Daniel Hartwig, Head of SCUA
These are challenging times for us all. They require us to revisit our priorities, rethink how we do things, and envision new possibilities. We in SCUA would therefore like to provide an update on how we are meeting the teaching and research needs at ISU and beyond in our remote environment. First and foremost, we continue to provide reference and research assistance, as well as support for courses and student projects. Part of that support includes select digitization of collection materials. Thanks to our capable staff, as well as staff in Preservation, we are proceeding with remote digitization projects in support of high priority reference, teaching, and research requests. Included amongst these digitization projects are ISU lectures, publications, and theses, as well as oral histories and photographs.
Second, we are utilizing this opportunity to greatly enhance the accessibility of our collections through crowdsourced transcription, translation, OCR clean-up, and audiovisual captioning. ISU students are engaged in transcribing The Bomb—ISU’s yearbook (1893-1994), as well as captioning oral histories and sharing their stories about the COVID-19 crisis. Library staff are helping us transcribe, translate, and clean up OCR for more than forty SCUA collections via From The Page. Initial collections we have made available include: Iowa seed Catalogs, Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes, We are ISU—Snapshots of Student Life, and Iowa State Parks. Once, these collections are completed, we’ll roll out the next batch for user contributions. Staff are also helping us caption oral histories and audiovisual recordings for use in Aviary, a platform for syncing audio and text.
Third, to document these historic times, we are engaging the ISU community in a collaborative project to share their experiences as part of ISU COVID-19 Stories Project. Every member of the ISU family is encouraged to share their story through written accounts, audio or video recordings, photographs, artwork, and/or oral histories. Visit the site for more information, to submit content, or sign up to be interviewed for an oral history.
We thank you for your patience and welcome your thoughts and ideas to help us all work together better during this crisis and in the future.
Matt Schuler, Stacks Manager
I have been working on opening up a range in the Library Storage Building (LSB) by removing the beat-up overstock Bomb yearbooks. Also, have been working through and proofing the Lectures Committee collection, which has so many errors, I can’t even describe them all. I also had a sizeable stack of materials to file into LSB collections, along with a couple boxes of “to-be-filed” things already in our processing room.
Olivia Garrison, Reference Coordinator
I have been getting more reference questions than I was expecting, and I’m very grateful for that! I love being able to help people find useful information. Of course, there are struggles and frustrations that come with trying to do this in a remote environment, but we’re actively trying to get more items digitized so we can be as helpful as possible for our patrons! Please feel free to keep sending your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may not be able to answer your question right away, but I’m keeping track for when we’re back in our department with our beloved materials.
Rachael Acheson, Assistant University Archivist
I have been attempting to pivot on a few projects that may or may not end up in the form for which they were originally conceived. I had been looking forward to presenting on my first panel at the Midwest Archives Conference Annual Meeting, slated for May in Des Moines. But this, like many other professional conferences this summer, was cancelled, so my group is looking at a few alternative routes for sharing the presentations. Similarly, I have been working with Amy Bishop to develop both concepts and contingent alternative avenues for sharing SCUA’s Fall 2020 exhibit. I have also been helping out with the departmental project on collecting campus community COVID-19 experiences, communicating with current and potential student donors, participating in the newly-online version of our DEI committee’s annual book club (reading and writing short essays on How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi), developing outreach programs for next school year, and organizing some back-end clean-up for our web archiving system, Archive-It.
Image courtesy of Rachael Acheson.
Rosalie Gartner, Lead Processing Archivist
Like the rest of the department, I started working from home full time on March 18. Thankfully, a lot of my job can be done remotely, so even though I won’t be able to do as much as usual I’m still working to make as many of our collections accessible as possible.
I’ve been working to update our existing processing procedures, as well as continuing work on developing our digital processing procedures. I’ve also been working with my colleagues to make as much of our digital records available as possible, which is something we can all do from home. We’re also taking this time to update and improve our descriptions, which is something that often gets overlooked.
Work continues on with the same basic goals, the view from the office is just a little different these days.
Image courtesy of Rosalie Gartner.
