Workflows and Archives

My systems analysis class, taught by the amazing Stephanie Haas, was all about workflows, both physical and technical.  This could be something as simple as the process for checking out at a supermarket or something technical like a system for managing all the aspects of a cohousing community, and all sorts of other matters.  Our assignments involved creating diagrams of how these systems work and then analyzing ways to make them more efficient.  We were then organized into groups, and my group had the task of creating a unified system that managed aspects of life at a cohousing community in Carborro. (I actually just looked at their website now, and they did actually implement the Plone system that we designed for them. Cool.)

I am going to make some of these same sorts of diagrams for processes that we do here at the Special Collections Research Center and (eventually) share them with you all.  I want to make one for our system of answering reference requests (including making copies, ordering research time, and our part of billing) and the process for getting classes to come into the SCRC.  Hopefully we can discover ways to make the processes more efficient, saving us time, energy, and sanity.  But even if that doesn’t happen, it will allow us to reflect on what we are currently doing in a more general way, allowing us to approach our daily tasks in way that we don’t normally.

If any of you have any suggestions for other workflows that we could be analyzing, how to go about this process, or workflow stories of your own, please let me know.

My First Week in the Real World

I have just started my second full week of work at the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary.  I am the Public Services Archives Specialist, and so I’ve been (unsurprisingly) doing a lot of things that face the public, in addition to my training.  My primary task, so far, has been to answer all of the email reference questions that come into our general special collections account.  These have primarily been genealogical requests so far, which is different than the kinds of requests I was getting at UNC.  For example, one person specifically mentioned the DAR in her request.

I’ve also been getting my hands into the social media tools used by the SCRC.  We have a Twitter account, a Flickr page, a Youtube page, and I just created our Facebook page.  I’m currently trying to post a today in history from our collections type post every day as well as mentioning all the classes that come in and use the SCRC.

I’ve also been participating in a lot of classes.  Well, participating may be a strong word.  What I’ve been primarily doing so far has been to make sure that the students don’t break anything while the other staff member conducts the class.  But I will have classes of my own to teach in the spring.

Finally, I’ve just started to learn how to accession new materials that we purchase or are donated.  Here at the SCRC, accessioning means that we take the materials, create a basic record for them, and put that record on the web.  For some collections, especially ones that are single items, that might be enough.  Other collections that will eventually need processing go into a spreadsheet to be worked on by undergrads, grad students, or volunteers.

So that’s what I’ve basically been doing so far.  We’re also working on ways to create a better workflow for dealing with reference requests (in the pondering stage) as well as the workflow for how we recruit, prepare for, and execute classes.  I’ll keep you all updated.