Guest author: S. Kaye
Recent MLIS graduate from the University of South Florida
Let’s be honest. We’re probably all a little guilty.
It’s 8:00 am, we’ve got 5,000 documents in a cue ready to be digitally scanned, and we close our office door, sealed away from most of the world, ready to get to work. It could be hours before we see another person. In fact, other than going home and then coming back to the office again, it could really be days before we see another person. And that’s OK. We’ve got a job to do, and for the most part, we’re going to be married to our documents (and the Crowley, or the Epson) until the job gets done.
But even in a world where there might be less “people interaction” than in other professions, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of our ultimate users. Whether our archives are utilized today, or in ten years, at some point, people will be part of the equation. And there are several good reasons we should keep this in mind.
On the surface, it clearly helps us to know who will ultimately use our archives so that we prepare them in a way that is easily and quickly accessible, and understood, by our users. For example, if we’re creating archives in formats that are difficult to access, all our good efforts might be for naught. While the act of “saving” our materials is critical, it’s just as important that appropriate users can find the information at a later date.
But on another level, and one that we may not always think about, it’s essential for us to have a way to communicate with these users, not only to understand their needs, but also to have their support. In an economy where money is tight (especially for non-profits), budgets are often cut from year to year, and archivists need to connect with the public and establish the important role we play in preserving not only documents, or photos, but also history itself. Continue reading