Dwight C. Steele Papers: Finding Aid is Now Available via the Online Archive of California

For my final semester, Fall 2010, at the SJSU School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), I interned at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. I arranged and processed two collections and wrote finding aids for each one: the Dwight C. Steele Papers and the Gladys Worthington Papers. I am so glad to have helped make these collections accessible to researchers in the U.C. Berkeley community.

As of April 2011, the finding aid for the Dwight C. Steele Papers (BANC MSS 2005/195 c) is now available on the Online Archive of California (OAC).

Researchers can contact the Bancroft Library for access to the collection.

Dwight C. Steele Papers: Manuscript Processing Lessons Learned

My internship at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library is coming along. The manuscript collection I am processing, the Dwight C. Steele Papers, is coming along, and I am feeling good about my work. I will finish labeling the folders and cartons and work on the finding aid next time I am in. Then it will be time to move on to the next collection.

Before I do, though, I realize I’ve learned so much through the processing of this first collection. The biggest difficulty I have had is in sticking to the institutional priority of “MPLP” or “More Product, Less Process” which reflects an approach to processing proposed by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner (2005) published in The American Archivist.  While Bancroft is using a modified Greene and Meissner approach, meaning there is flexibility in processing, with much more detailed work allowed on a case by case basis, my natural inclination is to be very detailed in my work, which typically takes too much time, considering the backlog of materials that needs to be processed. So, as I’ve gone through the collection survey and processing process, I’ve been forced to seek strategies to speed things along. Some of the time, this happens after the fact, so that on my next collection, I won’t make the same types of mistakes.

Yesterday, while at the job site, I had to do some backtracking, as I was horrified to discover my collection had grown over the course of my processing due to extensive refoldering (the new folders were taking up more space than they were originally, as I wasn’t filling each folder as much as I should have been). This turned out to be unjustified by the time I had the collection arranged. As I’d been working, I painstakingly made chronological folders for each year for some series, as I planned to add to each folder and fill it as I processed. Unfortunately, the majority of these folders were not filled, some of which only had one or two documents inside.

This turned out to be a waste of space and resources. So, in order to avoid adding another box or carton to the collection, I began to consolidate some of these folders and was able to fit the collection into the original space allotment. I may do a bit more of this before I create the finding aid and add the container list. The fewer individual folders I have, the easier this will be to do, and the more time I will save. Of course, backtracking takes time, too. But the lesson is learned, and will save me time both in creation of the finding aid and in the processing of future collections. In just a couple of work days, I will be started on the next collection and able to apply all that I’ve learned along the way. I believe I will be much more successful in adhering to MPLP.

Further, I am excited that Mr. Steele’s collection will finally be accessible to researchers and the public. What a payoff. I get to see the collection move from a disorganized state, through to a neatly foldered and organized collection that will be of use to patrons of the Bancroft Library.


Internship Update: the Dwight C. Steele Papers at Bancroft Library

My internship at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library‘s Regatta Storage Facility has continued in Richmond, CA, along with the three other interns working at the same site. Each of us is processing a different collection. Mine is the Dwight C. Steele Papers, which is comprised of 7 cartons, and two oversized boxes. Mr. Steele was a labor lawyer turned environmental lobbyist/activist. He was involved deeply in Bay Area and Lake Tahoe Region environmental causes (most activity is from the 1960s – 2000), through personal lobbying and work with groups such as the Save San Francisco Bay Association (also known as Save the Bay), the San Francisco Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, the Sierra Club, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Tahoe-Baikal Institute and others.

The initial part of my internship was involved in surveying the collection and developing a processing plan based on the survey, and according to strict guidelines developed as a result of institutional priorities–the idea is More Product, Less Process or MPLP, an approach devised by Greene and Meissner to help assure access is prioritized when institutional backlogs are dominating holdings.

The next phase–and I am still working on this part–is the actual arranging and processing of the collection. Unfortunately, strict deadlines weren’t given to us, and the processing plan form indicated I had much more time to work on this, as it was using non-MPLP time frames. Last Thursday, we were given a soft deadline to complete work on the collection by October 21, 2010. Technically that left only 16 hours of work. Yikes. I’m only 1/2 done now, and still have to produce a finding aid! Fortunately, I discussed my dilemma with my supervisor and was given another full day to complete my work on the collection. As a result, I am spending some time reviewing all of my survey notes and researching Mr. Steele’s connections and involvement so I can develop a revised strategy for completing the collection within the new time frame.

