SCUA Offers User-friendly and Streamlined Discovery Tool for Individual Researchers

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 01:37pm

University of Oregon Special Collections & University Archives will now use ArchivesSpace as a new web-based collection management tool to increase visibility of collections.

Lauren Goss sitting at a computer in the Special Collection's reading roomThe University of Oregon Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) has adopted an innovative web-spaced collection tool called ArchivesSpace, which will allow staff to easily update information about special collections, and researchers to browse across thousands of collections at once.

What makes this innovation from SCUA so important to the UO academic community is its main goal of preserving, facilitating, and supporting access to unique materials in the university archives.

“We have thousands of collections and tens of thousands of books that we take care of,” said Special Collections Public Services Librarian Lauren Goss. “We do a lot of work to make sure that people know about our collections, and that they can use them to conduct new research.”

Normally, Goss’s job as Public Services Librarian entails helping researchers learn about and get access to SCUA’s collections. More specifically, Goss answers any reference questions and helps researchers understand how to use materials if they are going to publish their work.

“I’m constantly learning about new topics and new areas of research [within my job],” said Goss.

Most importantly, Goss is responsible for preparing requested materials to be viewed and analyzed in the Paulson Reading Room for individual researchers coming from all around the world.  Though connecting individuals to these unique materials within thousands of special collections presents an interesting challenge in an age where most public services are having to adapt virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve been digitizing and scanning materials for individuals in order to allow them to continue their research,” said Goss. “It’s really interesting to see how people can use the same collection in multiple ways depending on what their research topic is.”

Before the global pandemic, researchers usually traveled from countries worldwide to access the unique materials in SCUA. However, like many other public service institutions, operations have been forced to adapt accordingly to ensure safety precautions surrounding the pandemic.

“Public services have changed dramatically in the sense that we normally have people traveling or visiting to do their research,” said Goss. “Now that they’re not in the room themselves doing the research, it’s been interesting to help and assist them in doing that research from afar.”

In order to adapt, Goss and SCUA staff have had to put in additional time to look at these requested materials on behalf of individual researchers. An in-house digitization program has been put in place to get limited amounts of material to these researchers with tight deadlines.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented several challenges to the public services that SCUA offers, ArchivesSpace serves as an innovative solution with its synergy of web-based collection management and public discovery interface functions.

ArchivesSpace was originally adopted solely as a collection management tool in 2017. SCUA staff have collaborated with UO Libraries’ Application Development & Integration (ADI) team over the past 18 months to prepare the public interface of this discovery tool. As a more modern discovery tool, ArchivesSpace will allow for staff to keep collection information current, as well as researchers to be able to search across all of SCUA’s collections, dive deeper within one collection, or look for a topic that appears in different collections.

“Now we have one tool that allows our staff to easily update information about our collections as we continue to make stuff available,” said Goss. “Our researchers also benefit because they can search across thousands of collections all at once.”

Not only will this tool provide a more user-friendly and streamlined experience in developing comprehensive research, but it will also empower individual researchers in their studies.

“When people come to do research, they can pull on these different threads and come to a more complete understanding of the topic,” said Goss. “You can browse, search, and filter. It’s a much stronger search functionality, and I think researchers can feel more empowered and self-sufficient knowing that they’re going to see everything that is relevant to their topic when they visit.”

Going forward, Goss and SCUA staff hope that ArchiveSpace will both enhance the visibility of special collections at the University of Oregon and offer a more streamlined experience for a wide variety of individual researchers. Users can access ArchivesSpace here.

- by Kenzie Hudler, Social Media Writing Assistant, UO Libraries