New Service Models

All town hall meetings have concluded as well as discussions with faculty and students, the Faculty Senate Library Committee, and the University Librarian’s Long-Range Advisory Committee.  The Library extends thanks to those individuals who have participated and provided valuable feedback.  The Budget Plus Group currently is reviewing information and hopes to identify soon organizational changes that will foster the design of exemplary Library services for the twenty-first century.  For more information about the planning process, visit the New Service Models home page.

Do you have a story you’d like added to the Library News & Events? If so, please contact Heather Murphy ( ).

Archon Web Tool Kit

Archivists at the University of Illinois Library believe they have built a better tool kit. Their new online collections management program called Archon has more than a few attractive features – not the least of which is that it was developed for “lone archivists with limited technological resources and knowledge,” said Scott Schwartz, one of the developers of the software program and the archivist for music and fine arts at Illinois.

The state-of-the-art tool also is free, adaptable to any institutional setting and is easy to download and use.

“We wanted our application to be particularly useful to small, one-person repositories that have been unable to take full advantage of current tools under development,” Schwartz said.

According to Chris Prom, assistant university archivist and co-project director, the developers knew the system had to meet staff needs.

“But what really makes it special is that it makes an archives’ holdings much more accessible to its users,” Prom said. “The program automatically creates its own searchable Web site. It’s based on extensive research about how people search for and use archival materials.”

Prom said that users can now “browse and search all of our information in one place. They can view photos and other materials we’ve scanned right alongside descriptions of related materials that are available only in the search room.”

“In essence, our primary goal was creating a tool that provides immediate public access to information about various collections of historical documents and records found in archives,” Schwartz said, noting that Archon functions in both English and Spanish.

The emphasis in the design was on encouraging efficient work processes.

“We didn’t want anyone to become burdened with having to learn complex methods or standards required by the archives profession just to make their collections available to the public in today’s online environment,” Schwartz said. “We took a minimalist approach, yet didn’t sacrifice the standards of the profession. We recognized what people and researchers need to access collections of historical documents preserved in archives, and developed the tools to help put archivists and the public in the driver’s seat to meet these important access needs.”

As it happens, Archon is one of two major programming efforts that the archives profession is pursuing to enhance the management of libraries’, archives’ and museums’ historical documents and the public’s access to the physical and intellectual content contained in these records. The other effort is called the Archivist’s Toolkit and is a Mellon Foundation-funded collaboration of several universities.

Schwartz and Prom likened the development of their product to a shoestring do-it-yourself project in the family garage.

“We knew what we wanted, but every time we added a new feature, we thought of something even better to add on next,” Prom said.

To be sure, the archivists had a bit of help building Archon. A couple of “very talented” undergraduate students did much of the programming: Kyle Fox, from Marion, lead developer and graduating senior in computer science; and Chris Rishel, from Chatham, lead developer prior to 2007, who majored in computer science and chemistry.

Developing Archon was “a very organic process,” Prom said. “It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had such a talented team and the great ideas that Chris and Kyle brought at every step of the development process.”

“We provided the vision and a set of expectations and let the students run with it,” said Schwartz, who directs the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at Illinois. Schwartz uses Archon to manage the large Sousa collection database. The archives and center are part of the University Library and the University Archives .

Since Schwartz and Prom presented Archon to a meeting of the Society of American Archivists in August 2006, it has been downloaded nearly 900 times; 117 completed installations of the program have been achieved by a variety of repositories; and some 25 institutions around the world have already committed to Archon. Among those institutions are the College of William and Mary, Purdue University, Southern Illinois University, the University of Houston and the University of West Florida.

“We are a community of users across North America and Europe,” Schwartz said, “and our community continues to grow.”

Amy Schindler, university archivist in the Special Collections Research Center at the College of William and Mary, is part of the community. She calls the new management program the “Archon miracle.”

“This is the first time that users have been able to search more than a token handful of university archives collections outside of a card catalog in the Special Collections Research Center as well as the first time that a significant number of manuscript collections and university archives collections could be searched through the same interface – whether electronic or card catalog.”

Illinois’ mammoth University Archives library also is realizing the benefits of getting aboard the Archon express.

“It’s a great resource for the University,” Prom said, noting that in terms of photographs alone, he has added more than 3,000 of them in the last several months, and that anyone can browse, search and download them from the University Archives Web site. Prom hopes that one day soon the Library will put its important and popular Illinois History and Lincoln Collections into Archon, a Greek word meaning “ruler” or “king.” In the Archon’s house, the story goes, all the government documents and records were kept.

News item by Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor, U of I News Bureau, originally published at the following URL: .

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RBML Closure

Rare Book & Manuscript Library to Close Temporarily Due to Mold Outbreak

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library will close temporarily on February 25, 2008, in order to counteract an outbreak of mold in its vault. The library is scheduled to reopen on May 12, 2008.  For detailed and up-to-date information about the mold recovery process, visit the Preservation and Conservation website .

Professor Valerie Hotchkiss, head of the library, and her staff have worked diligently to minimize the effect of the situation on faculty and students. The library was able to accommodate dozens of classes scheduled to view rare items this semester. “Items will be cleaned before the class presentations, which will take place elsewhere in the Main Library under close supervision of curators for security.”

Otherwise, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library must be closed to researchers for the duration of the clean-up. “We are pleased that the mold remediation will only require us to curtail services for eight to ten weeks,” says Hotchkiss. She reports that this “is a very quick turnaround time compared to what we’ve seen at other libraries. At the Clark Library at UCLA, for example, the library was closed for over a year and a half for a smaller mold clean-up project.”

The outbreak most likely occurred after a spike in the humidity late in the fall. Following the discovery, the Library’s Conservation Unit undertook an assessment of the collection. A mycologist also was called in to evaluate the health risks of the mold, which were deemed minimal to healthy individuals. Fortunately, the mold had not reached the point of irreparably damaging any books or manuscripts.

The Conservation Unit determined that the outbreak was of a general nature, rather than one impacting a small section of the collection, and worked with members of the Library’s Administration, Office of Facilities, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and Preservation Unit to prepare a plan of action. Because of the widespread nature of the outbreak, it was decided that cleaning the entire collection was necessary. The following actions were initiated:

  • Installing and maintaining temporary humidity control devices in the vault.
  • Contracting with the appropriate vendor, BMS Catastrophe, to clean the collection, HVAC system, and interior of the vault.
  • Increasing “compartmentalization” of the vault, as a means of better protecting the collection from invasive elements (mold, pests, etc.), providing tighter environmental controls, and improving fire protection.
  • Exploring options for replacing the HVAC system.

The Library regrets the inconvenience caused by this temporary closure. However, the crisis provides an unparalleled opportunity to evaluate and enhance current systems for the protection for unique, rare, and valuable items. For more information, please contact:

Tom Teper
Associate University Librarian for Collections & Associate Dean of Libraries
University Library
246F Main Library
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
Telephone: (217) 244-8755
Fax: (217) 244-4358

Do you have a story you’d like added to the Library News & Events? If so, please contact Heather Murphy ( ).