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Articles

Page history last edited by Greg Kocken 7 years, 10 months ago

 

 

This page contains an annotated bibliography of articles relevant to the MPLP discussion. To return to the homepage click here.


 

 

Anderson, Scott R. and Robert B. Allen. “Envisioning the Archival Commons.” The American Archivist 72 (Fall/Winter 2009): 383-400. 

 

   Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/g54085061q586416/fulltext.pdf  

             Abstract:

This article proposes an archival commons to support networked documentation efforts. It envisions a peer-based framework for the assembly, arrangement, and representation of related resources within the context and systems of archives, libraries, and cultural heritage organizations. The commons will expand involvement of users, leverage existing discovery tools, and reduce the cost of coordination associated with the documentation strategy. Using Giddens’s theory of structuration and the roles of human agency and social structure, the authors propose basic functionalities to be provided by an archival commons. These functionalities would broaden the ability to form social memory in a commons-based environment supported by the economic idea of archival materials as nonrival goods. 

 

   Relevance:    

 Though it does not directly address MPLP, this article builds from Greene's & Meissner's premise that the volume of twentieth century archival collections does not lend itself to detailed processing. Anderson and  Allen envision an environment where archival repositories would collaborate to  contextualize their collections, which would be linked in a common network. One of the ideas proposed is that in this digital environment, collections  could be arranged in multiple ways (from the use of folksonomies to the establishment of themes) by both users and archivists. They  suggest  comment that virtual arrangement allows archivists to adhere to original order, but also encourages users to interact with collections from their own perspective (392).

 

Bearman, David. “Documenting Documentation.” Archivaria 34 (Summer 1992): 33-49.

 

  Article: http://journals.sfu.ca/archivar/index.php/archivaria/article/view/11839/12791

  Abstract:

Writing in 1992, Bearman criticizes descriptive standards recently proposed by International Council on Archives, arguing that they are too influenced by bibliographic standards. As an alternative, he proposes the practice of documentation over description: While description is focused on the records themselves as both the object being described and the source of the contextual information about them, documentation focuses on the activities of the institution (or individual, in the case of manuscripts) as both the object being documented and the source of the information about the records generated in the course of these activities. Description, he says, takes place when the records arrive in the archives, while the work of documentation must occur during the course of record creation; moreover, the involvement by archivists at the point, and often the time, of record creation increases their relevance in the organization as well as increasing efficiency of archival operations. Bearman notes also that proactive documentation by archivists is even more relevant in the context of electronic records.  After providing an overview of the development of archival descriptive standards up to the time he is writing, he foreshadows in some ways the development of archival standards that have since developed, arguing that documentation should support the archival management of records and provide richer contextual information for users as well: “Users need to be able to enter the system through the historical context of activity, construct relations in that context, and then seek avenues down into the documentation” (44). [Note: this is a reader-provided summary, not the official abstract]

  Relevance:

Although efficiency of processing is not the primary reason for Bearman’s call for documentation over description, he does argue that archivist involvement at the point of records creation is more efficient -- and provides better information for researchers and archivists -- than attempting to glean contextual information from records only after they have arrived in the archives. Additionally, given current widespread agreement in the profession about the importance and efficiency of archivist intervention in electronic records systems, the article is in some ways more relevant now than when it was written 20 years ago.

 

Bowen Maier, Shannon. “MPLP and the Catalog Record as a Finding Aid.” Journal of Archival Organization 9:1, 2011: 32-44.

 

  Article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15332748.2011.577652

  Abstract:         

The cataloging of otherwise unprocessed collections is an innovative minimal processing technique with important implications for reference service. This article mines the existing literature for how institutions engaged in minimal processing view reference, the strengths and weaknesses of catalog records as finding aids, and information about user predilections and limitations. It describes the American Heritage Center’s experience with unprocessed collection cataloging, and it proposes a number of issues for future consideration.

