SPEC Kit 307: Manuscript Collections on the Web · 13
description work, they do not depend on them for
getting that same information on the Web. Student
assistants spend up to 100% of their time in this ca-
pacity, but average only 9%.
Only 14 libraries reported employing other types
of staff for manuscript activities. Typically, these are
graduate assistants, student interns, grant-funded
staff, or volunteers who work part-time. They spend
about half their time on arrangement and description
and less than 20% on Web work, on average.
Size of Manuscript Collection
Since institutions aren’t required to keep these statis-
tics in a standardized unit of measurement, respon-
dents reported the size of their collections in linear
feet, cubic feet, linear meters, and items, with the
majority using linear feet. The size of processed and
unprocessed manuscript collections varied widely.
The total size of processed collections ranges from
385 to 32,839 linear feet, with an average of 8142.78
linear feet of material. The total size of unprocessed
collections ranges from 150 to 22,038 linear feet, with
an average of 4499 linear feet of material.
Levels of Description
When asked about the level of description in their
print or other traditional finding aids, most (48 or
73%) responded that they include collection-level
description with other elements such as scope and
contents note, biographical note, series descriptions,
and folder lists. Only 5% answered that their finding
aids contained less information than that. Just under
a fourth of the respondents report an “other” level
of description. While their explanations were quite
diverse, several answered that the level of description
varies from finding aid to finding aid.
All but three of 66 respondents consider a collec-
tion to be fully processed when there is a multi-level
finding aid that includes folder-level description.
Twenty-five of these (40%) also selected both “multi-
level with series-level description and “multi-level
with collection-level description.” Nine others also
selected one or the other. The respondent who an-
swered “other” noted, “Never really fully processed.
Currently considered such if multi-level description
and box listed inventory.” Other comments indicated
that the level of description varies from collection to
More than half of the responding institutions (35
or 57%) are using database management software
to keep or organize their collection-level data. The
most commonly used software is Microsoft Access
(15 institutions), followed by FileMaker Pro (7 institu-
tions). Only 13 (21%) are using open-source software;
two are using Archon and five the Archivists’ Toolkit.
Smaller numbers of institutions use library or mu-
seum information management software. The highest
percentage of respondents (62%) answered “other,” in-
cluding WordPerfect, Excel, NoteTab, ExLibris Aleph,
and Sirsi Dynix Workflows.
When asked if their institutions have adopted, at
any level, the “More Product, Less Process” approach
to arrangement and description as discussed in the
2005 American Archivist article by Mark Greene and
Dennis Meissner, 74% reported that they had done
so.3 The comments are very interesting, with various
responses pointing out that Greene and Meissner
did not invent the concept. Greene and Meissner
themselves mention some of the earlier archivists
and institutions who had advocated this and similar
approaches.4 Although they were not the first to sug-
gest that archivists can’t continue to process archival
collections to a high level, their article, published in
a widely-read and prominent archival journal, has
resonated with the archival profession, more so than
previous calls for this approach. The tone of their ar-
ticle, at times harsh, grabs the reader’s attention and
has perhaps caused this surge in interest.5
Description and Content Standards
Most of the respondents (43 or 70%) use the SAA stan-
dard Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS),
for describing materials.6 Of the eighteen (30%) who
don’t, seven are Canadian and have their own stan-
dard for description.7 Of those who use DACS, 24
apply this standard to their legacy records.
Almost all respondents (60 or 92%) are creating
MARC records for manuscript collections on some
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