Friday, February 27, 2009

Electronic Documents in the Jarrett Barrios Collection

A second accession of the papers of State Senator Jarrett Barrios is currently being processed in Special Collections. This collection is causing the staff to quickly make decisions about description and access to electronic documents. Although Paige Roberts, Head of Special Collections, is working on a pilot project for electronic files in legislative collections, the department does not yet have a standing policy for handling electronic files. So when I discovered a tote bag of compact and floppy discs in the collection, as well as several discs mixed in with photo files, we needed to decide how to move forward with minimal processing of the collection. The digital files are mostly pictures of the Senator at events and with constituents, but there are also PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Excel files documenting a number of office functions.

We have not yet come to a final decision on processing in this case, but some of the questions we will need to answer are:

  • Should we reformat any of the material, for instance providing web access or printing hard copy to file in the collection?

  • How much detail should we use in describing the materials?

  • How should the discs be stored?

  • What is the research value of the pictures in particular? How useful will they be to library users?

  • How should we handle privacy issues? One of the discs is marked "confidential." Will we treat this the same as a confidential paper file, or use new criteria to make a decision?

-Katie Chase, Special Collections Librarian