EAD Application Guidelines for Version 1.0

Chapter 2. Administrative Considerations

2.1. Introduction
2.2. Mission and Goals
2.3. Resources
2.4. Planning
2.5. Major Implementation Tasks
2.5.1. Selecting and Implementing Hardware and Software
2.5.2. Staff Training
2.5.3. Encoding New Finding Aids
2.5.4. Converting Existing Finding Aids Prioritization Revisions Strategies Conversion Techniques
2.5.5. Other Ongoing Tasks
2.5.6. Publicity
2.6. Outsourcing
2.7. Cooperative Ventures

2.1. Introduction (33)

Implementation of EAD requires consideration of the same programmatic and administrative issues that are relevant when evaluating any new initiative, particularly a new technology. Inevitably, a decision to incorporate EAD into a repository's arsenal of tools for preparing and publishing finding aids will require that a standard array of fundamental administrative issues be confronted and evaluated:

In addition to the guidance provided in chapter 2, the Implementation Checklist in appendix D may be useful in helping repositories plan their approach to implementing EAD.

2.2. Mission and Goals

EAD is a fairly complex technology, and its use makes sense only if the potential benefits correspond to institutional objectives. In undertaking such an assessment, it may be helpful to focus on the essential characteristics of EAD, as described in chapter 1. To summarize that discussion, EAD is defined as the following:

Answers to some pointed questions about your repository's existing and potential clientele, as well as the ways in which your existing inventories are created and used, will help frame your decision making. Candor is required, but those who have previously implemented sophisticated descriptive standards or technologies, perhaps most notably MARC AMC, should feel at home with the process.

Your answers to questions such as these should prove helpful in determining whether the long-term benefits of EAD will be worth the effort involved in implementing it. In addition, give thoughtful consideration to the fact that for many archival repositories, adherence to standards is an increasingly important strategic goal when deploying new technology. Standards are seen as insurance that protects our investments in data creation and technology by making it possible to take advantage of a broader and more diversified marketplace, while also enhancing our ability to migrate data to future systems (an inevitable need). For decision makers such as library and archives directors who have adopted this strategy, the standards-based, community-endorsed aspects of EAD provide a convincing rationale for its adoption.

2.3. Resources

Assessing the benefits of EAD implementation is not enough; even highly desirable projects must be weighed against other important activities as you set priorities and allocate limited resources. Such planning decisions are subject to a complex array of local variables, one of which is the relative cost of the implementation itself. As with most institutional endeavors, the most significant costs often will be related to staffing; major tasks are outlined in section 2.5.

The investment in computer hardware and software that will be required is highly dependent on your local environment. Archives that already have the capability to produce finding aids in some sort of machine-readable form and to deliver information via the Internet are in a strong position to implement EAD encoding. On the other hand, a repository that has not yet automated its descriptive functions or integrated the World Wide Web into its public service operations would necessarily have to invest significantly in hardware and software in order to implement EAD in-house. Such institutions may wish to consider evaluating EAD's data structure for its potential to improve local finding aid practice while also investigating possibilities for identifying partners for a cooperative implementation venture.

The cost of authoring software ranges from trivial to somewhat significant, depending on the EAD encoding methodology selected. Similarly, software for publishing EAD finding aids also covers a wide spectrum of costs, depending on the approach taken. Chapter 4 and chapter 5 provide extensive information on scenarios currently available for both authoring and publishing.

While implementation of a new technology can perhaps most readily be viewed as a sinkhole for existing resources, it is also important to recognize the very real potential for conserving resources. By defining the elements of finding aids, and by suggesting effective means of arranging and displaying those elements, EAD can save you the expense and frustration of reinventing the wheel in the context of finding aid design, not to mention the cost savings in the public service context that result from improved finding aid effectiveness. These considerations are particularly potent for a new repository or for one seeking to professionalize existing operations, but even well-established archives are likely to find in EAD some strong ideas for improving the overall effectiveness of their descriptive practices.

