In the (Virtual) Reading Room: Providing Access to the Born Digital
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In the (Virtual) Reading Room: Providing Access to the Born Digital



Presentation to the Society of American Archivists, August 2013.

Presentation to the Society of American Archivists, August 2013.



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  • Hello, and welcome. I’m going to explore UC Irvine’s efforts to provide access to born digital archival collections, specifically through our “virtual reading room” and how this has impacted public services as well as users.
  • We have several born-digital archival collections stored in Dspace. We needed a way to limit access to born digital files with restricted content – material with issues related to FERPA, copyright, privacy, or donor restrictions. I’d like to focus on one collection in particular as a case study for what accessing born-digital records looks like at UCI.
  • Extent and content: 1 hard drive (~3,500 files on 200+ directories), including correspondence email; text documents; published and unpublished writings by Poster and others; web pages; some images------We took necessary steps to migrate the files according to current practice (write blocker, checksums) and converted the files into PDF/A as needed or kept existing format if usable. We retained all noncorrupt files, and did minor appraisal mostly at the directory level. The archival originals were stored in Merritt, the dark archive of the California Digital Library. Description was initially done at the item level, but it became clear that the collection did not warrant this level of detail. We then moved into sub-series (or directory) level description to be more efficient and consistent with archival processing priorities.
  • Open for research, per donor’s Creative Commons License – both analog and digital filesMake available in DSpace as a digital collection – fully searchable descriptions and partially searchable full textFinding aid in the Online Archive of California – points to both analog and digital files; links to DSpace collectionCollection record in library catalog, harvested by OCLC/WorldCat; links to both OAC finding aid and DSpace collection
  • This is what the collection page looks like. Researchers are told in the description: …
  • When a researcher clicks on a file that is restricted, a thumbnail image does NOT appear. However, the user is able to see all metadata including title, author, and date last modified. If the user clicks on the item file for this email between Poster and John Carlos Rowe, the following page appears --
  • This is our default “locked door” between the user and a restricted file – the door to the Virtual Reading Room. Like an actual reading room, instant access is not always permitted. The user must submit an application…
  • The application for the Virtual Reading Room is essentially the same as our physical reading room. Users are asked for basic identifying information as well as the collection(s) they are interested in using, and are asked to show an identification. We request an image of the user’s identification to be emailed to our public services staff once they have started the application process.
  • Every field is required for the form to be completed, including checking the tickbox for “I have read the Rules of Use and agree to abide by its terms.”
  • The rules for use for the Virtual Reading Room emphasize that the content is available for research, teaching, and private study. The user is responsible for obtaining permission from the copyright holder for multiple copies or publication. Users have access to the VRR for one fiscal year (July – June) just as they do when they register in the physical reading room at UCI.
  • Since making the files available in February of this year, we’ve had nearly 1100 views. We’ve had X requests for access to the Virtual Reading Room for Poster and X number of requests for all VRR files in general. [AY to update this]
  • There are several considerations during this time of experimentation, with regard to access -- How can we make our born digital collections more findable and usable through architecture, metadata, and interactive interfaces? What about emulating the native environment of the software used to create legacy media files?What will be the long-term impact on reference and public service?Within the UC system, we’ve created a working group to explore these questions as well as how we can share our resources and knowledge – to bridge gaps and explore best practices.
  • For more in-depth information about UC Irvine’s experiments with born-digital archival collections, I encourage you to take a look at former head Michelle Light’s presentation at the very recent symposium held at Yale entitled “Past Forward: Meeting Stakeholder Needs in 21st Century Special Collections.” Slides and video are available.Thank you!

In the (Virtual) Reading Room: Providing Access to the Born Digital In the (Virtual) Reading Room: Providing Access to the Born Digital Presentation Transcript

  • In the (Virtual) Reading Room Providing Access to the Born Digital Audra Eagle Yun, MLIS, CA Acting Head, Special Collections & Archives University of California, Irvine Libraries @audraeagleyun | ARCHIVES 2013: Joint Annual Meeting of SAA and CoSA New Orleans, Louisiana August 16, 2013
  • Mark Poster Papers Born digital files, 1985-2009
  • Access
  • “The collection is partially open to research. In order to access the "Administrative Records for the Critical Theory Institute" and selected "Research Files," researchers must apply for access and agree to follow the Rules of Use for the Virtual Reading Room. Access may be granted in less than 5 business days.”
  • “The file you are attempting to access has been restricted due to an agreement with the file's original owner. If the item associated with this file displays a future "Date Available" the file will become accessible on that date. In some cases a UCISpace Account is required to view the file--to obtain a UCISpace Account please submit a Virtual Reading Room Application. If you already have a UCISpace Account and have been granted access to this file, please login below.”
  • Considerations • Discoverability • Usability of interface • Emulation • Impact on public service • Creating best practices
  • Further Information June 5-7, 2013 #pastfor