Innovative Access at the Roosevelt Library

Author: Sarah Malcolm

Like many archivists, one of the most dreaded questions I encounter on a daily basis is “is it online?” To combat this question and the ever growing need for digitized documents, my colleagues and I at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library found new ways to provide more for our users and expand the reach of our holdings. We have taken a three pronged approach: systematic digitization, special online projects, and social media.
As most people in the archival community know, digitization takes a lot of time and money. In an effort to expand our online holdings we have started to tap into resources that many institutions do have – microfilm and eager volunteers. Thanks to the support of our nonprofit partner, the Roosevelt Institute, we have undertaken a project to digitize 350,000 pages of documents from our microfilm collections. While having all of those images is great, we needed to find a way to make them useful. For this, we turned to Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
Taking the paper finding aids for our 400+ collections, most of which were written on typewriters, and turning them into EAD documents was going to be no small task; especially since we lacked the technology needed to write the code quickly and efficiently. However, what we lacked in resources we easily made up for in enthusiastic volunteers and interns. Using spreadsheets, our volunteers and interns have been able to take our legacy finding aids and turn them into clean data. Then our digital archivist and I can then take that clean data and transform it into an EAD finding aid. In the time span of 6 months our volunteers and interns have created clean data for 45 collections and counting. Thanks to their hard work we will be able to expand the reach of not only our digital holdings but that of our finding aids as well. This digitization project would not be possible without our partner Marist College, which provides our webhosting and helped us develop the content management system that will deliver the finding aids and digitized documents on our website. 
We have also been able to share more of our holdings with special online projects – most of which are featured right on our website. By creating web features on anniversaries and on special topics, we are able to highlight various documents from our collections and respond to current events. We are most excited about our newest project, the FDR Day by Day Project. This project is a fantastic new online resource for our users to see the daily activities of FDR. Along with providing FDR’s daily appointment diaries online for the first time, we are also able to provide documents and photographs in a timeline related to FDR’s presidency. This is another project that would not have been possible without years of work by interns and volunteers. 
Social media is another realm we have started to use to promote and share our collections. Using a variety of social media platforms, all of which are available for free, we are able to promote the Library and highlight our holdings in a way to reach new audiences. We talk about documents and museum objects on our blog, post historical photos on our Flickr account, and share videos from our collections on YouTube. Web 2.0 technologies are a great resource for institutions to use in order to promote and share the unique holdings they have. Access is an important part of outreach, and we at the Roosevelt Library are striving to increase access to our holdings in new, innovative ways.


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