 

  Relevance:  

This recent article directly addresses the affect of MPLP on reference services. Bowen Maier provides a case study for how reference services at the American Heritage Center dealt with the lack of descriptive information available for unprocessed or minimally processed collections. One of the solutions that she proposes is an increased level of collaboration between collection services and reference services. Bowen Maier also includes a thorough literature review about the MPLP issue. The literature review alone is an excellent resource, for it provides a thorough overview of the discourse surrounding MPLP. 

 

 

Cox, Robert S. "Maximal Processing, or, Archivist on a Pale Horse." Journal of Archival Organization 8: 2, 134-148.

 

   Article: http://umass.academia.edu/RobertCox/Papers/364454/Maximal_processing_or_archivist_on_a_pale_horse 

   Abstract:

With the promise of greater economy in handling an ever increasing volume of material, minimal processing has quickly become a new orthodoxy for the archival profession despite a raft of unintended consequences for service and discovery. Taking along-term view of the costs and benefits entailed in the process of processing, the three-stage maximal processing alternative suggests instead that archivists focus on maximizing the intellectual care of collections while acknowledging the realities of strained resources. Beginning with a comprehensive collection survey and making use of our full professional judgment, the maximal approach privileges values and aspirations over barriers and limitations.

     Relevance: 

 In addition to discussing MPLP and the archival community's reaction to it, Richard Cox article explores a processing technique, "Maximal Processing," that has been used at UMass Amherst since 2004. This technique addresses some of the perceived shortfalls of minimal processing. Maximal Processing is not necessarily an alternative to minimal processing, but certainly explores many of the same issues. It can be seen as a modified implementation of minimal processing.

 

 

Cox, Richard J. "Revisiting the Archival Finding Aid." Journal of Archival Organization 5: 4, 5-32.

 

  Article: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/2685/1/WJAO_A_315490_O.pdf

  Abstract:

 Archivists have been creating finding aids for generations, and in the last three decades they have done this work via a succession of standardized formats. However, like many other disciplines, they have carried out such work in violation of systems analysis. Although purporting to have the users of finding aids systems first and foremost in their mind, archivists have carried out their descriptive work apart from and with little knowledge of how researchers find and use archival sources. In this article, questions are raised about the utility of archival finding aids and how they will stand the test of time. Indeed, archivists, purportedly concerned with considering how records function and will be used over time, ought to apply the same kind of analysis and thinking to their finding aids. In this article, we explore three ways archival finding aids might be examined by outsiders, namely, those concerned with museum exhibitions, design experts, and accountability advocates. Doing this should assist archivists to reevaluate their next wave of experimentation with descriptive standards and the construction of finding aids. Archivists should expand the notion of what we are representing in archival representation. 

  Relevance:

 The article does not address efficient processing or description, but it does advocate re-thinking how finding aids could be done better and made more useful to researchers. While no concrete practices are advised, the reader is encouraged to think more creatively about archival description by considering three perspectives from outside the archival profession. In several passages, the suggestion is made to move away from the finding aid as primarily a list of contents. By reading the article in the context of trying to come up with new ways of expediting arrangement and description, one finds oneself considering how finding aids could be at once more useful, creative and less time-consuming to create.

 

Crowe, Stephanie H., and Karen Spilman. "MPLP @ 5: More Access, Less Backlog?" Journal of Archival Organization 8: 2, 110-133.

 

  Article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15332748.2010.518079 

  Abstract:

Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner published their influential article 'More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing' five years ago. This study assesses the impact of the methodologies expounded by Greene and Meissner on processing and reference in the archival profession. A broad survey of American archivists conducted in the fall of 2009 is the basis for our exploration of the extent to which the 'MPLP' principles have thus far generally decreased collection backlogs and increased researcher access to collections.

            

  Relevance: 

Based upon the survey Crowe and Spilman conducted, they conclude that MPLP has been accepted by the archival community and the results have been positive in reducing backlog, researcher access, and reference archivists' ability to assist researchers. They also suggest further areas of research including the influence of MPLP on descriptive practices and researchers' ability to locate materials. This article includes a useful literature review. 

 

 

Desnoyers, Megan Floyd. "When Is A Collection Processed?" The Midwestern Archivist 7, no. 1 (1982): 5-23.

 

    Article: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1793/43637

    Abstract:

           N/A 

    Relevance: 

This article illustrates that the problem of backlogs and the solution of varying levels of processing has been discussed for at least 30 years. The author defines a continua of different levels for four processing activities (arrangement preservation, description, and screening). She advocates for considering each collection (or each series) individually, locating the appropriate place along each continuum for each of the processing activities. In essence, she is articulating a fairly specific procedure for implementing differential levels of processing, taking into consideration such elements as: initial collection condition and arrangement, expected use, etc.

 

 

Evans, Max J. “Archives of the People, by the People, for the People.” The American Archivist 70 (Fall/Winter 2007): 387-400.

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/d157t6667g54536g/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

 Archivists today are caught between an expanding volume of records and a growing public expectation that every page in every document is online and indexed. With so many records and so few resources to provide on-demand access to them, the problem seems intractable.
More money alone is not the answer; larger appropriations or donations cannot solve this problem. Instead, archivists must fundamentally shift the way they think about their roles and develop alternative means and methods for doing archival work. This paper introduces the concept of commons-based peer-production as a means of turning collections inside out. It encourages archival institutions to reinvent themselves, and, in collaboration with other archives and with other types of organizations, to organize archival work in concert with a curious and interested public.
 

    Relevance: 

This article does not directly address the affect of minimal processing on reference services. Instead, it focuses on re-envisioning the manner in which collections are processed, digitized, and used by researchers. The ideas proposed by Evans would change many of the processes that define reference services.

 

Gorzalski, Matt. "Minimal Processing: Its Context and Influence in the Archival Community." Journal of Archival Organization 6, no. 3 (2008): 186-200.

 

              Article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15332740802421915 

    Abstract:

 Since its publication in 2005, of Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner's "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing" has led to much discussion and self-examination within the archival community about working through backlogs. This article discusses the impact of Greene and Meissner's work and considers the questions and implications that the possible implementation of minimal processing provokes, in relation to financial, time, and privacy considerations, among others. 

    Relevance: 

This article reviews the literature and issues surrounding the MPLP discussion. It does not focus specifically on public services, but addresses some  relevant issues such as security and box retrieval. Its primary argument is that there is not a single, ideal standard for processing. Instead, archivists  should process collections to the appropriate level for each collection. This appropriate level can vary within series or across a repository.

 

Greene, Mark A. and Dennis Meissner. ”More Product, Less Process : Revamping Traditional Archival Processing.” The American Archivist  Vol. 68 (Fall/Winter 2005): 208-263.

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/c741823776k65863/fulltext.pdf7

    Abstract:

 Processing backlogs continue to be a problem for archivists, and yet the problem is exacerbated by many of the traditional approaches to processing collections that archivists continue to practice. This research project reviewed the literature on archival processing and conducted surveys of processing practices to identify the scope of the problem and its impacts both on processing costs and on access to collections. The paper issues a call for archivists to rethink the way they process collections, particularly large contemporary collections. It challenges many of the assumptions archivists make about the importance of preservation activities in processing and the arrangement and description activities necessary to allow researchers to access collections effectively.

    Relevance: 

Greene & Meissner's article describes the research methods that they used to formulate MPLP. It provides a detailed explanation of how MPLP differs from "traditional" processing. This article asserts a processing metric that archivists who implement MPLP can obtain and argues that MPLP will decrease backlog and increase researchers' access to collections. A close read of this somewhat lengthy article provides the foundation necessary to understand the MPLP debate and, in particular, how MPLP can impact reference services.

 

 

Greene, Mark A. "MPLP: It's Not Just for Processing Anymore." The American Archivist 73 (Spring/Summer 2010): 175-203.

