A collections management system (CMS) allows for seamless integration of information by offering simplicity.
Legacy systems and outdated workflows require more steps and more manual changes. In contrast, a new system allows for faster, easier, and new business processing that archivists can use throughout their department. An investment in a CMS simplifies design, development, maintenance, and usage by providing a single system.
The CMS makes entering and updating information easy. It allows archivists and associated staff to add, edit, duplicate, and delete records, with the changes being instantly viewable to users. A good CMS should also provide features that aid in uniform and efficient description, such as drop-down menus, controlled fields, and menus. Fields with many entries can use searching and browsing interfaces. For example, if a repository uses a subject hierarchy adapted from Library of Congress Subject Headings, the drop-down menu automatically switches to a searching and browsing interface for assigning entries to that field. While that change seems minor, this adaption makes description faster and less frustrating, especially while working on multiple entries.
Easier Metadata Creation
An integrated portal supported by a CMS can also make description and metadata creation easier. Metadata should be increasingly multipurpose and flexible in intent and support an expanse of data views. There are several considerations that archivists need to reflect upon in designing their collections and metadata with maximum collaboration and multiple uses in mind. While it is hard to predict newly developing metadata needs and usages, projects should strive to be as inclusive as possible within economic constraints. A CMS should support versatility in metadata usage by including parallel fields for annotations to support short and long annotations, subjects, and other fields.
As archivists update a system, a CMS facilitates editorial review or workflow process approval set up among archivists. For example, rather than obliging catalogers to alert approvers when they have entered new records, the system can notify archivists automatically of new entries awaiting their review. Doing so speeds up the flow of information as well as assuring it is correct and complete.
Faster Searching and Reporting
A CMS allows users to search within and across collections and to access descriptions and relevant files. The system can include features that limit a search and make it seem like a natural progression in exploring the retrieved set of resources. For instance, archivists can predefine popular search strategies users can execute with a single click. They can include links between materials to help guide users to additional relevant materials within the same collection or across collections.
A collections management system can analyze data with business intelligence tools and visualization systems. Data organized within a comprehensive CMS not only makes archival activities more efficient, but it also becomes a repository for archivists to draw insights from their processes.
Archivists can keep information in one easy to manage place with a CMS. Seeing collections from an overhead view allows archivists to discover new connections and themes between related collections and data that might have been otherwise invisible. A CMS can become a valuable platform for research, both for archival staff members and the wider community. A system can highlight gaps in collections and allow archivists to recognize acquisition to enhance the collections’ quality. Viewing collections in one place within a CMS assists curatorial decisions, including how collections are presented or exhibited.
The Details are in the Data
A CMS assists in data-enabled decision making. Archivists must be skilled in quantitative data analysis, database querying, data definitions, and data modeling. They should foster critical thinking skills about qualitative data, understanding the proper and improper use of data analyses. Copious amounts of disorganized information can be overwhelming to users, but a CMS can sort data into a searchable database that is intuitive and collections focused.
An integrated portal helps archives cooperate better, serve their users’ information needs better, and scale better, given the current information environments’ magnitude.
Margot Note, archivist, consultant, and author is a guest blogger for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archival collections management software for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Read more of Margot’s posts, and register here for her upcoming webinar, “CMS Essentials for Success #2: Integrated Portal” on February 17, 2021.
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