Summer greetings! We’ve been working away at collections all semester, per usual, but this summer, Special Collections and Archives has had an exciting (to us) change: we’ve upgraded the software that we use to track and describe our materials, from the once-popular Archivists’ Toolkit software to the newer, more fully supported ArchivesSpace program. For now, our users will not see a change in their online finding aid searches, but it is a dramatic change to our practices, procedures, and workflows up in Special Collections.

To make the transition from Toolkit to Space, I enlisted assistance from several folks. Web Services Librarian Kevin Gilbertson was a big help in identifying problematic or incorrect data that could be easily updated: things like diacritics and ampersands that wouldn’t migrate easily, required fields that were missing information, or fields that were populated differently from collection to collection (linear feet versus cubic feet, for example). Kevin was able to bulk-fix data using his SQL and other database skills, and I chipped away at smaller issues and others that required an archivist’s hand. Overall, the two of us updated hundreds of thousands of metadata bits with only a few uses of the database back-up!

Kevin also generated a list of 957 (!) finding aids that hadn’t been updated online since 2014, prior to my arrival at Wake Forest. Finding aids don’t necessarily need to be updated often online – the collections don’t change themselves! – but these collections were more likely to not be up to current finding aid standards. In turn, finding aids out of standard were more likely to also have “bad” data that I didn’t want to import into our shiny new system if we could help it.

Together, archives assistant Finley Turner and I tackled the 957 and were able to update about 235 finding aids in our online database in 3 months – that’s a lot of hustle! It also represents a new consistency to our internal collections data as well as improved, consistent information that we share with Special Collections’ patrons. That might not sound impressive but it’s music to a librarian’s ears. I’ll be writing a bit more about this Toolkit to ArchivesSpace transition in more detail later this summer, stay tuned!

Altogether, with my and Finley’s work, plus everyone’s normal processing work, a total of 313 finding aids were added or updated in WakeSpace. So many were updated that it is not worth trying to list them, but some of the collections with newly available finding aids online include: