ArchivesSpace Members Forum

SAA 2017, Portland Oregon

July 25, 2017

By: Anne Marie Lyons

The third ArchivesSpace Members Forum was held on July 25, 2017, during the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, in Portland, Oregon. Dustin Stokes, Atlas Chief Technology Officer, Katie Gillespie, Aeon Implementation Consultant, and I attended the forum at Portland State University.


The meeting began with an update from the ArchivesSpace Program Manager, Christine Di Bella, during which she reviewed the year’s accomplishments with ArchivesSpace development.


Christine also discussed how much ArchivesSpace membership has grown, which is integral to the long-term development and sustainability of an open source program.


Christine ended her presentation with a list of goals that the program is working towards.


Next, Mark Custer from Yale University, and Susan Pyzynski from Harvard University, presented an overview of the new public user interface (PUI). Mark spoke about the history of the PUI development, which began in late 2014, and which incorporated a number of team members from different organizations.


Susan demonstrated a variety of new features of the PUI, including buttons for sending requests to Aeon and creating citations; expandable finding aids; and a customizable navigation bar to aid in researchers’ browsing and searching experiences.

Next, there were a variety of focus group presentations on such topics as redesign of the agents module and ArchivesSpace integrations with other applications. I attended the Staff Interface Enhancement Effort focus group, which is a long-term project that is being led by Lydia Tang at Michigan State University. Fellow attendees kick-started the project by submitting enhancement ideas in several categories, among which were navigation, accessibility, data entry and editing, and visual experience.


In the afternoon, I attended a workshop with Mark and Susan about rolling out the PUI. We studied the new interface in detail. It is quite a different look from the old interface. There is also different terminology on the new interface. For instance, published accession records are called ‘unprocessed materials,’ and categories are referred to as ‘record groups.’ I recommend that you consult the PUI pre-launch checklist here if you have plans to start using the new PUI.

Mark explained more complex details, such as the options for inheriting description down subordinate resource component levels, as well as options for customizing the PUI. For instance, some types of changes can be made in .config and .yml files, while other types can only be accomplished with plugins. And if you want to make any large-scale changes, then it’s probably best to load a copy of ArchivesSpace onto a development sandbox, where you can modify the staff interface, the PUI, and the behavior of the indexer.

The afternoon was closed out with a ‘lighting round’ session of tips, tricks, and ideas for working in ArchivesSpace. Presentations included creating easy custom reports with an ODBC link in Excel, improving student processing workflows, integrating with other applications, importing inventories into ArchivesSpace, and using staff user stories to implement an accessions workflow in ArchivesSpace.

The forum schedule, along with some recorded sessions, can be accessed here.

24 hours of Chicago ALA Annual Conference 2017

By Angela Mott, Production Support Team Leader


Well, that was a quick trip! ALA Annual was held in Chicago this year. I had 24 hours to get in there and meet up with as many clients as possible, so I tried to make the most of it. My feet didn’t much appreciate it, but I did my best.

After checking into the hotel on Saturday morning, I headed to Gino’s East for lunch (as “ordered” to do by my co-workers back in Virginia Beach). I arrived just as they opened at 11am and went with the waiter’s suggestion of a small deep dish pizza: ½ Meaty Legend and ½ Gino’s Supreme with Italian sausage. I was not disappointed. I managed to eat at least most of the toppings of half of it, but since I didn’t have a hotel room yet I donated the other half to a person as I was on my way to grabbing a taxi to the convention center. 

Once I’d made it through registration and to the Atlas Systems booth I found out about a Copyright session that was about to start…ALL the way at the other end of the convention center, of course. I made it just in time to see Collette Mak (University of Notre Dame) and Cindy Kristof (Kent State University) along with several other colleagues in their “I am Not a Lawyer: Providing Copyright Services in Libraries” session. Isn’t that the truth! So often library staff are called upon for copyright advice. In this session, folks shared how they deal with providing patrons the copyright information they need and not the copyright advice they want.

After that I headed back to the Atlas Systems booth where I was able to chat with several customers. My time in the booth is my favorite part of my work at ALA conferences. Seeing people in person who I usually only get to know over email and the phone is so much fun. In fact, I was so busy connecting with people that I forgot to take photos!

By the time the exhibit floor closed there was just enough time to rush back to the hotel, finally get into a room and then walk to Timothy O’Tooles where we were holding our Ares User Group Meeting. We’d booked a whole room just for the Ares folks and it was a great setting to talk about what everyone has been up to lately. I think you can see from the two photos I managed to grab that we had a great turnout for this dinner meeting.  Although I tried to get around to talk with everyone, even after a few hours I still couldn’t quite manage it. I wish I’d thought to get photos with everyone there, but my mind was on all the cool stuff sites are doing and I didn’t even think about it!

