The VIVA Special Collections Committee developed a flexible, progressive, multi-tiered organizational structure to accomplish the twin goals of the Virginia Heritage Project: 1) to create EAD finding aids to more than 500 collections (7,500 pages) documenting African-American history and culture and to an additional 5,000 pages of finding aids for Virginiana collections and, 2) to disseminate to all the participating institutions the technological skills necessary for the in-house processing of an additional 5,000 pages of EAD finding aids. Edward Gaynor of the University of Virginia will serve as the Project Director, supported by a steering committee composed of Project Coordinators from each of the participating institutions, all of whom are members of the VIVA Special Collections Committee. Within the Steering Committee, an Executive Committee (composed of the Project Director and the Project Coordinators from Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University and the College of William and Mary) will manage the basic operations of the project as a replacement for the EAD Supervisor position, which was eliminated to meet the project's reduced funding. Funding for travel and consultant services was eliminated from the budget; the Virginia Heritage Project Steering Committee has requested that VIVA fund these expenses at a level comparable to the overall reduced funding of the award. The VIVA Special Collections Committee will continue meeting monthly throughout the period of the grant.
The project will employ Daniel Pitti, Project Director at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology and the leader of the Berkeley Finding Aids team which pioneered the development of EAD, as a consultant. Pitti will advise the Project Director on EAD markup procedures, participate in the project's meetings, and communicate with project staff via electronic mail and telephone to assist with problem solving and trouble shooting throughout the course of the project.
Because of its experience with the technology, the University of Virginia Library will take the lead among the collaborators and will serve as host for the project database software and data and as the centralized technical support unit for the project. This support includes hosting the union database on a server at the University of Virginia and developing a common interface and display for the Virginia Heritage Project. The project will begin with the establishment of an EAD Finding Aid Processing Center at University of Virginia at the start of the first year of the two-year grant period. The primary function of this center will be to receive and process the finding aids for the African-American collections from the participating libraries. This processing center will draw on the extensive experience of University of Virginia Library personnel in EAD conversion and will also serve as a focal point for training and disseminating this expertise to the other participating institutions.
Later in the first year, the project will expand to include the establishment of smaller processing centers at five other institutions: the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. During the second year of the project, five additional institutions will be begin in-house EAD processing: the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Historical Society, Virginia State University, the Virginia Military Institute, and Washington and Lee University. Each of the participating institutions will in turn begin to provide training and support in EAD processing and conversion to other nearby members of VIVA.
Edward Gaynor, the Project Director, will hire an EAD Specialist and three part-time student assistants to staff the EAD Finding Aid Processing Center at the University of Virginia. The Project Director will be responsible for administering technical support, both for the processing staff located at University of Virginia and for staff at other institutions. The Project Director, assisted by the Virginia Heritage Project Executive Committee and University of Virginia Library staff with expertise in EAD conversion, will conduct training for the project personnel both at University of Virginia and on site at each of the other participating institutions; supervise and carry out finding aid conversion; assist in the resolution of conversion problems; and monitor production schedules and product quality. The Steering Committee will consult with the Project Advisors on selection of finding aids to be encoded during the two-year project.
During the project, the Project Coordinator and Assistant Project Coordinator at each of the institutions will train and supervise student assistants, funded by the project, to process EAD finding aids. In this way, by building on the wealth of experience available at the University of Virginia Library, at the end of the project each of the participating institutions will have established the ability to process new EAD finding aids and to continue converting existing finding aids to EAD. Participating institutions will then be able either to train other repositories in their geographical area in EAD encoding, or to process finding aids for those repositories.
The Project Director will provide orientation for the EAD Specialist, who will train the student assistants. Training will be accomplished rapidly because of previous training sponsored by the VIVA Special Collections Committee, and the project staff will be able to reach a high level of productivity early in the grant period. The Project Director will establish an electronic mail listserv to which all Project Coordinators and their assistants will be subscribed; this will provide a means of group communication and will facilitate decision-making and problem-solving. The VIVA Special Collections Committee has used its listserv during the past year as a means of rapid communication with excellent results. Evaluation of the project will take place at least monthly during the grant period, and more often if so determined by the Project Director. The Project Director will provide general supervision for the duration of the grant.