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/m577353w31675348/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

 Amid the surprising attention given to the article “More Product, Less Process,” several colleagues commented that the role of appraisal was missing in our consideration of the problem of backlogs. While this was a deliberate exclusion at the time, it seems appropriate and necessary to address not only the application of MPLP to appraisal but also to other aspects of archival administration, specifically preservation, reference, electronic records, and digitization. This article, however, is an opinion piece rather than a research article, thus it lacks the level of detail present in the original article. 

    Relevance: 

This article places MPLP in dialogue not only with the range of literature written in response to it, but also with archival practices other than processing. Most relevant for the purposes of this group are Greene's comments about reference. He speaks to the necessity of collaboration and shared work-flows among processing and reference archivists as well as other issues.      

 

Hyry, Tom. “Reassessing Backlogs: Extensible processing is a better way to make materials available.” Library Journal, April 15, 2007.

 

              Article: http://www.libraryjournal.com/lj/ljinprintnetconnect/888165-335/extensible_processing_is_a_better.html.csp

    Abstract:

           N/A 

    Relevance: 

Following Greene and Meissner, Hyry argues that in order to meet pressures caused by backlogs of ever larger and more complex collections, combined with cuts in staffing, archives must do 3 things: 1. process each and every collection, at least minimally, using a top-down approach to description; 2. provide at least collection-level descriptions for each collection online; and 3. use appraisal techniques to identify which collections warrant more detailed processing. (The concept of “extensible processing”, which he credits to Max Evans, relates to the idea that a minimally processed collection can always be given more attention at a later time if necessary.) Notably, he reports that when this approach was taken at Yale Library’s Archives and Manuscripts Department, more work was created for reference staff who had to retrieve a greater number of boxes per researcher inquiry than previously when all available collections had been processed to a more granular level. However, by tracking requests, they were able to identify the collections with the most pressing needs for more detailed description.



Johnson, Gregory P. "Quality or Quantity: Can Archivists Apply Minimal Processing to Electronic Records?" Master’s paper for  the M.S. in L.S degree, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. April 2007. Advisor: Dr. Christopher Lee.

 

              Article: http://www.ils.unc.edu/MSpapers/3267.pdf

    Abstract:

 The study is an introduction into the debate of whether or not minimal
processing, based upon the recent work by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner, can be used in the processing of electronic records With the recent publication of a “More Product, Less Process” approach by Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner, minimal processing of archival collections has received increased attention in the professional literature. Greene and Meissner posit that a change in archival philosophy toward processing collections at a less precise level will allow archivists to arrange analog collections at a faster pace and help to eliminate their processing backlog. Through an examination of the literature in the field and a comparison of the analog and electronic records media, I have determined that the processing of electronic records can be done according to the minimal processing protocols that are being examined for use in traditional archival collections.

    Relevance: 

Johnson considers the applications of minimal processing on electronic records. He does not directly address public services, but his sustained analysis of electronic processing is of interest to reference  archivists. He concurs with others who have written about minimal processing that there is not a "one size fits all" model.

 

      McCrea, Donna E. "Getting More for Less:Testing a New Processing Model at the University of  Montana."  The        American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 284-290.

          
              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/f26251l316w02841/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

 This paper presents a case study in backlog management. The author discusses how a new approach to both the philosophy and practice of archival processing, largely inspired by the recommendations of Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner in their article “More Product, Less Process,” resulted in a decrease in both processing time and in the backlog of unprocessed collections at the University of Montana at Missoula.

    Relevance: 

This article presents a clear and concise case study for applying MPLP in a repository with a small staff and a large backlog. McCrea discusses how she applied MPLP to her existing backlog and how she is using it on new accessions to prevent them from entering the backlog. She offers insightful commentary about how MPLP not only allowed her to change the way she accessions and processes collections, but also allowed her to re-envision the level of attention that collections need to receive. 

 

Meehan, Jennifer. "Making the Leap from Parts to Whole: Evidence and Inference in Archival Arrangement and Description." The American Archivist 72 (Spring/Summer 2009): 70-92. 

