With the start of the academic year, I’m starting to feel anxious about all the things on my plate – or rather, my competence in handling them. To help me take a step back and see things more objectively, I dug out a little sketch I had written last fall where I was making fun of my “neurotic thought process” during a business meeting… I had been very nervous prior to it, but it ended up being ok. And I’m still involved with the project, so apparently they didn’t think I was as neurotic as I felt :-)
Setting: A boardroom in an office on a cold, windy afternoon in November
Characters: M1, programmer; M2, project manager; M3, attorney; Laura, an unseasoned archivist
M2 introduces Laura to M1 and M3. All four then sit down to discuss a digital archives project for the diocese.
M1: [hands Laura a copy of their proposal] So, you’re the archival expert and we’d like to run our proposal by you for your advice.
Laura: [screams internally, then nods in agreement] Ok.
The discussion then turns to digital file formats and metadata standards. Laura is asked about current standards and best practices. After remembering she is allowed to pause and gather her thoughts, she manages a couple sentences containing “EAD,” “XML,” and “Dublin Core.” She also explains that Dublin Core is used more for artifacts than archival documents.
M1: Ok, that’s good to know because we will also be cataloguing artifacts. Another question I have, when you scan documents, how much does DPI affect the OCR?
Laura: [starts to panic because she doesn’t know the answer, and while she does understand the concept of OCR, she’s not entirely sure she remembers what the acronym stands for and wonders if they’ll fire her for not knowing; then she remembers back to her Knowledge Taxonomies class during her MLIS, and a guest lecture about consulting and not having to always have the answer right away – you can get back to them later] Off the top of my head, I’m not sure, but I will check and get back to you.
Eventually the discussion turns to storing the physical archives.
M3: So will the archives be ok in the crate for a month while we digitize them? I’m not sure how they’re normally stored. But we need to keep the room temperature controlled, right?
Laura: [terra firma!] This I’m more familiar with then digitization processes. Yes, they will be fine for a month [explains that for long-term storage, the temperature needs to be kept cool and stable, no rapid fluctuations, and the humidity kept low]
After about forty-five minutes, the discussion winds down and it’s time for Laura to leave.
M1: Do you have any questions, or further thoughts?
Laura: [starts worrying because she doesn’t think well on her feet, and has not had a chance to properly read and mull over the proposal] Not at the moment, but I’ll read over this in more detail and if I do, I’ll email you.
M1: That would be great. We want to make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel or anything!
M2: Thanks again for coming by today, it’s great to have you on board.
Laura: [starts being afraid that when they return to the boardroom, they will talk about how unqualified she is and will wonder why the bishop recommended her; then, for the millionth time, she herself starts wondering why the bishop recommended her; then, also for the millionth time, she reminds herself NOT to ask him that, as that would not be professional] I’m glad to be part of this!
Laura steps outside, breathes fresh air and realizes her heart rate stayed relatively stable throughout the entire meeting, a miracle. Also, realizes she forgot to mention RAD, the Canadian archival arrangement and description standard. Somewhat understandable, as she’s worked with it mainly in its capacity as an arrangement standard, and tends to forget the description (i.e., metadata) side of it. Offers up a quick prayer that this won’t come back to haunt her. Decides she can mention it later. Resolves to work hard and become an archival expert.