In addition, numerous repositories have amply demonstrated that implementation of EAD has enormous potential for attracting new sources of funding. By providing repositories with a standardized approach to including finding aids (and linked digital surrogates of collection items) within digital archives and libraries, use of EAD has been shown to raise the public profileof repositories and to give potential funders confidence in the soundness of their investments.

2.4. Planning

Prior planning is vital if costly missteps are to be avoided, and many issues must be resolved before the first finding aid is encoded. The six case studies written by EAD early implementers that were published in the fall 1997 issue of the American Archivist (34) all speak forcefully about the need to plan, and a thoughtful review of the status quo will be a good beginning. The questions you ask may include the following:

Given that the introduction of any new technology has the potential to result in a wide variety of workflow changes, a broad review of your overall descriptive environment is highly worthwhile at the outset. For example, we may find that user access to in-depth electronic finding aids will allow us to rethink the length and level of detail of collection-level MARC catalog records.

Most centrally, however, EAD provides an opportunity to rethink the structure and presentation of your finding aids per se. Meissner has described how the Minnesota Historical Society evaluated its finding aids in the context of EAD's structure and elements before beginning markup.(35) This process included asking fundamental questions about the purpose of finding aids, their intelligibility to users when read without access to a reference archivist, their relation to collection-level catalog records in MARC, and their physical appearance. These aspects were evaluated in terms of the informational content of the finding aids, how users in the reading room perceived them, and how remote access might affect their use. Virtually every repository will find it necessary to undergo this process in order to determine how its finding aids map to EAD, both to identify relevant elements and to optimize their arrangement within a finding aid. Moreover, a thorough review of EAD is likely to suggest new techniques for inclusion and presentation of data that have not heretofore seemed necessary in a strictly local environment.

2.5. Major Implementation Tasks

It will come as no surprise to any administrator that staff time and other personnel-related costs are likely to be a repository's greatest expense when implementing EAD. It should also be no revelation that actual costs cannot be provided here, since they are so dependent on individual circumstances. Instead, the principal tasks that may be necessary for implementation will be described as an aid to determining the types of staffing expenses that may be incurred. The full recitation of these activities may seem overwhelming, or even discouraging at first, and perhaps beyond the reach of many archives; with forethought and planning, however, the tasks become manageable.

2.5.1. Selecting and Implementing Hardware and Software

Staff must evaluate hardware and software requirements and then select, acquire, and install the tools. As described in chapter 4 and chapter 5, there are multiple options for creating EAD-encoded finding aids and delivering them to users. Because no turnkey systems are available as yet, (36) archives must assemble their own systems from a mixture of components, and it will take time to evaluate the available choices and make decisions. As always with technology, this process is complicated by rapid evolution in the computer marketplace, which makes the choice of software a moving target.

If your EAD implementation will be part of a multirepository effort or other consortial project, you must factor in the overhead attendant on decision making in a collaborative project. On the other hand, you are likely to have considerable outside expertise to draw upon as a result of working collaboratively, not to mention enormous cost savings due to sharing of hardware, software, and systems management costs.

Technology-based programs are always dynamic, subject to continuous evaluation and revision. Depending on the options chosen,(37) the level of technical expertise required to deliver finding aids electronically will range from modest to substantial. Archivists are resourceful people, and many early implementers of EAD have undertaken their projects with existing staff who have acquired new skills. Repositories that have access to in-house technical support staff, perhaps from another branch of the parent organization, may be able to tap into those resources, particularly within the context of bringing the archive into a broader digital library development effort. Purchase of support services is often a viable alternative, especially for routine activities such as setting up desktop computers and servers or installing and configuring common software such as Web browsers. SGML database search engines may, however, be less familiar to contract personnel, and so such services may be more difficult to locate or more expensive to acquire.

