Project Update:Getting started

Now that there is some background information and content up on the blog, it’s about time for an update on the actual project. I have been working on the project for a full four(!) months now. After spending some time immersed in the microfilm records of the YWCA of the U.S.A. records I feel a renewed appreciation for the work that the women of YWCA USA have done for social justice issues since their beginnings in the late nineteenth century as well as a responsibility to do them right by creating rich metadata. There will be much more on metadata creation to come. Today I am going to focus on preparation.

When I first arrived I was itching to jump right in and start describing things. I love metadata and I love being able to check things off the completed list. It’s super satisfying to see that list of objects get crossed off, especially when there is such a long list of objects to describe! But before jumping in there are important planning steps to take that will make the project easier as it goes along. I will outline a few of the bigger things considered for this project.

Timeline: Estimating and setting time goals is a hard task at a new position at a new job but one of great importance. Not only does goal setting help hold me accountable, it is also important for planning out the life of the project so that I don’t end up rushing to complete work at the end of the grant. I am a goal oriented person and highly motivated by deadlines. I created big goals for the life of the grant such as completion of metadata for microfilm. I also created micro-goals for me personally to follow on a daily or weekly basis. An important thing to remember about time goals: Use established or estimated baselines to create reasonable goals. Then check in and adapt those goals as the project continues. For this project there were no established baselines so we estimated to the best of our abilities. As we check in the goals were changed to better reflect the actual time spent on various tasks. Creating realistic expectations keeps everyone informed and will be invaluable for planning throughout the project.

Context: I spent some time reading through the extensive history and scope materials and looking through outside resources about the history of YWCA USA. In addition, I met with Maida, the Collections Archivist who processed the collection to talk through the organization and contents of the records. Context is especially important to understanding the materials in front of me when describing the records of a complex and robust organization such as YWCA USA. Without this context, the minutes, reports, and other materials would not be clear to me, thus making description difficult and time consuming. Getting the context upfront allows me to describe the content without spending time searching for meaning or reading in detail until the context becomes clear.

Metadata Guidelines: It seems obvious for a metadata project but I can’t overstate the importance of reading through metadata guidelines with a particular project in mind. Whether established or newly created for an emerging project, becoming familiar with local practices prior to starting is essential. In addition to reading through the guidelines I like to think about the materials at hand for my project and think about anything that is unique about the materials. In addition, I find it a helpful exercise to think ahead to how a researcher may use the materials and the context they may be displayed. This includes the institution’s digital library and any aggregators that may collect metadata if the metadata is open and shared. Thinking ahead like this helps to create rich and thoughtful description.

I am deep into metadata creation and I can say without a doubt that taking the time to do thoughtful preparation has made metadata creation a lot easier. I’m glad that my coworkers and supervisors supported this thoughtful approach and feel as though I am better equipped to handle challenges that may come along the way.