B. Plan of Operation/Schedule of Completion
The project is complex, and its plan of operation calls for a tightly scheduled sequence of events occurring over two years and requiring the close cooperation of many staff members in a number of different departments at the collaborating institutions. The plan of operation follows. Although it suggests a linear progression, many activities will overlap, and various participants will be working concurrently on different aspects of the project.
- 1. Preparation Prior to Grant Period (July 1999 - April 2000)
The Virginia Heritage Project Steering Committee will oversee and support progress on the Virginia Heritage Project during this period. The Committee recognizes that reaching consensus on best practices before the start of the project is critical in order to reach the goals of rapidly creating and evaluating the Virginia Heritage Project union database. Other state-wide projects have successfully begun with intensive planning meetings and training workshops to reach the agreements and understandings needed to achieve their goals. The project coordinators at each of the participating institutions and their assistants must be thoroughly familiar with EAD and with the EAD Retrospective Conversion Guidelines, so that they can use them as the basis for their agreement on best practices. They will also need to be familiar with project procedures. The Virginia Heritage Project will use the same model, adapting existing training curricula, guidelines, procedural documentation, and tools wherever possible prior to the commencement of the grant period. Substantial progress has already been made at the VIVA-sponsored workshops with Daniel Pitti held for project coordinators in September 1998 and January and June 1999. Additional training workshops are planned by the VIVA Special Collections Committee for the coming months.
- 2. Start-up Activities (May-July 2000)
At the beginning of the grant period, the Project Director will hire the project staff (EAD specialist and student assistants) for the two full years of the grant. Tools such as written procedures, training plans, and database structures will be developed by the VIVA Special Collections Committee for this project or adapted by the Project Director and EAD supervisor from previous similar projects. The Project Director will establish a group listserv for all Project Coordinators and their assistants. The EAD supervisor will prepare detailed work plans, including measurable monthly progress goals. The Project Director will evaluate work plans and initial workflow with EAD Supervisor. The Project Director will consult with Project Advisors Michael Plunkett and Ann Southwell to begin selection of finding aids to be encoded. The Steering Committee will begin working with the Project Coordinators at the other institutions to set up an intake process for selecting and receiving guides for processing at the University of Virginia. Preparation of legacy finding aids for conversion will begin. Finding aids will be carefully reviewed and updated by the project staff in preparation for sending them to the University of Virginia for reformatting and/or EAD markup. Many of these finding aids will also require upgrading with additional information such as brief scope and content notes, biography and history notes, and series descriptions.
- 3. First Training Workshop and Production Start-up (August-December 2000)
Student assistants will be trained at the EAD Finding Aid Processing Center at the University of Virginia, and processing will begin on African-American history finding aids already in electronic form received from the participating institutions. The Project Director will develop standards for batch and individual processing of finding aids and prepare the database structure. The Project Director will consult with the Executive Committee on issues of web presentation, search engine and feedback mechanisms. The EAD Specialist and student assistants will carry out spot-checking for quality assurance. Encoded finding aids will be added to the union database and made publicly accessible concurrently with the encoding process.
Project Coordinators and their assistants from the first five participating institutions will come to the University of Virginia for three-day-long training sessions to continue advanced training in EAD encoding and finding aid conversion. Following the training of Project Coordinators, Project Director will pay visits each of the institutions to facilitate training of additional personnel and the establishment of local EAD finding aid processing centers. In-house processing of finding aids begins at five institutions: the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
- 4. Continuing Production (January 2001 - April 2002)
The EAD Specialist, and student assistants will continue to convert finding aids at the University of Virginia; in-house processing of finding aids continues at the first five participating institutions. The Project Director and the Executive Committee will meet with the Project Advisors as needed. The EAD Specialist and student assistants will continue spot-checking for quality assurance. The addition of finding aids to the union database continues concurrently with the encoding process. At their regular monthly meetings, the VIVA Special Collections Committee continues to oversee all aspects of the project and assure close cooperation between institutions. A two-day meeting of all project personnel will be held to assess progress during the first year of the project.