2.5.2. Staff Training

Staff education and training needs can be easy to underestimate or overlook when implementing a new technological standard. In addition to acquiring a working knowledge of the structure and content of EAD per se, those who will work with EAD must master specific software packages for creating, converting, and editing finding aids, and this invariably requires significant investments of time and energy.

As usual, training options range from enrolling in formal classes or workshops to turning your more self-sufficient staff loose with written EAD documentation or software manuals. As mentioned earlier, the Encoded Archival Description Tag Library, Version 1.0 (38) is a key companion document to these Application Guidelines. Additional useful writings are available in print or on the World Wide Web, some of the most useful of which are listed in appendix G. The implementation case studies published in the American Archivist (39) describe a variety of collaborative self-education processes that are particularly effective in large or consortial environments. Whether or not you will engage in a collaborative systems implementation of EAD, joining forces with other local repositories to sponsor formal training workshops may help jump start your implementation process.

Graduate programs in archival studies have begun to incorporate EAD into their curricula on archival description and digital archives, and as a result, the job market will gradually be populated with applicants who come prepared to implement EAD. Such recent graduates will, nevertheless, often need training relevant to a repository's particular hardware and software environment. In some cases, graduate-level courses may also be available to working archivists through universities' increasingly popular distance education programs.

2.5.3. Encoding New Finding Aids

One hallmark of success for any new technology is its ability to incorporate new activities into existing operations and to deliver clear benefits without significantly adding to ongoing workloads. While the planning and managerial activities described above are significant, they principally represent an initial investment of time that need not be repeated, or at least continued at the same level of intensity. Ongoing operations, chiefly the encoding of finding aids and the concomitant maintenance of computing infrastructure, are where the real increase in effort is likely to occur. The most efficient implementation, therefore, will be one in which those activities can be closely integrated into, or simply replace, existing tasks on a one-for-one basis.

Most archives today create printed finding aids using word processing or database software. If one can continue to create finding aids in the same way and convert them afterwards, or substitute an SGML editor for the word processor, the impact on workflow may be minimal. Indeed, the net effect of such changes, once implemented, may actually be greater efficiency and less work overall. Meissner reports on the use of standard word processing templates, which at the Minnesota Historical Society reduced the time needed for keying container lists and the subsequent cleanup of data entry errors. (40)

As will be described in later chapters, numerous encoding choices must be made that will determine how labor-intensive this process is. One major consideration is the level of detail to be employed in tagging, an issue discussed extensively in the Library of Congress, Harvard, and Yale case studies in The American Archivist. Protocols developed range from minimal content designation focusing on finding aid structural elements, to experiments with richer markup that includes tagging each instance of proper names wherever they appear in a finding aid. For example, Lacy and Mitchell describe the numerous hypertext links embedded within Library of Congress finding aids. (41) As with many descriptive practices, greater effort at the input stage offers the potential for improved performance at the retrieval stage.

2.5.4. Converting Existing Finding Aids

Conversion of existing finding aids raises another set of issues. While encoding of descriptions of newly processed collections will be relatively straightforward once a repository has "reengineered" its finding aids to optimize use of EAD, marking up existing ones invariably will be more complex, depending on their format and condition. At least three types of decisions are relevant, each of which will be familiar to institutions that have implemented MARC cataloging and the associated retrospective conversion of a catalog: Prioritization
Most repositories will face the issue of converting a substantial number of existing finding aids (often referred to as legacy data) into EAD, many of them replete with idiosyncratic practices, editorial changes, and handwritten annotations. As with any retrospective conversion project, the first question is where to begin, particularly if resources for conversion are limited. In making this decision, consider two basic questions:

  1. Which finding aids are the most important to convert, and
  2. Which finding aids will be the easiest to convert?

To determine which finding aids are most important or urgent for your repository to convert, consider which of them describe the following:

In addition to these issues, consider the fact that some finding aids offer more potential than others to enhance access, such as those whose content will yield greater rewards in response to a text search for key words or phrases. For example, searching a container list containing lengthy lists of names of correspondents or of photographic captions would significantly enhance name or subject access, while one chiefly comprising an enumeration of box numbers, volume titles, and span dates, such as are often used to describe certain types of organizational and governmental records, probably would not.

