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

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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.

Fall 2010 SJSU SLIS – Interning Again

What a busy week!

The third full week of my very last semester of school is behind me, and I’m starting my new internship today. Well, I started yesterday with a project review. Meaning I read two versions of the collection processing manual–dry but oddly interesting (I even learned that file folders are meant to be “squared” at the bottom to 1/4 or 1/2 inch along the handy pre-scored lines in order to protect documents by keeping them more upright–a small but important detail). Collection processing is going to be such a different experience than my last internship (digitization project assistant). Honestly, they will seem like night and day, although both are for academic libraries and involve archival collections.

This semester I’ll be interning for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, at one of their off campus storage and processing facilities in Richmond, California. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited to find out what type of collection I’ll be processing. I’ll report more when I know more.

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.

The focus here is more refined than at my last internship where I focused on diverse aspects of a digitization project. I was immersed in metadata requirements and best practices for digital audio as well as intellectual property concerns for pre-1972 unpublished sound recordings. This time around, while I will deal with metadata, particularly in regards to outcome five, where archival description is critical, and with intellectual property concerns in relation to access and description, it will be a much more hands on process. I’ll have my hands in a collection and work through the processing from start to finish. The internship is expected to last at least through May.

So today is the day I go for orientation, and Thursday is the day I’ll get down and dirty with my new project.

Exciting.

Coming to a Close: Summer Digitization Internship

My summer digitization internship at the Graduate Theological Union‘s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, has been different than expected. But as it comes to a close, I’ve reviewed my anticipated learning outcomes, and realize that I’ve met my goals. I started with a wild list of possible learning outcomes, that no one could possibly meet in one short summer. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and I pared the list down to three fairly specific goals:

  1. Competently use equipment and software for 1) the digitization of reel-to-reel audio tapes and 2) the management of digital files online in accordance with industry standards and best practices.
  2. Plan, assess and create descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata in order to support the discovery, management, and preservation of digital files.
  3. Demonstrate competence in applying knowledge of legal and ethical issues surrounding intellectual property in the management of digital collections in the online environment.

By tailoring the list so specifically, I was able to self direct my activities to a certain degree and spend the time it took (a luxury I realize working professionals don’t always have) to review material and learn about new aspects of the project, rather than flailing from task to task without direction. Of course, my site supervisor at the GTU Library, Melodie Frances, would never have let me fall into that trap in the first place. Fortunately for me, she allowed me to work independently, thus gaining confidence, and was ready and willing to listen to the knowledge I brought to the table, as many of the areas I was researching were new to her as well. Well, primarily the area of copyright. She had been involved with project metadata and digitization long before I arrived at her library. The intellectual property issues surrounding the project are a different cup of tea, however, and I will discuss my third learning outcome below.

Copyright for pre-1972 sound recordings, as I’ve posted before, is tricky stuff. Federal copyright law only applies to any underlying works on the recording such as a musical composition or poem, not to the actual recording itself. Seriously, this complicates matters. As a result, state law fills the gap, and protects the recording with criminal and civil antipiracy statutes, as well as state common law, including common law copyright (relating to the right of first publication), unfair competition & misappropriation, conversion, and unauthorized distribution. Additionally, rights of privacy and publicity can apply as well. And then of course, there is no guarantee which particular state’s laws will apply in a given case, as it is possible and highly likely for the laws from more than one state to apply, particularly when there are multiple copyright holders.

So what is a library or archive to do? There is hardly a circumstance where recordings are in the public domain. Clearly, one must attempt to get permission in good faith. But what about orphan works where the rights holder cannot be ascertained or found? Is it a safe bet to assess the risk, make sure that any intended use is not for commercial gain (directly or indirectly), and make it accessible online? Or is it best to wait until 2067 when the work enters the public domain? Waiting until 2067 just seems like too long a wait. Hopefully orphan works legislation will be passed before then, although I’m not holding my breath.

The whole issue is seriously complicated. I am finishing a paper about unpublished pre-1972 sound recordings for my internship. It is an assessment of current documentation at the GTU Library, the specific needs of the Jesuit Tape Collection, and recommendations for steps to take going forward with the digitization project. These poor tapes are at the end of their life span, and will not wait until 2067. For preservation sake, the digitization has to happen now. Fortunately, there is little risk with this. The problem is of course access. And what good is a historically significant tape collection, if few may access and use it?

One of the major advantages of digitizing a collection is increasing access to a wider audience while at the same time reducing wear and tear on the original, already damaged tapes during use. Magnetic reel-to-reel tapes just don’t last as long as some other materials.

Too bad intellectual property law is not up to date with the digital age of online access. I hope to see some positive changes to this as I move from intern to MLIS to professional.