Author’s Note: This post is Part 2 of the EAD Primer written by Carissa Hansen in December 2016. The author will also present a poster on the topic of EAD implementation in small repositories at the upcoming Midwest Archives Conference annual meeting (April 6-8, 2017) in Omaha, Nebraska – hit her up if you’re attending!
Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is the archival metadata schema used to create collection guides or “finding aids” for archival collections. Last December, in my post titled “Your EAD Primer: Part 1,” I talked about the basics of XML and EAD, tools you can use to create EAD instances, and the differences between EAD 2002 and EAD3. Now I’ll talk about EAD implementation, which is perhaps more important and potentially more difficult, especially for small repositories. And when I say EAD implementation, I mean straight-up coding implementation – no content management systems. That’s a different post!
Once you’ve decided that you want to pursue EAD coding, there are several things to consider. In this post, I’m going to touch on three broad considerations. There are more granular considerations that fall within each of these, but you need to:
- Assess and address staff knowledge of EAD, XML, and XSLT
- Develop a written project plan with specific goals
- Communicate value, the what and why, of EAD to stakeholders in terms that make sense to them
I’ve already hit on most of consideration number one in “Your EAD Primer: Part 1,” but don’t forget about XSLT! When you’re considering a local coding implementation, you’ve got to think about how you’ll render the EAD viewable on the web – that’s where XSLT comes in. XSLT stands for Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations and it can turn your XML into HTML or even a PDF. XML works differently than XSLT. It may be the case that staff at your archives know how EAD and XML work, but not how to write their own XSLT stylesheet for transformation purposes. If this is the case, make sure you’re being mindful of this fact, and account for it by making a plan for learning XSLT or hiring someone to write a stylesheet for you.
The second consideration I’ve mentioned is absolutely crucial. Make a project plan that includes both short and long-term goals, who is responsible for what, and where you will need assistance and stakeholder support from outside of the archives. This is a good opportunity to draft a document that you can hand to internal stakeholders that also communicates what EAD is and why it is important for your organization. If your internal stakeholders are not familiar with archives work, include a glossary of terms, a high-level outline of how EAD works, and additional related resources.
The third consideration, communicating value to stakeholders, plays off the second consideration. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that it you may need to rethink your approach to communicating how EAD works and what it will do for your organization. This is particularly true for archives that do not hold a position of stature within their organization or those archives that are not a main function of the institution. Think about how you can talk about EAD in ways that will make sense to your stakeholders. Are bibliographic cataloging practices understood by your stakeholders, but archival description less so? Play into that bibliographic cataloging knowledge and relate it to archival description! Are stakeholders particularly interested in obtaining more grants or reference requests? Find some statistics that demonstrate how they could accomplish these objectives by helping you implement EAD coding.
When you’re planning coding implementation be sure to think about what you and your staff do and do not realistically have the capacity to do. With EAD3 in particular, there are many new opportunities to make your data more granular, but how much time are you willing to dedicate in practice and development of expertise to take advantage of this? Additionally, you must think about the fact that hand-coding creates potential for messier data and a loss of authority control. In content management systems, there are often ways to exercise a high degree of control over authority records. How will you manage this when there is less automated control? Finally, don’t forget about the many resources that already exist to help you with your EAD coding implementation. I touched on several of these in my “Part 1” post. The Github sites for SAA EAD Roundtable and SAA Technical Subcommittee on Encoded Archival Standards are great resources for templates and stylesheets. Subscribe to the Library of Congress’s EAD listserv to ask questions and see what colleagues are talking about.
Happy coding, planning, and implementing EAD!
Carissa Hansen is an archivist at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and the Community Manager at Hack Library School. In her previous job at Hennepin County Library Special Collections, she helped to develop a strategy for EAD3 implementation. If you’d like to chat with her, you can find her on Twitter @libchans or email firstname.lastname@example.org.