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/kj672v4907m11x66/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

 This article examines the analytical process in arrangement and description, and considers how the archivist arrives at an understanding of the records sufficient for contextualizing and providing intellectual access to them. The discussion characterizes the process of intellectual arrangement as one of identifying and/or creating the contextual relationships of a body of records, and it highlights certain common factors in the process, such as the historical standpoint of the archivist, the use of evidence, and the role of inference. Underscoring the speculative nature of the analytical process and the active role of the archivist in shaping the records, this article suggests ways for archivists to account for these aspects of practice on an individual, departmental or institutional, and professional level.

    Relevance: 

While the author is writing about archival processing in general and not with the aim of increasing efficiency, the article relates to minimal processing in emphasizing how an archivist uses evidence and inference to gain, to the extent possible, a rich understanding of a collection as a whole. This article would be useful for the MPLP practitioner who believes that minimal processing requires an exceptionally high degree of analytical work on the part of the archivist and who wishes to examine their own interpretive and descriptive processes at a conceptual level. The article also potentially relates to the relationship between processing and public services in its discussion of how archivists can use finding aids to provide information about the analytical work behind processing decisions.

 

 

 

Meissner, Dennis, and Mark A. Greene. "More Application while Less Appreciation: The Adopters and Antagonists of MPLP." Journal of Archival Organization 8: 3: 174-226.

 

     Article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15332748.2010.554069 (not open access) 

    Abstract:

 In the five years since its publication, “More Product, Less Process” (MPLP) has received a great deal of attention within the archival community and this interest has more recently emerged in library and museum communities as well. In this article the MPLP authors reflect on the impact of MPLP among its adopters and its critics, examine some common misperceptions, and assess its growing impact within non-archival communities.

    Relevance: 

This article provides a very comprehensive overview of the MPLP literature between 2005 and 2010, including discussions at public forums, at conferences, and in prominent blogs. The writers seek to clarify what they understand to be misunderstandings of the original article and provide rebuttals to some of the objections to its recommendations. Of particular note: a review of research on MPLP's effects on public services and an extended discussion of privacy concerns as related to MPLP. Examples are provided of specific policies and practices that have been implemented by repositories to deal with sensitive materials.

 

Palmer, Joy. “Archives 2.0: If We Build It, Will They Come?" Ariadne issue 60 (July 2009).  

 

              Article: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue60/palmer/

    Abstract:

           Joy Palmer discusses some of the opportunities and tensions emerging around Archives 2.0, crowd-sourcing, and archival authority.

    Relevance: 

The article is not directly relevant to issues around reducing backlogs or processing efficiency, but does offer some examples of projects that implement participatory forms of generating descriptive information. Discussion of the potential of Web 2.0 applications to make archival description more participatory and less couched in archival authority could be useful to anyone creating finding aids, but it should be noted that most of the examples relate to digitized materials.

 

Patty, William Jordan. "Metadata, Technology, and Processing a Backlog in a University Special Collections." Journal of Archival Organization. Volume 6, Issue 1 and 2. August 2008: 102 - 120.

 

 

              Article: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15332740802237337 (not open access)

    Abstract:

  Writing about cataloging and reducing a backlog in the archives of a special collections department is one thing, but actually establishing a plan and executing it is another. This article describes cataloging and reducing a backlog in the archives of a special collections department as a project that involves multiple people, techniques, and perspectives. A single path to eliminating a backlog and providing access to collections does not exist, but many librarians and archivists have shared their experiences and their thoughts on best practices. The emphasis on nonproprietary formats and central databases to establish control over collection metadata has become the ultimate goal to handle backlog metadata. While this task might seem insurmountable, both university and government Web sites offer free software, locally adjustable computer programs, and guides to assist with creating a foundation for electronic administrative control.

