Something New for Something Old: Innovative Approaches to Managing Archives and Special Collections

December 4-5, 2008 at the Union League of Philadelphia



Overview and Updates

Schedule and Speakers


Information for Attendees


Merrilee Proffitt

Biographical Statement

Merrilee Proffitt is a senior program officer in OCLC Research. Merrilee works on topics related to archival description, special collections access, terminologies, copyright status determination and digital library initiatives. Prior to coming this position, Merrilee worked at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley from 1988 to 2001.

member of Cataloging and Description panel

Presentation Overview

OCLC Research activities in archival description (and beyond)

This presentation will cover two areas: work being done within the RLG Partnership to further a larger understanding of end-to-end archival processes, and a related OCLC product and service analysis.

Special collections materials are of increasing interest and importance. As materials from the general stacks become more ubiquitous (through "mass" digitization projects and as institutions move towards joint ownership of books and journals), special collections may become what defines a library collection. With the shift in importance, it's a good time for an examination of the end-to-end process (from appraisal through description) that results in archival and special collections materials being delivered to and used by interested users. The overarching goal is to achieve economies and efficiencies that permit these materials to be effectively described, properly disclosed, successfully discovered and appropriately delivered. The near-term effort within the RLG Partnership is to take a system-wide view that will identify gaps in current operations—missing evidence, needed changes in practice, cumbersome processes, deficiencies in technology platforms that support description and disclosure, and required supporting services. We currently have seven projects which look at a range of activities associated with archival collections, from the point of view of collection managers, and also from the point of view of end users and systems.

For this panel, I will highlight two of the seven projects in this area. The first project will surface what we know about the current state of archival description and holdings. In the near term, we will be analyzing MARC records under archival control in WorldCat. We’ll be comparing findings against DACS, and also will be able to say something about encoding levels for these records, geographic distribution and more. Over time, we hope to expand this work to include EAD records as well.

The second project looks at what demands might be on archival description, both from an end-user and systems point of view. This work is in a very early stage, but I will explain what this work will encompass, and why this is so important.

Finally, I will talk about our larger efforts to look at OCLC's current product and service array and efforts to match what we offer with needs in the archival community.


Effectively Disclose Archives and Special Collections Program

Define the State of Holdings and Description for Archives Project

Analyze Specialized Archival Discovery Environments to Find Data Elements that Optimize Discovery of Archival Materials Project



Last updated November 4, 2008 Questions may be directed to Laura Blanchard,