ARK de Triumph: Linking Finding Aids and Digital Libraries with Low-Tech Processes

Presentation given to the American Folklore Society: Archives and Library Section ConferenceAdvInArchiving2017_ArcDTriumph-DigitalLinking (1), Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 16, 2017

Presented by:

  • Andrea Payant, Metadata Librarian
  • Sara Skindelien, EAD and Metadata Specialist
  • Liz Woolcott, Head of Cataloging and Metadata Services


As archives work to make their folklore and other special collections material available online, the segregation of finding aids and digital collections in silos presents a discovery and usability problem for patrons. Researchers discovering a finding aid for an oral history collection may not know that the recordings are digitized and available online in a separate database or vice versa. How can the workflows that feed these two different discovery points be combined to improve access to these valuable collections?

Utah State University (USU) Libraries realized that a cross-departmental workflow was necessary to connect both new and legacy finding aids with their digitized content to improve use and access. For legacy collections, the library created a low-tech process for semi-automating the batch linking of item and box level entries in EAD finding aids to the corresponding digitized material in CONTENTdm. For new collections, particularly born digital collections, the process enabled USU Libraries to simultaneously create a digital collection and a digitally linked finding aid all in one process.

In addition to the obvious benefit of linking finding aid inventories to their digital counterparts, this process implemented persistent identifiers that ensured the links would be consistent over time, even if databases were changed. The metadata staff minted ARKs identifiers for each object and crafted links between the finding aid and the digital library using those static ARKs instead of the system supplied URLs. This small, but important extra step will provide the flexibility to accommodate database migration in the future.

These processes used low-tech, familiar tools to lower the barrier for engaging more staff and student help in the work. This presentation will provide session participants with a discussion of the process, access to detailed step-by-step instructions, and will address future developments.