Amy Bishop, Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist
I am the Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist. What does this mean? One, my job involves bringing in collections materials, interpreting them, and managing their care. Two, the collections I work with document entities other than the university. In spite of working with largely physical collections that I cannot access right now, there is a lot of work that I can do from home!
Amy at her home office. It is nice to have windows for daydreaming breaks. Image courtesy of Amy Bishop.
Given the historical nature of the current COVID-19 crisis, I’ve been putting together a documentation project to capture how the crisis is affecting the communities relevant to our collecting areas—rural areas and small towns, agriculture and food systems, and cooking during quarantine. Look for more information about this in a future blog post from me. Besides that, there are plenty of back burner projects that have suddenly come into their own. Here are a few examples: Finalizing metadata guidelines for websites captured in our Web Archives; reviewing finding aids for recently processed archival collections; reviewing existing collections to identify which organizational donors I should follow up with for additional donations of material. All that to say that, although I am at home, I’m still working to be sure that we are continuing to document and provide access to collections that are of interest to researchers!
Kanban board for finding aid review workflow. Red arrow indicates Amy’s ever-growing list of finding aids to review. Image courtesy of Amy Bishop.
Carson, Processing Archivist
Moving out of the office and into my living room has certainly been an adjustment—unfortunately, I don’t have any amusing or adorable new “coworkers” to talk about, but I do have a succulent slowly growing toward the plant light.
Image courtesy of Carson.
Image courtesy of Carson.
What does processing look like when you’re working remotely? Well, some of it looks like this.
The collaborative parts of my job haven’t stopped, they’ve just moved: being on a call with a colleague while we both edit a document, for instance, or discussing how to link digital records to physical collections in the finding aids. Connectivity is more important (and network sketchiness more of a hassle) than ever while we’re geographically dispersed, and being away from the stacks and collections is certainly focusing my attention on our digital resources.
Greg Bailey, University Archivist
Since starting to work from home on March 17th , I have been engaged in a few projects. I am working with colleagues to clean up our internal electronic files as we are migrating to a new system. I have been surveying University Archives collections to identify areas that need expansion. Finally, I am overseeing the “Tell Your Story” project that documents Library student workers experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Kahlee Leingang, Processing Archivist
As a processing archivist, a large portion of my job depends on access to physical collections. Since that is not possible at the moment, I have been writing the description for finding aids and editing old finding aids. To increase the accessibility of collections, I am working on adding digital records to finding aids so that researchers are able to access a small portion of our materials remotely. I have also been working with Carson and Rosalie to write documentation and procedures for accepting and processing born-digital records.
Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist
I have a lot of variety in my work and it was hard to focus at first. Now that we are about 7 weeks in on working from home, I have figured out I just need to schedule out my day in 2 hour chunks between meetings. This allows me to concentrate on my to do list instead of hopping around it and feeling like I’m not getting anything done. I have been attending a lot of webinars, group meetings, and online presentations. Many of these have been hosted by groups, such as Society of American Archivists or the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, and are centered around how to teach about primary sources online or how to continue to serve our community and researchers while we are separated from our collections. It is helpful to see how our colleagues around the world are dealing with this crisis and it gives me ideas on how to provide instruction and programming related to our collections.
I have also been editing an ebook that should be out in the library’s digital press next month — Cardinal Tales: Highlights from 2018. It’s a compilation of blog posts from SCUA’s blog in 2018 that best demonstrate the work we were doing that year. I’ve been reviewing current research guides created by our department and putting together new content that will reflect how SCUA can assist with instruction and research online. Most of our research assistance and instruction has been in person but we are refocusing how we can best serve our community during this pandemic.
My home office is a mess, but it works. I have taken over my coffee table and take different seats around my living room depending on how I feel that day and what I’m working on.
The constants in my day are my demanding pets who refuse to practice social distancing and want to join in on my video chats. They do remind me when I need to get up and move and I appreciate that. I have also added plants to my space. Now that I’m home so much, I could see that my apartment really needed plants. And more art on the walls. And a map of the world. But — plants first.