- 5. Additional Training Workshop, Additional Production Start-ups (August - December 2001)
Project Coordinators and their assistants from the second five participating institutions will come to the University of Virginia for three-day-long training sessions to continue advanced training in EAD and finding aid conversion. The Project Director will pay visits to each of the institutions to facilitate continued training of additional personnel and the establishment of five new in-house EAD finding aid processing centers. In-house processing of finding aids begins at five more institutions: the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Historical Society, Virginia State University, the Virginia Military Institute, and Washington and Lee University.
- 6. Promotion of the Union Database to the Public (May 2001-April 2002)
During the second year of the project, the Project Director, the Project Coordinators and other project personnel will begin to make public demonstrations of the Virginia Heritage database at public libraries and educational institutions around the state. The Project Director, the Executive Committee and Project Coordinators will begin developing press releases and announcements and will prepare proposals for presentations and papers to scholarly journals and conferences. The project director will begin preparations for final report on the project. The EAD Specialist and student assistants will continue spot-checking for quality assurance.
- 7. Evaluation (May 2001-April 2002)
The project evaluation team, led by the Virginia Heritage Project Steering Committee, will carry out user and reference evaluation during the second year of the project by adapting EAD evaluation tools and procedures developed by Anne Gilliland-Swetland of the University of California, Los Angeles's Department of Library and Information Studies. The evaluation team will also work jointly with interested researchers and with outreach programs currently in place at the participating institutions. The evaluation has been designed to achieve a better understanding of current needs and practices of major targeted user groups. It also addresses the usability of the database in terms of presentation, navigability, and of perceived subject coverage of the database. The aim of the evaluation is to determine the effectiveness of EAD-encoded finding aids as descriptive surrogates.
During the first phase, the evaluation team will look at the issues surrounding the end-user satisfaction assessment. The evaluators will distribute guidelines for providing Internet access to the growing union database. The Virginia Heritage database itself will automatically collect statistics on the levels and activities of its users. During the second phase, the team will evaluate the effectiveness of EAD for archival reference; identify the range of actual and potential users for the database; and evaluate the effectiveness of the union database in addressing user needs and activities. The team will distribute two questionnaires to the project participants for comment: a user questionnaire and a questionnaire requesting archival reference feedback on the perceptions of user groups, needs, and activities currently or potentially addressed by EAD. The revised questionnaire will be distributed online to users. It will also be used as the basis for interviewing individuals and focus groups from several identified user groups.
In addition to end-user evaluations, the Virginia Heritage Project Steering will evaluate the training model established by the Virginia Heritage Project. The Committee will evaluate the effectiveness of distributed processing and training and the efficiency with which the smaller in-house processing centers can produce encoded documents, both legacy finding aids and newly created finding aids.
In the final phase of evaluation, the team will process and analyze user data. The evaluation team will summarize and present the results of each of the three phases of the evaluation process in the final report of the project.
The project will be completed by April 30, 2002 and project results will be disseminated as delineated below.
- 8. Continuing Operations.
The Virginia Heritage Project will set in place the necessary infrastructure of training, hardware and software, and expertise so that its participants will be able to continue adding new EAD-encoded finding aids to the union database on an ongoing basis. Each of the participating institutions will begin to provide training and support in EAD processing and conversion to other nearby members of VIVA. The ultimate project goal is to see this state-of-the-art approach incorporated as an essential operational activity of these units. With technical support from the University of Virginia, the VIVA Special Collections Committee will monitor the long-term maintenance, as well as oversee the continuing development of the database and web site.