about the PDF/UA standard before I started.  Additionally, I have not been able to find any evidence of PDF/UA finding aids available online.  Given that, I thought that I'd ask the EAS Section the following questions:


  • Can anyone point me to examples of PDF/UA finding aids?
  • Is anyone using any PDF alternatives to fill this gap? I've seen quite a few examples of print-friendly HTML finding aids, for example, but I'm not sure if any of those a) meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines and b) help researchers (since there are lots of ways to use an offline PDF, which I'm not sure that static HTML page would fulfill).  At the same time, those print-friendly HTML files could easily be converted to other formats.
  • Last, and most importantly:  are print finding aids a requirement at this time or not?  I seem to remember some really compelling data from user studies (probably about 10 years old now) that would suggest that they are crucial for researchers.... And yet, I see fewer places offering PDF finding aids.  There are a whole host of reasons for why this might be, but right now I'm just really curious what the list thinks about user needs in relation to print finding aids in 2018.


All my best,