As for which finding aids will be fastest and easiest to convert, those initially created in some sort of digital format, whether using word processing software or a database management system, will almost certainly fall into this category. Two principal factors will influence how fast and simple that conversion is likely to be using a scripting tool or template: Revision Strategies
By reviewing your existing finding aids in the context of EAD, you will obtain a good sense of how difficult they will be to encode and of the revision issues that lie ahead. Structural changes may be relatively easy for higher-level elements, such as bundling the basic data that describes an overall collection into the Descriptive Identification <did> area, or gathering a variety of types of administrative and access information in the Administrative Information <admininfo> area. On the other hand, will you take the time to add such types of information to finding aids that presently lack them? Will you encode container lists that lack any contextual biographical information or scope and content descriptions, or will you decide it is prudent to restrict access to such finding aids to local users until they can be enhanced for unmediated Internet access? Your own local considerations, such as user demands for electronic access to your finding aids, will help answer these questions. Conversion Techniques
The most appropriate and successful process for converting your existing finding aids into EAD will vary based on their format and condition. Finding aids that were created electronically using word processing or database formats can have EAD tags added one by one, be converted automatically, or most likely, be encoded by some combination of the two methods. Finding aids that exist only on paper will first have to be converted into electronic form, either by rekeying or by scanning and optical character recognition (OCR).

When considering the feasibility of OCR, the legibility of printed data is a significant issue. A printed guide published using a clear typeface and without complex formatting, or a photocopy of one created on a high-quality, fairly modern typewriter, usually can be successfully converted to digital format using OCR. On the other hand, a finding aid created using an early typewriter or existing only in a poor-quality carbon copy or photocopy would almost certainly have be to be rekeyed. Rekeying may also be preferable for some finding aids that are otherwise suitable for OCR if their layout and formatting is highly variable or inconsistent.(42)

Hard-copy finding aids that are the easiest to convert exhibit the following characteristics: (1) clean ribbon or carbon copy with uniform typing and clear typeface; (2) uniform density of typing throughout the document with little or no handwritten corrections or annotations; (3) consistent formatting throughout the finding aid (uniform spacing, tabs, and or columns throughout the document, in particular throughout the listings of contents). Finding aids that are lengthy and fit into this category would be obvious targets for early conversion, since they will be quicker to convert than multiple shorter finding aids.

Hard-copy finding aids that are more difficult to convert exhibit several of the following characteristics: (1) inconsistent formatting (tabs or spacing, especially within listings of contents, are not uniform throughout, resulting in irregular columns); (2) typeface is hard to read because of the use of carbon copies or irregular typing and typeface; (3) multiple annotations or corrections have been made throughout the document, including handwritten attachments and listings appended to the finding aid.

The most problematic hard-copy finding aids to convert are preliminary or in-process listings, donor or dealer inventories, and card files. Generally such documents do not represent complete or otherwise fully satisfactory finding aids, and each repository will have to decide whether to expend resources to convert them "as is" or to wait until a complete finding aid can be prepared. Although converting such data may be anathema to most archivists, we are already beginning to find that many users (and administrators) have come to expect all our finding aids to be online, howsoever partial or imperfect, which may in turn cause a gradual shift in archivists' willingness to make imperfect finding aids available electronically.

Once your legacy data is in digital format, various characteristics of the data will affect how you convert it, as well as how difficult this process will be. As mentioned earlier, the consistency of the data will determine to what extent EAD tags can be inserted using macros or other automated processes, as well as whether a vendor would be able to successfully interpret the meaning of various types of information if you are considering contracting this work out. As described in more detail in chapter 4, some word processing software packages include scripting or macro languages that allow users to automate certain processes. In many cases, however, inconsistencies in formatting or descriptive practice will limit the extent to which repositories will be able to tag their finding aids in this manner. You should therefore probably assume that staff will have to spend some time doing manual editing of certain portions of your finding aids.