Genie gave a brief overview of what’s coming next with Ares and we told everyone to mark their calendars for the 2017 Ares Virtual Conference, which will be held the week after Thanksgiving. Some folks have already told me they have ideas for possible presentations, which is fantastic! I look forward to hearing more proposals soon—so let me know if you’re interested in presenting. We love having several sites share what they’re up to at that annual virtual event.

As for getting the Ares user community together in person, we can definitely call the 2017 Ares User Group meeting a rousing success. Stay tuned for details on where our next meeting will be held.

After a few hours of sleep (very few), I was back at the booth as the exhibit floor opened on Sunday. This time I tried to make sure to grab some photos! 

For example, a selfie of me, ready to chat on the Exhibit Floor!

I got to see Joe Ellison (Northwestern University) and we chatted about ArchivesSpace.

Mary Radnor (Fort Hays State University) stopped by to chat about Patron Driven Acquisitions. We originally met when she was at the University of Chicago.

And Todd Peters (Texas State University) stopped by to chat for a moment. He had been working recently with Shawn Styer and me on a recent project and it was great to get to meet him in person!

At 11am Sunday I grabbed a taxi to the airport and was soon on my flight home to Virginia Beach, leaving behind the skyscrapers of Chicago for the shipyards of Hampton Roads, VA. I snapped this photo of a huge ship in dry dock at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard as my plane got close to home. 

And now I’m back at my desk in Virginia Beach, busy working with sites from all over the world via emails, phone calls and GoToMeeting sessions. I definitely adore the traveling and getting to meet and talk with our customers face-to-face, but it’s also good to be home. Hope to see you next time!

The Printers’ File: A Study in Typewriters and Linked Data


I make it a point to tell people that I am not a librarian.  I do this because I don’t want people to see me as an “impersonator” among the amazing and well-trained community of librarians.  Instead, I am just a guy who many times happens to be in the right place at the right time in the library world. 

This serendipity was truly the case in late January 2017 when I found myself invited to a meeting led by the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) at the Bobst Library at New York University regarding the transformation of the Printers’ File into Linked Data. 

The story of the Printers’ File begins with Avis Clarke, pictured below.  Over her 43 year career at the American Antiquarian Society, she compiled 25 drawers of cards in a card catalog that would become the Printers’ File.  As noted on the AAS website,  “Culled from biographies, reference books, and newspapers, this information details the work of printers, publishers, editors, binders, and others involved in the book trades up to 1820, and book historians and genealogists have consulted these files ever since.” (

If you think of it, Avis was creating Linked Data with her typewriter, starting 90 years ago.

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

AAS estimates that the Printers' File documents approximately 10,000 people in book trades. The cards detail their occupations, the firms they worked with, and newspaper associations in addition to basic biographical information. A sample of the cards follows, showing the detail stored by Avis in her labor of love.

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Circle forward to today and, thanks to a project led by Molly Hardy, AAS entered the card files into a database over several months.  From that point, working with the team at Zepheira, the database was transformed and reviewed via an iterative process into the Linked Data introduced at the workshop I attended in January. 

That day in New York I split off into a project group with librarians from the Bodleian, Folger, Beinecke, and Morgan Libraries (among others). Together we broke down the various listed professions identified in the Printers’ File Linked Data, focusing on the work of making paper.  I wondered how I could hide the fact that I didn’t have a clue how people made paper in the early 1800s – or today, for that matter!  However, I was sure of one thing.  The passion and commitment with which this group of librarians attacked this project were special.  And, again by fate or fortune, I was an outsider at a special event.

What is unique about this project is the commitment of not only the staff at AAS but the group of actively engaged peers from across the library and research communities that met in New York in January to review the work “completed to date.” I specifically note it as the work completed to date because even with all of the hours invested so far, there are still anomalies to be addressed and fixed over time. 

The amazing work of Avis beginning almost 90 years ago is a striking parallel to the current spirit of the transformation process. When Avis sat in front of her typewriter to create file cards, she didn’t worry about whether her work was perfect or if each record was totally complete.  What she created was an amazing data set that did its best to replicate and preserve the available information.  The partners in the transformation process today are hoping to achieve the same results.  The result of the transformed data is a richer more connected network of information.  Is it perfect in every way?  Probably not – but it is now highly structured with the ability for a wide community of users to help identify and update potential errors. 

I am not a librarian, but I greatly respect the commitment of librarians from Avis Clarke to Molly Hardy and the current AAS staff.   Thanks to this project, with a few mouse clicks I learned that James Flanagan was a Weigher of Hay – along with being a Judge, Bookseller, Lawyer and in the New York print trade from 1807-1840. 

 Which would never have happened without Avis Clarke and her typewriter.