This past spring, SCUA migrated from our previous collection management system to ArchivesSpace (ASpace). One of the reasons for this migration was ASpace’s interoperability with other systems used by SCUA and other departments at Parks Library. However, we quickly ran into a problem trying to get ASpace to work with Aeon, the patron request system that we use in the reading room. If you have searched CARDinal in the last six months, you might have noticed that that the “Aeon Request” button on an individual resource page does not always work.
We originally thought this was just a simple issue caused by the plug-in fields not mapping correctly. It turned out that the issue itself was simple but the solution was going to be a time-consuming long-term project. After weeks of discussing the issue with colleagues and developers at both ASpace and Aeon and troubleshooting, we realized that the issue was caused because none of the containers (i.e. boxes) were attached to the resource records (i.e. finding aids). The system knew that they existed since patrons could request individual folders but the containers themselves were not attached to the resource record and not requestable. The solution? We now had to attach the containers individually to each of SCUA’s 1852 resource records.
To begin this project, we downloaded a list of all the resource records in ASpace, which we used to track our progress and document any issues that arose. One helpful feature in ASpace is the ability to assign profile types, including dimensions, to containers that the system can use to calculate a resource’s extent. Since we had to manually add the containers to each ASpace record, we saw this as an opportunity to also do a shelf read and assign container profiles in order to get a better handle on what exactly is in our holdings and how much space is utilized in the stacks.
Since June, I have been spending a few hours a week conducting this shelf read, which requires that I look at each box to figure out the box type and count the number of boxes in each collection, and have run into some interesting problems. The first issue that I uncovered was how many of the extents and box counts listed on our finding aids were incorrect. This was easy to fix by just noting the discrepancy in the tracking spreadsheet and adding new containers to ASpace as needed. The second issue I discovered is much larger and multiplied the amount of work needed. This is now a multi-part, long-term project to fix.
The second issue was caused by our local practice of numbering university archive sub-groups being in conflict with the ASpace software expectations. Traditionally, box numbers are consecutive throughout an individual resource records hierarchy, however, in the case of university archives record groups, the box numbers start over with each sub-group, as you can see in the photo above. This means that there can be multiple box 1’s, box 2’s, etc. within a single resource record. However, when the data was transferred, Aspace flattened this hierarchy, assuming that each Box 1 within a record group was the same Box 1. This is a problem because it can affect the resource extent calculations as well as pulling the correct box for researchers. Our solution was to expand the spreadsheet to include all the sub-groups and document the box count and type for each subgroup and create the containers in ASpace. Once all of the containers have been added to ASpace, we will begin part II of this project which is to barcode all the boxes in our collection. After everything is barcoded and the barcodes are tied to the proper containers in ASpace, we will use the Bulk Update Spreadsheet to move files out of their shared box into the correct individual boxes. That will make it easier to pull the correct box for research requests and provide a more accurate measure of total linear feet in SCUA’s holdings.
The ongoing success of this project is largely due to our student workers Landon Broadhead and Marios Tsekitsidis, who have been helping conduct the shelf read and are adding containers to ASpace daily. Without them, part one of this project would take much longer to complete.
Figuring out why the Aeon plugin wasn’t working and how to solve the problem took a lot of discussion with colleagues and working with the systems until we figured out the issue. Although the shelf read has been time-consuming, it has also helped the department gain insight into our holdings and when it is completed, will make it easier for researchers to request material. Containers are being added to resource records daily but if you have trouble making an Aeon request or have any reference questions, please contact us!