Archivists’ Toolkit, where we are and the tangled roads ahead

In late 2007 we acquired, and in early 2008 implemented, a collections management software package called Archivists’ Toolkit (not to be confused with the other, also highly useful Archivist’s Toolkit, produced by the Archivists Association of British Columbia). There were other possibilities, but it seemed to be the one that answered the needs I was seeing at the time for the department. It allows us to track things as they come in through “accession records,” and even retroactively create records to track acquisitions and de-accessions that we haven’t had in decades. It allows us to then generate what they call “resource records,” from which we can produce consistent finding aids and MARC records for the library’s catalog. It must be admitted that there is a bit of an initial learning curve, but once you have gotten past that, the program becomes fairly intuitive.

There are many things that the program will not do, such as allow access to the resource records to people outside via the web, although a competing program called Archon seems to do that very well. However, the collection management side wasn’t quite what I was wanting. AT, as the Toolkit is informally known, doesn’t track patron requests, control reference workflow, or ship copies out to patrons — that would be a program called Aeon, which I would love to implement as soon as we can afford to do so. So, these are the players on the field currently.

We have caught up with and are keeping current our accessions, and I am gradually tracking old accessions including materials that we received decades ago and no longer have (a pet project of mine – when we’ve published in the past that we own stuff, it’s nice to be able to let researchers know what the status is of those things). We have been converting our old finding aids into AT, and gradually producing new ones. Unfortunately, some of our largest collections (Jean Rhys, Rebecca West, Robertson and Worcester Families) may take a long time to bring over. None of our legacy data is in EAD, it’s all in HTML, and cutting and pasting into resource records is about as efficient as anything else. However, the goal is to covert everything into AT, given time. All new collections being processed are going straight into AT, and they look pretty good (for a short example, take a look at The AOUW papers).

In 2009, it was announced that AT and Archon were joining up to produce a new piece of software intended to present the best qualities of both. Although we haven’t heard much from the developers, I am optimistic, and looking forward to this potential.

Aeon, the last we heard, doesn’t yet have a ready means to interface with AT, instead relying on EAD records, but they have expressed an interest in working towards a solution for their clientele.

In the last few weeks, a new program, still in early beta test, called ATReference, has become available. The developers are describing it as an extended version of AT that will eventually allow the ability to track patrons and their requests. We will probably try later this summer to see how a test database works for us, and in time whether it will successfully work with the planned AT-Archon link-up.

We’ll keep people posted.

About Marc Carlson

The Librarian of Special Collections and University Archives, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa since November 2005.He holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology from Oklahoma State University. He has worked in McFarlin Library since 1986.
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