    Relevance: 

The author describes a project to create MARC records for the entire manuscripts collection at a repository, including those in the processing backlog. After reviewing how other institutions have accomplished similar projects, he describes working with technical services and library systems staff to accomplish this goal. This involved learning more about MARC himself and exploring various tools and workflows. He suggests that creating MARC records for WorldCat, while not a completely smooth process, is an increasingly efficient way to provide descriptions of all collections, since WorldCat is ever more widely available.

 

Schaffner, Jennifer. The Metadata is the Interface: Better Description for Better Discovery of Archives and Special Collections,          

          Synthesized from User Studies (OCLC Research, 2009).

 

              Article: http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/library/2009/2009-06.pdf

    Abstract:

          N/A

     Relevance

The author reviews a very large corpus of studies on how users discover archives and manuscripts online. She offers suggestions, some specifically geared toward an MPLP approach, for how to create descriptive metadata that will enhance discoverabililty in a networked environment. She suggests that minimal description can be effective if it supports subject/keyword searching and relevancy ranking of results. A brief description can be effective if it reflects what the materials are about, not just their provenance and forms of materials. While archives must be managed according to the principle of provenance, she argues, description must support aboutness (as opposed to ofness), because this is the way users search for materials.

 

Van Ness, Carl. "Much Ado About Paper Clips: 'More Product, Less Process' and the Modern Manuscript Repository." The American                Archivist 73 (Spring/Summer 2010): 129-145.

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/v17jn363512j545k/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

  This article is a critical examination of the methodology and arguments of Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner’s influential article “More Product, Less Process.” Greene and Meissner rely heavily on data from a survey of the profession’s processing habits, which is skewed to manuscript repositories at colleges and universities rather than institutional archives. This article also examines untested assumptions underlying their arguments, reflects on why manuscript repositories resist change, and questions the wisdom of a standard metric for large manuscript collections. It asks whether “More Product, Less Process” addresses the critical issues facing manuscript repositories.

    Relevance: 

Van Ness offers a critical examination of both the theory and practice of MPLP as well as Greene & Meissner’s research methodology. He echoes some of the concerns that have been voiced about MPLP, particularly in how it impacts reference services. His critiques raise interesting questions about MPLP, and he states that even repositories (primarily institutional repositories) that have long-used minimal processing techniques continue to have large backlogs. Van Ness proposes that by focusing on processing, MPLP misses the cause for backlogs. He argues that backlogs reflect issues with current appraisal practices and collecting policies. 

 

Weideman, Christine. “Accessioning as Processing.” The American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 274-283.

 

              Article: http://archivists.metapress.com/content/g270566u745j3815/fulltext.pdf

    Abstract:

 This article explores the application of new methods, including those recommended by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner in their article “More Product, Less Process,” to reduce the amount of time to accession and process collections. The methods were applied during the accessioning of two collections and the arrangement and description of a large collection of family papers. The author describes the work completed, the time it took, and the consequences for operations throughout the repository.

    Relevance: 

 Weidman discusses how her repository implemented the practice of “accessioning as processing.” She describes not only the mechanics of this practice in terms of how the labor is divided among the staff, but also her repository’s decision to incorporate donors into this process. She particularly focuses on utilizing donors’ knowledge of their collections when writing finding aids. Weidman echoes a sentiment articulated by Donna McCrea in her article “Getting More for Less: Testing a New Processing Model at the University of Montana" that one of the most valuable contributions of MPLP is the way it encourages archivists to creatively re-think archival practices. 

 

Yeo, Geoffrey. “Debates about Description.” In Currents of Archival Thinking, edited by Terry Eastwood and Heather MacNeil, 89-114. Santa  Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2010.

 

              Article: Link not available

    Abstract:

          N/A

    Relevance: 

 Yeo outlines the distinct ways that archivists approach and perceive description. He uses this outline to trace recent and emerging debates about description, including the tension between MPLP and the item-level metadata needed to describe born digital materials. Yeo discusses the role of archival standards in debates about description and focuses on some of the voices who have entered into these debates. He ends with a focus on serving users and considers future directions in description. This article is valuable because it provides a firm grounding of theories of description against which MPLP can be evaluated.

 

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