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Special Interest Group Archive: Archives SIG 6/18/2020

These are the notes from meetings dating back to 2015.

June 18, 2020

The meeting was held on Thursday, June 18 via Zoom. It was facilitated by Carrie Allmendinger of Historic Huguenot Street.

Notes from the meeting

Local history rooms for re-opening: 

Some useful links: 

REALM Project (

  • Provides some useful information on Covid-19 and how it survives on library materials. 
  • Just provided a systemic review  focused on studies of virus survival rates on common materials, methods of transmission, and effectiveness of prevention measures.

Does anyone have any plans for re-opening?

  • One public library took their system-wide plan and customized it to their individual libraries. 
  • Separated out duties that could be done in the building vs. things that could be done at home. 
  • Archival duties from home could be scanning, CONTENTdm.
  • Each successive phase of re-opening will transfer more of the at-home duties to the library.
  • It’s challenging because there are only so many hours that you can spend within the library. 
  • Physical exhibits will have to be later phases; the first phases will focus on putting resources online and helping with reference questions. 
  • One of the challenges is cleaning supplies: have to clean every surface every time it’s used. You also have to think to clean things you normally might not think of; doorknobs, banisters, etc. 
  • It’s somewhat limited what materials are available. 

Has anyone found rubbing alcohol solutions? Or thoughts on cleaning?

  • Anything alcohol-based should be at least 70%
  • Local representatives might be able to provide supplies as a goodwill effort. Some have been securing materials for educational institutions. 
  • It’s a challenge cleaning tables - you want to make sure you’re using things that won’t transfer to archival materials. 
  • A lot of it is learn as you go. 
  • In historic spaces, you have to be cautious about which cleaning materials you use. Right not, HHS has been using soap and water for features around the site. 
  • Could possibly have a table cover that is easier to clean. Tyvek -> can go into a washing machine. 

Has anyone come up with strategies for what you do with books?

  • Holding books & items for 72 hours. 
  • What about reference? People come in for a couple of hours and go through a lot of reference books at a time. 
  • Having the archives open once a week to start, which might mitigate some of those issues. Or you could time it between twice a week - 72 hours between each item.
  • Gloves might be an option for mitigating transference. 

Does anyone have plans to do visits by appointment only? 

  • Municipal archives: require people to make appointments and it may not necessarily be that day. On any day you could have several people coming on one day. Hours during the week are going to be expanded. 
  • Not going to be open until maybe October or November for the public. 
  • Focusing on visibility online; use the offices as a place to work and do archival work / filing. Not a place just to visit. 
  • Virus documentation indicates it doesn’t live very long on leather surfaces. Isolating is the best course of action. 
  • Open air is better for the virus. However, for historic buildings: can have a humidity issue if the windows are opened. 

West Point: 

  • Starting with curbside only for instructors. Several book walls outside the library which would then put the items in quarantines. 
  • Making appointments for instructors that are going to be teaching courses. 
  • Special Collections: studying airflow. They are thinking this semester they might not be open. 
  • People typically travel long distances and stay for long periods of times. It’s not realistic to only allow people to come for a couple of hours. 
  • Thinking virtually for the archives. Handling tickets through spring share. 
  • People are going to return in phases. 
  • If the reading room isn’t going to be open, have to focus on other projects that need to be done. 
  • Can be a good time to do some processing backlogs. 

Looking for ways to help online: 

  • Zoom for the phone. That can be a way to share pages via video. 
  • Has been done with professors; technician will share a screen and help them find the pages they need. 
  • Can take reference requests ahead of time; look for what’s needed while in the building. 
  • Have a correspondence committee that answers questions via mail. Can be a good way to share archival information. 
  • Binghamton special collections: questioning people why they need to be in the physical space first. 
  • Re-directing people to other resources in the time being. 
  • Some people want you to do your research; have to put time limits on how much research you will do for others. 
  • NARA’s guidelines are if they can’t find it in 30 minutes, you have to come. 

Putting things online: important to make these accessible to people 

  • Don’t just post pictures of a book; have to put more descriptive information so screen readers can pick them up 
  • Also a lot of information on background colors to make sure these things are visible. 
  • Metadata staff at USMA have a workflow which looks directly at accessibility. Looking at transcriptions to make sure they are accessible and readable. 
  • IT also runs checks to make sure it’s compliant. 

Online tutorials: 

  • Online tutorials via platforms like Youtube can be really helpful for basic library functions.  
  • Captions can be helpful to capture content. 

Are you going to continue providing virtual programs?

  • This situation has shown the benefit of using virtual tools to connect with patrons. 
  • Are people getting burned out by online programming? 
  • Hudson River Maritime Museum project. Two boats are traveling up the Hudson River and recording their experiences. 
  • Push people outside; can provide information on outside activities like hiking, bird watching, etc. 
  • Zoom is going to be a component of programming going forward. 
  • Rather than traditional programs, electronic communication is the way organizations are pivoting. 

Next meeting: Thursday July 30th, 10 am

Southeastern NY Library Resources Council
21 South Elting Corners Road | Highland, NY 12528
Phone: (845) 883-9065