The level of tagging to be employed is another important consideration during the data conversion process, and reasons may exist to make different choices for converting legacy data than those you will use when encoding new finding aids. For example, you may be planning to reorganize aspects of your new finding aids to more clearly label specific EAD data elements (such as if your legacy data does not clearly separate biographical information from scope and content, or if details regarding acquisition and processing have been intermingled). It may or may not be feasible, however, to revisit all of your legacy finding aids at this level of detail during an EAD conversion project, and careful decisions will have to be made about which types of changes will and will not be made. A careful reading of chapter 3, in which the significance of particular groups of EAD tags is described in detail, will help you decide where to focus your efforts.

2.5.5. Other Ongoing Tasks

Once implementation is underway, the project must be appropriately managed. The work of purchasing equipment, contracting for services, negotiating with partners, and hiring, supervising, and/or training staff is not trivial. An ongoing EAD operation will need personnel to mark up, proof, and test the finding aids, to load and manage files on computer servers, and to handle any associated image files. Quality control is important for any work that is outsourced.

If the finding aids are to be electronically linked to an online catalog, linking data (in USMARC field 856) must be added to each corresponding MARC record as a pointer to the electronic finding aid. As described in section, the archive also may wish to supply an HTML version of each EAD finding aid for users with Web browsers that do not support SGML or XML. If so, a process for converting the EAD files into HTML must be developed and implemented.

Finally, many EAD implementers are offering explanatory materials on their Web sites describing what finding aids are, how they are used, and the methods provided for accessing them online. (43) This is an important service to provide to your electronic users to help ensure that they do not flounder for lack of a reference archivist to help them navigate your finding aids. The text of such online guides must of course be prepared, encoded, loaded, and maintained.

2.5.6. Publicity

Lastly, you will almost certainly want to focus some staff energy on publicizing the results of your EAD efforts to your important constituencies, given the inherent appeal of "digital archive" projects. Such constituencies may possibly include your governing board or other parent agency, existing clientele such as teaching faculty or in-house curators, and potential donors of both archival materials and monetary resources.

2.6. Outsourcing

Contracting for services is a popular approach to special projects and may be appropriate for some aspects of EAD implementation. The choice between performing work in-house and contracting it out is usually one of trading time for money: doing the work oneself may involve lower out-of-pocket expenses, but it consumes precious staff resources. In some institutions, it may be easier to obtain special funds such as grants, gifts, or exceptional budgetary allocations for special projects such as EAD implementation than it is to hire additional regular staff. Certain tasks such as finding aid encoding, database installation and administration, and Web server maintenance are obvious choices for outsourcing.

The involvement of regular staff is crucial to several aspects of this process. Planning and operational oversight are difficult, if not impossible, to contract out, although consultants may be very helpful at the start-up phase. Moreover, the contracting process itself generates administrative overhead. Certain skills are required: (1) a knowledge of the issues involved; (2) the ability to articulate institutional objectives and convert them into clearly measurable vendor deliverables; (3) familiarity with contract negotiations; and (4) an understanding of the dynamics of contract supervision, especially where quality control is an issue. A successful vendor-customer relationship requires both parties to have a clear and detailed agreement on their objectives and requirements. This would be particularly important in outsourcing EAD encoding, for example, given the wide range of choices that EAD provides for marking up finding aids. The options exercised in this area will directly and perhaps significantly affect the time required to encode a finding aid, and consequently, the cost of conversion.