While the deadline is imminent, I recognize that a changing environment is a realistic situation. Communication sometimes breaks down, and plans have to be revised to meet the new criteria. Asking questions, checking in, and staying flexible are key. The internship’s first learning outcome specifically focuses on institutional priorities when creating processing timelines, and I have to balance my natural inclination for in depth work with the need for timely access to the collection. What a learning opportunity. I’ve shifted into high gear in order to get back on track. Continue reading

Bancroft Library’s Regatta Storage Facility

This semester I’ll be one of four interning for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, at the Regatta Storage Facility which is one of their off campus storage and processing facilities in Richmond, California. The site internship supervisor is David de Lorenzo (also an instructor at SJSU SLIS), although we do not work directly with him. I have been really impressed with the organization of the internship and the presentation of orientation materials and the level of support provided at the job site.

On our orientation tour of the facility, David commented that Regatta is like the the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. I’d have to say I agree with his estimation, and would only add that it is a very modern version of the warehouse! Newly remodeled specifically to house museum (by David’s account there is a sarcophagus and a totem pole somewhere in the depths of the facility) and library materials (the Judaica librarian discovered a 1596? item printed in Bamberg, Germany in a box he was unpacking last Thursday), the facility is secure (we all have University issued badges that open the security gate and front door, and only have access to the portion of the warehouse storing Bancroft’s material–there are lots of locked doors and fenced off areas within the warehouse), with environmental controls for humidity and temperature, and it even has two bunkers built in for storage of volatile nitrate film. Needless to say, it is an exciting environment to be in. Our focus is processing archival collections, as one of the functions of the facility is as an archival processing center.

The goals of the internship are quite clear, as the backlog of archival materials at Bancroft is problematic. The problem has developed over time, as 20th century collections produce so much paperwork, and historically the processing approach taken by Bancroft Library has been thorough and thus, time consuming. David de Lorenzo is now using a modified Greene & Meissner approach to processing archival collections known at Bancroft as “MPLP” which stands for More Product, Less Process (see the article More Product, Less Process: Pragmatically Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal with Late 20th Century Collections”). With this new approach, access to collections can improve greatly. With grant funding, the Bancroft has hired four full time survey archivists (for three years) who are assessing the status of collections at Bancroft and are now overseeing us interns. Each of us is starting out with two of the smaller high priority collections.

My learning outcomes, based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning are as follows:

  1. Develop arrangement schemas and formulate processing timelines for archival collections while considering institutional resources and priorities.
  2. Apply archival survey and arrangement methods to unprocessed manuscript collections.
  3. Compare, select and employ appropriate conservation methods and materials for archival objects.
  4. Appraise collection materials for retention and disposition based on institutional policies, research needs and archival standards/guidelines.
  5. Facilitate information management and retrieval by designing and constructing descriptive finding aids and accurate electronic records using archival methodologies.

To date, with only one week of the internship behind me, I have been focusing primarily on outcomes 1 and 2. For outcome 1, institutional resources and priorities have been made clear as described above, and I can see how it is important to fit processing into a timeline in order to best meet and follow through with these. I am processing the Dwight C. Steele (an environmental activist/lobbyist and labor lawyer) papers, which is comprised of seven cartons (although there are likely other materials associated with it, that I hope will be identified/delivered soon). For the survey I have a 16 hour timeline, and have completed cartons 1-3 already. I will tackle cartons 4-7 this Thursday, at which point I will be ready to create a processing plan and submit it for approval. I did struggle to stick with my timeline initially, as it is easy to want to go into too much detail at this early phase when it is actually more important to see the “forest for the trees.” However, I have a better sense of the pace I need to maintain now.

Outcome 2 focuses on the survey and arrangement methods of unprocessed manuscript collections, and well, I am up to my ears in it! I am really glad to be getting the experience and look forward to looking at the collection in a more in depth way when processing and arrangement begin.