Processing the Maxwell Finland Papers (H MS c153) at the Center for the History of Medicine, 2004.
The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that it has launched a publicly accessible, Harvard Medical School-hosted listserv called MetricsList. MetricsList facilitates communication among repositories participating in the Center’s Processing Metrics Collaborative, individuals interested in discussing how people track their outputs and report outcomes, and archivists using (or thinking about using) the Center’s processing metrics tracking tool (“MD”) to capture management data related to the processing of archival and manuscript collections.
The Center invites you to share your thoughts, questions, and research related to evaluating processing workflows, descriptive practices, user-based and peer evaluation, benchmarking, and how to better foster and communicate success.
To subscribe, please send an email to LISTSERV@LISTSERV.MED.HARVARD.EDU with the command: SUBSCRIBE METRICSLIST in the BODY of the message. (Please leave the subject line blank.)
Please contact Emily R. Novak Gustainis if you have questions about the listserv or the Processing Metrics Collaborative.
The North Carolina State University’s CLIR-funded project, “Changing the Landscape: Exposing the Legacy of Modernist Architects and Landscape Architects,” is a new Center partner. NCSU will use the Center’s Metrics Database in a two-year project to arrange and describe collections of drawings and other papers of six influential modernist architects and landscape architects who changed their professions as well as the national and regional landscape.
Using the Metrics Database, NCSU will collect processing time data in order to calculate the full cost of moving architectural collections from unprocessed and inaccessible to usable for scholarship and research. During the project, NCSU staff will process 40,000 original plans and drawings in both paper and electronic formats as well as related project files and records from six designers (Matthew Nowicki; Lewis Clarke; Richard Bell; George Smart; Holloway & Reeves; Biberstein, Bowles, Meacham & Reed) spanning the latter half of the 20th century. For more, see the Changing the Landscape blog or contact Project Librarian Emily Walters.
The NCSU metrics data will be particularly useful since it will reflect the processing of special formats and electronic records. Building a rich body of shared data will help institutions learn from one another and draw meaningful conclusions about processing times. Currently, this information (if collected) is not collected in a standard format or shared between institutions. The sharing of data about processing would be of great use to the archival community as we strive to find the balance between appropriate processing and user satisfaction.
To better understand appropriate-level processing methodologies and metrics capture, the Center recently invited individuals affiliated with the New England Archivists, the Society of American Archivists, and the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences to participate in an online survey of how repositories measure processing activities and outputs. Respondents included archivists, curators, library directors, and program administrators from across the country, with the majority of participants representing college or university archives (36.8%) and special collections in an academic or library environment (29.4%).
Of the sixty-eight respondents, 21.1% reported that their repository does not capture any metrics related to processing collections and 29.8% reported that their workplace had only started to collect metrics within the last five years. The survey generated the following findings: 23.7% of repositories do not keep statistics on collections processed in a calendar or fiscal year; 86% do not measure the amount of time they spend on creating processing plans; 77.6% do not keep statistics on box and folder listing; 82.5% do not keep statistics on arrangement; 80.7% do not keep statistics on description; 54.4% do not keep statistics on creating and encoding finding aids; 75.4% do not keep statistics on preservation photocopying; and 47.4% do not keep statistics on digitization.
Of interest, the survey revealed that, as professionals, we focus on the cumulative results of our activities and are less concerned with the amount of time we spend on particular arrangement and description activities. Participants tracking collections maintained the bulk of their statistics at the collection level, tracking volume of material processed second, with a very small number of respondents evaluating workflow for specific activities (between 1.8% and 8.8%, depending on activity monitored). The survey will inform the Center’s development of a tool for generating database-driven management data related to the processing of archival and manuscript collections to better understand (and measure) the costs and benefits of processing to different levels. The Center’s Beta database, currently in use for tracking all activities itemized in the survey, was developed as part of its CLIR-funded Foundations of Public Health Policy grant work. The Center will publish its findings related to collections processed by staff utilizing discrete tracking in the coming year.
For more information about the Center’s processing metrics initiative, please contact Emily R. Novak Gustainis (Emily_Gustainis@hms.harvard.edu).
Screen shot from the Center's processing metrics database
The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that its 2010 Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections Symposium presentation, “Capturing Processing Metrics and Qualifying MPLP Practices,” is now available online. Collections Services Archivist Emily R. Novak Gustainis discussed how the Center’s CLIR-funded Foundations of Public Health Policy grant (2008) has enabled staff to experiment with innovative processing techniques that maximize access to collections. A key component of grant work has been capturing metrics related to processing archival and manuscript collections in a Center-designed tracking database. Our objective is to better understand our requirements in time, staffing, and resources for various activities in the arrangement and description continuum.
Slide from the FPHP presentation. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.
As part of an ongoing effort to address the backlog of unprocessed and underprocessed manuscript material at Harvard, and as part of the national debate on the pressure to digitize such material, the Manuscripts and Archives Standing Committee (MASC) and the Manuscript and Archives Development Working Group (MADE) of the Harvard Libraries held a program focused on “MPLP at Harvard: More Product, Less Process at Harvard University Library” on Monday, 14 December 2009, at the Radcliffe Gym, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
The program explored two local attempts by members of the Harvard University Library community to streamline traditional methods of manuscript processing and cataloging. Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources has enabled experimentation with innovative processing techniques that maximize access to collections and strengthen connections to user communities.
Michael Dello Iacono, Project Archivist, Public Health, discussed how the Center is employing team/collaborative processing as part of achieving its objectives, and Emily Novak Gustainis, Collections Services Archivist, spoke about developing/capturing processing metrics to improve efficiency and inform the Center’s processing practices. Click here to view the presentation slides
Foundations of Public Health Policy (FPHP) is an initiative currently funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). With grant funding, the Center for the History of Medicine is enabling, for the first time, access to the manuscript collections of influential leaders in the field of public health and public health administration. FPHP is part of the Center’s larger effort to chronicle the history of public health, starting with the Harvard School of Public Health, its centers, and its institutes.