Thursday, May 10, 2007

To process or not to process?

Forgive me, readers, it's been over a month since my last rant about minimally processed archival collections, and I feel the need to unburden my mind again. Here's yet another reason I don't like the Greene-Meissner method of archival "processing":

A patron came in to use one of our more recent archival accessions, the OHSU Hospital Infection Control Records (Accession 2006-003). After looking through the materials, he submitted his copy order. Here in the History of Medicine Room (as in most archives and special collections), we do copying for patrons, and so he had to wait while I went to copy. Before I could even begin copying, however, I had to process the materials! Take out staples, remove paper clips, and then retrieve some archival clips to keep groups of papers together--greatly lengthening the amount of time the patron had to wait for his order.

Is this good service? I tend to think not. One oft-cited advantage of the "more product, less process" mode is the service to users rendered by the reduction of backlogs. I think smaller repositories really need to analyze this claim, however, and decide for themselves what constitutes good service in their particular case. Our case is definitely being made for full processing.

3 comments:

jordon said...

You make a valid point, but only if you promise same-day photocopying services for patrons. We have it built into our policy that due to special procedures required of photcopying archival materials, we may have to mail the photocopies to the patron at a later date.

Sara Piasecki said...

Well, we have two challenges that make "later date" copying problematic: 1) campus is very hard to access and park at, so it's really a burden to patrons to ask them to come back another day; and 2) we charge for mailing (because we in turn are charged for our postal use by the University). Your point is also valid, and certainly that's the policy in many institutions, but we've been able (with more complete processing!) to turn most requests around in a day.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton said...

It seems like another time when we are saving time at the beginning to waste time at the end...