CUA Hosts 8th Annual “Bridging the Spectrum” Symposium

Posted: February 18, 2016 by saacua in News

On Friday, February 12th, individuals from across the information services field gathered at CUA’s Pryzbyla Student Center for the 8th Annual “Bridging the Spectrum” Symposium. Conceived and hosted by CUA’s Department of Library and Information Science, the symposium is a knowledge-forum for students, practitioners, and academics from all areas of the information services. The main goal? To conceptually bridge the spectrum of library and information professions by facilitating and supporting unexpected connections.

This year’s program included a keynote address; morning and afternoon breakout sessions; and, for the very first time, a poster presentation and lightning talk session.

For those students and professionals with an eye to the archival sector of information services, the projects presented at “Bridging the Spectrum” were a catalyst to thinking about archives, and archival tools, in brand new ways.  The main issues on the table: partnering with other parties/institutions for increased or improved archival use; leveraging repository collections to create new records; archiving social media material; selecting and implementing institutional policies for archiving specific materials; and archival tools for personal knowledge management.

Inter-Institutional Collaboration for Archival Success

Let’s be honest-most college students don’t visit an archive regularly. Sure, there are any number of reasons why, but the results are similar: a lack of experience with, or understanding of, primary materials; a deficit in original and critical thinking skills; lowered awareness of available resources and organizational standards, and an accompanying reliance on less trustworthy resources accessible via smartphones and computers. For the sake of students and repositories, information professionals need to find a way to ramp up utilization. But this is a daunting task for those in the higher education sphere, where policies like Common Core aren’t implementable, and where students aren’t encouraged or required to visit their campus archive. How are professionals to tackle such challenges? As evinced by the efforts of one community college archivist in New York, outside-the-box thinking and innovative institutional partnering are an effective combo.

Constance Williams, an archivist at Queensborough Community College in New York City, is partnering with faculty professors to increase student attendance at the repository. Working closely with instructors, Williams helps create research paper assignments that require the use of the college archive. Her main aims are to increase participants’ use of primary resources, and to foster original and critical thinking patterns. Using the archives’ primary resources, their own prior knowledge, and some old-fashioned curiosity, students formulate and answer a specific research question. In their quest to fulfill requirements,  the students are also learning to rely on research methods other than smartphones and apps. So far, Williams has reported a general uptick in archival use, with some students returning multiple times to access records. An unexpected result has been the creation of a new “Student Research and Writing Collection,” a special place in the archive carved out by the research papers of these initial partnership participants. Williams is continuing to explore and initiate new classroom partnerships, hopefully expanding the program to include a wide variety of subjects.

Social Media in the Archives

Whether or not you like it, social media has become an ingrained form of cultural communication. Government bodies, education centers, and organizations publish “officially unofficial” content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook every day. Now they’re looking to archive these efforts. Archival policies and best practices for social media content aren’t a new trend, but they aren’t foolproof or easy either. Amy Wickner and Megan O’Hern, archivists with the University of Maryland, encounter and respond to such roadblocks in their quest to identify and outline an institutional policy for archiving the AFL-CIO Twitter feed in the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive.

So far, the pair hasn’t identified or  implemented any definite archival tool or policy, but their struggle to do so, and the questions they pinpoint along the way, highlight a growing problem in the archival field. The first steps are asking the right questions, teasing out the top concerns, and identifying the end goals of use and preservation. Then there’s the question of tools. Should they utilize one of the myriad social media capturing tools available today, add original features to an existing program, or take the long road and build a completely new device? They’ve drawn few concrete conclusions at this point, but their process of consideration emphasizes the importance of tailoring such archival strategies according to specific institution type, and/or even based on specific collections. If nothing more, Wickner and O’Hern’s are widening the spectrum of archival professionals working to place social media in a repository context.

Archiving Your Life

Probably the most exciting and immediately useful work presented at “Bridging the Spectrum” is the brainchild of DC Public Library Resident Jaime Mears. Mears has spent her time at DC Public wisely, and the fruit of her labor is the first ever DIY personal archiving lab and programming series of its kind in the United States. The Memory Lab is not an archive, but a tools and means for creating an archive, all placed at the fingertips of library patrons. Personal knowledge management has never been so important or in-demand, and the general public has never before been granted access to the knowledge and tools necessary for such management.

What’s the Memory Lab offering? At DC Public Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. branch, patrons can transfer home movies to relevant formats, digitize various materials, learn preservation methods and best practices, and discover ways to digitize social media content. Mears hopes that the lab will spur other librarians in the U.S. to implement similar services. The Memory Lab opens later this month, February 2016.

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