For many users, if a collection doesn’t exist where it is searchable online, it may as well not exist at all. What does it take to make a collection accessible, and what would it mean for your organization to have your collection discoverable, online, and accessible? Anderson Archival’s Mark Anderson and Marcia Spicer discuss this important topic.
Marcia Spicer: Thanks for joining us today for today’s archival chat. With me today is Mark Anderson. He’s one of our Founding Principals.
Mark Anderson: Also joining us is Marcia Spicer. She’s our team lead of Anderson Archival.
Marcia: What we really wanted to talk about today is access. Over the last two years, we’ve found that clients all over the country, they’re contacting us and they’re saying, “This situation, we can’t get into our archives, our buildings are locked down, our guests can’t come, we can’t do our research. Our collections are literally locked away from us.” The situation is, “We can’t keep going this way.”
Mark: That’s right. One of the things that I think is interesting, though, is that this problem hasn’t just occurred overnight, right? And so one of the things that I thought was pretty interesting, our daughter shared with us a book that she had read called Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway. One of the interesting things that he brought out is that due to the pandemic, he was positing that we’ve essentially experienced about a decade of growth within about an eight-week time period starting in the spring of 2020. And if you think about it, right, we’ve all done things online that we never anticipated doing, from Zoom and Teams meetings, to Instacart delivering groceries to us right at the drop of the hat, all of those kinds of things which may have taken us a lot longer to get comfortable with. But the pandemic forced us to get comfortable in a hurry with some of those things. Could you describe for us, Marcia, how that’s maybe impacted, say, a director of a collection?
Marcia: Yeah, thinking back to maybe 2019, you know, in the “before times,” maybe it was commonplace for researchers, users of a collection, they learn something and they call into the library and they say, “I need you to pull this book, look at this line, tell me what it says, send me a copy.” Or they would come in and do the work and look in the stacks themselves. Well, users aren’t as happy with that process anymore. And also librarians and archivists aren’t having as much time to take those calls, so what we’re finding is that the users want to do the search themselves. Even if they can come onsite, they don’t really want to come onsite; they want to do the search from their home, like they’re doing their shopping, like they’re doing their meeting. They want to do it online and do it themselves, full access to everything.
Mark: And so, if you’re, again, that director, all of a sudden there’s this sense of urgency. As a matter of fact, Marcia and I were speaking to an organization this week, and the director made a very interesting point. He essentially said to us, “My legacy may very well be the digitization of this collection.” Their collection went back to 1844 and obviously the organization has been around for a very long time, but none of these key or “pieces of gold” have been digitized. I think it’s interesting that we’re now hearing much more from folks that sense of “I must get my collection online, I need to make it accessible.” How would you say, Marcia, we can help people do that online?
Marcia: Sure. I mean, when that when you have that access, you have those crystal clear images, high resolution. It’s an accurate representation of the original. You’ve got optical character recognition, OCR that’s gotten a searchable text layer on that image. A user can go to your website to whatever digital library has been set up, type in their search for a key name, a key date, even a search term that’s buried in the text. And when they pull up that result that your collection is being accessed and seen, and it exists, and it’s making an impact for those researchers.
Mark: I like that term, “It exists.” We’ve heard from time to time that if someone can’t find it online, essentially, to them it does not exist. And that’s something that you do not want to have your organization feel like you’re limited by.
Marcia: Yeah, and that’s really where Anderson Archival can come in, certainly. We really strive to provide that full-service solution where we’re taking you through all of those stages, all the way to choosing and implementing that perfect access solution that’s going to make your collection exist for these users.
Mark: That’s great, Marcia. Thanks so much for taking the time today to talk about this important topic.
Marcia: Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Mark: Bye, everyone.