Minimal Processing: What is it, and why should I care?


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Workshop for the Southern California Technical Processes Group

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Minimal Processing: What is it, and why should I care?

  1. 1. Minimal ProcessingWhat is it, and why should I care? Southern California Technical Processes Group Workshop Audra Eagle Yun, MLIS, CA Archivist, Special Collections & Archives UC Irvine Libraries October 25, 2012
  2. 2. MPLP and the Era of Minimal Processing “The most important guideline [for levels of description] is always to prefer the acceptable minimum—within and across collections—and make each new situation argue for any additional investment of time and effort.” “[A] sign of professional maturity would be for us to own up to the limitations we work under and accept that the golden minimum recommended here (or doing “good enough” rather than insisting on perfection) is all we can realistically accomplish.”Greene, Mark A, and Dennis E. Meissner."More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing.”American Archivist. 68.2 (2005).
  3. 3. Physical and intellectual control“We should be paying more attention to achieving basic physical andintellectual control over, and thus affording research access to, all our holdings,rather than being content to process a few of them to perfection.” Photo credit: EiraTansey,
  4. 4. Much Ado about Paper Clips…?EARLY RESPONSE• “We’ve already been doing this – it’snothing new!”• MPLP as a method or techniques to use• Shifting the burden of review toreference service staff• Exposing material that is “not ready” forpublic use• Fixation on whether to remove fasteners• Forcing archivists to perform sloppy work• Airing our “dirty laundry”
  5. 5. What is most important about MPLP? • “[MPLP gets] materials into the hands of users more quickly and efficiently.” • “ offers a way to work through our large backlog of manuscript collections...” • “[MPLP] provides a philosophical and practical approach to processing that favors efficiency, thus allowing more ready access to material.” • “It allows me to focus on the practical preservation of materials [to] increase access, and whittle down my large backlog while ensuring the long term stability of the item or material. Putting valuable source materials in the hands of researchers as soon as possible instead of languishing in a backlog.” • “It allows us to consider material "finished" rather than deferred or backlogged, at a point where we have provided basic housing and description and minimized threats to preservation. The state of description and housing may be far from ideal, but we dont have to consider the collection "unprocessed" and, most importantly, can open the material to researchers in good conscience.” • “[MPLP gives me the] flexibility to process the collections at different levels of description.” • “[MPLP allows me to spend] the right amount of time to provide adequate access to a collection. Let the researcher spend time looking at the collection instead of the curator spending time to itemize the collection.”
  6. 6. A Tiered Approach to Processing: Early ExampleLevel 1: Bibliographic record (unprocessed); institutional records are accessionedas processed.Level 2: Box level control -- intellectual control with no physicalreorganization. Collections under 100 linear feet are re-boxed in document cases,since they are easier to recall/manage than record cartons.Level 3: Box and folder level control -- may include some folder level and somebox level description in the same collection. Keeping use statistics allowsarchivists to determine what to process further.Level 4: Folder level control: Traditional processing, paid for by grants or externalfunding. Susan Hamson, Columbia University, speaking at MARAC 2008.. Notes adapted via
  7. 7. Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing In the University of California Libraries, 2012
  8. 8. Core, Recommended Principles1. Aim to provide access to all holdings.1. Always look for the “golden minimum.”1. Analyze the work necessary for each collection and be flexible in the amount of work applied.1. Arrange, describe, and preserve materials in harmony.1. Measure and compare processing rates to ensure processing is carried out efficiently.
  9. 9. Describing Archives: A Content StandardSingle-level minimum • Reference Code Element • Name and Location of Repository Element • Title Element • Date Element • Extent Element • Name of Creator(s) Element • Scope and Content Element • Conditions Governing Access Element • Language and Scripts of the Material Element Single-level descriptions can describe archival materials at any level
  10. 10. Providing Access • Barring donor or legal restrictions, all collections should be presumed open for research. • Determine potential restrictions during accessioning. • Review requested unprocessed materials on demand. • Assess your institution’s tolerance for risk. • Devise public services and reading room policies to account for use of unprocessed or efficiently-processed materials. • Track use, and allow user demand to guide processing priorities.
  11. 11. Significance of Accessioning 1. Create the minimal collection- level record as part of accessioning. 1. Prepare for access of unprocessed materials during accessioning. 1. Perform some processing during accessioning.
  12. 12. Suggested Levels of Control
  13. 13. Suggested Levels of Control, continued
  14. 14. Processing Levels
  15. 15. Processing Levels, continued
  16. 16. Value
  17. 17. Levels, based on value scores
  18. 18. Processing Rates
  19. 19. Processing Metrics • Repository • Collection/series title • Value score • Condition •Processor(s) • Processing start date • Processing end date • Total processing hours • Processing level • Average processing rate • Funding source (if applicable) • Notes
  20. 20. Processing Techniques: Arrangement
  21. 21. Processing Techniques: Arrangement
  22. 22. Processing Techniques: Description
  23. 23. Processing Techniques: Description
  24. 24. Photographic Collections
  25. 25. Photographic Collections, continued
  26. 26. Material: streamlined processing • Consider use of original AV material • User-requested reformatting • Avoid viewing, listening, or converting as part of appraisal • Onus of identification on the researcher • Item-level inventories more useful than hierarchical arrangement • Avoid description of format • Climate control is highest priority, not housing • Outsource!
  27. 27. Digital: the final frontier?