Magazine article Information Management

Book Review: A Primer for Archivists

Magazine article Information Management

Book Review: A Primer for Archivists

Article excerpt

Book Review: A Primer for Archivists TITLE: Organizing Archival Records: A Practical Method of Arrangement & Description for Small Archives, Second Edition AUTHOR: David W. Carmicheal ISBN: 0-7591-0440-9 PUBLISHER: AltaMira Press PUBLICATION DATE: 2003 LENGTH: 86 pages (plus 1 CD-ROM) PRICE: $30 SOURCE: www.orma.org

It is not uncommon for a librarian, records manager, public-relations coordinator, or administrator to find himself or herself assigned to create or maintain the institutional archives. It is also not uncommon that the first reactions of these newly designated archivists are that of shock, confusion, and even panic.

Many short monographs have been written with the intention of addressing suddenly assigned archival duties. However, none of these earlier works are as clearly organized, succinctly written, and carefully programmed to accomplish the difficult task of turning the novice into a proto-archivist or archivist-in-the-making as is the second edition of Organizing Archival Records: A Practical Method of Arrangement & Description for Small Archives.

Author David Carmicheal, director of the Georgia Division of Archives and History, draws on his long career working with state and local government records and their keepers, including 16 years as director of the Westchester County, New York, Records and Archives Center, to provide practical insight and experience. In fact, Organizing Archival Records grew out of workshops he began presenting in 1986 to untrained people assigned to become institution, organization, government, or corporate archivists.

The book possesses the features of an instructional resource with extensive field-testing, modified and refined to successfully teach a complex set of procedures in a limited timefrarne. It is a superb guide to the most important, fundamental, and specialized part of the archivist and manuscript curator's profession - the arrangement and description of historical records. Among the features that make this work so useful are its casual pace, clear prose, informational sidebars, meaningful diagrams and photographs, and the multitude of examples that help guide the reader through many practical exercises. In addition to these exercises, Organizing Archival Records includes a CD-ROM that provides ready-to-use archival forms and an OAR Access(TM) database created for organizing archival materials according to the methods outlined in the book. It includes data input screens that support the accession, arrangement, and description of archival records.

Organizing Archival Records is organized into three primary chapters keyed to examples of archival arrangements and descriptions located in Appendix A (Examples) and practical exercises in Appendix B (Exercises and Answers). The book is linked throughout by step-by-step instructions on how to use the OAR Access(TM) database. It features eight informational boxes that serve as textual sidebars that reiterate, summarize, and expand on the steps for organizing, arranging, and describing archival records. The book also includes a two-page bibliography that is current but a bit too brief.

Chapter One, "Purpose of Organizing," is a three-page introduction to the reasons for arranging and describing archival records. The explanation for the practice - access and control - is fairly obvious to experienced information managers, but Carmicheal carefully explains how most people's experiences in the public library is related to, but fundamentally different from, the experiences they can expect in an archives. …

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