2.7. Cooperative Ventures

The value of seeking partnerships for a collaborative implementation of EAD has been mentioned several times in this chapter in the context of topics such as combining resources, sharing expertise, and cosponsoring training events. Early implementers of EAD, institutions large and small, have found direction, support, and funding through consortial undertakings and other joint projects. Early examples include the intrainstitutional cooperative efforts at Harvard, Yale, and the Library of Congress, as well as multi-institutional projects such as the Online Archive of California (including the nine campuses of the University of California and numerous other cultural repositories within California) and the American Heritage Virtual Archive Project (involving UC Berkeley, Duke, Stanford, and Virginia). (44) While other archivists may view such repositories as large and well-staffed organizations for which EAD implementation is surely trivial, these project groups in many cases comprise a loose federation of smaller operations (as small as one to three persons) whose staff are as thinly spread across multiple responsibilities as in many small, independent repositories.

The ways in which consortial members have been able to work together to plan for, educate themselves about, and implement EAD suggests a cooperative model that others may beneficially replicate. This approach will be particularly useful for planning, procurement of hardware and software, documentation, training, and technical support. As described in chapters 4 and 5, setting in place your approaches to authoring and publishing EAD finding aids can be both costly and extremely challenging. Sharing a joint implementation of these aspects of a project can therefore make the difference between feasibility and impossibility, particularly for smaller repositories. In addition, the added value that may accrue from the high public profile of a large collaborative project, particularly for a small archives affiliated with more visible institutions, should not be underestimated. And once a large institution or consortium has its EAD implementation up and running, it may be a straightforward process to take on more partners.(45)

On the other hand, it is important to recognize that consortial activity may carry other types of overhead. Broader discussion of issues and options in order to reach consensus invariably takes longer when more partners and interests are involved. Strong leadership and expertise is important to any such group; if the project leaders are disorganized, biased toward certain partners' interests, or otherwise ineffective, the project may be in trouble. Finally, if all partners to a cooperative endeavor do not take active part and make their required contributions, frustrations will inevitably result, since freeloaders ultimately cost everyone else time and money.


  1. This chapter is based in part on: Michael Fox, "Implementing Encoded Archival Description: An Overview of Administrative and Technical Considerations," American Archivist 60 (summer 1997): 330-43.

  2. Reissued as: Jackie M. Dooley, ed., Encoded Archival Description: Context, Theory, and Case Studies (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1998).

  3. Dennis Meissner, "First Things First: Reengineering Finding Aids for Implementation of EAD," American Archivist 60 (fall 1997): 372-87.

  4. The Internet Archivist software package, available from Interface Electronics, holds promise as an effective turnkey system (although some desirable features of such a system were not yet in place as of spring 1999). For more information, see the company's Web site, available at: <http://www.interface.com/ead>. See additional information in section

  5. See section 5.2 for a description of options.

  6. Encoded Archival Description Tag Library, Version 1.0 (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1998).

  7. Reissued as: Jackie M. Dooley, ed., Encoded Archival Description: Context, Theory, and Case Studies (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1998).

  8. Dennis Meissner, "First Things First: Reengineering Finding Aids for Implementation of EAD," American Archivist 60 (fall 1997): 386. Examples of other institutional methodologies may be located via the EAD Help Pages, available at: <http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead>.

  9. Mary A. Lacy and Anne Mitchell, "EAD Testing and Implementation at the Library of Congress," American Archivist 60 (fall 1997): 424.

  10. The data conversion taxonomy that follows was developed by Jack Von Euw of the Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley.

  11. Excellent examples of such sites, such as those at the Library of Congress and Yale University, are accessible via the EAD Help Pages, available at: <http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead>.

  12. Web sites for these projects may be located via the EAD Help Pages, available at: <http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/ead>.

  13. The University of California's Online Archive of California project, to name only one example, exemplifies every potential advantage of collaboration mentioned in this paragraph.

Table of Contents
Home Page Preface Acknowledgments How to Use
This Manual
Setting EAD
in Context
Creating Finding
Aids in EAD
Authoring EAD
Publishing EAD
EAD Linking

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All Rights Reserved.

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