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Annual archives report

Vicenta Cortes ALONSO

Archives comprise, at every level, a range of offices, departments and agencies which are responsible for receiving, safeguarding and making available for use documents produced by the government, institutions or private individuals. This being the case, information on the archival materials received, stored and handled by them will be particularly useful for the originating agencies.

When the archival materials in question are documents issued by the government departments themselves as part of their official business, it is only natural that they should wish to be informed of their quantity, quality, state of preservation and the use made of them, and that there should be government regulations for collecting the information and making it available periodically. Government documents stand in their own right as the central, though not the only, source of the nation's official records, and information must consequently be provided periodically by the archivists - who are the custodians of the records - on the documents' life cycle from the time they leave the office which produces them until they reach the central files, then the central archives and ultimately, after being appropriately weeded and selected, the final or historical archives.

Two types of information document are produced to fulfil this important function: memoranda, in which developments relating to the record centres, staff and holdings are listed periodically in concise, numerical form, and annual reports, in which the same information is set out in detail, giving a follow-up account of the data contained in the memoranda and also including any comments and plans which the archivists feel should be brought to the notice of the authorities so as to improve the documentation services and the documents themselves. The use of both these channels of communication is a very old tradition in the Spanish archives system and has been the basis for all the reports, census returns, plans, etc. which have regularly been passed on to the competent authorities to facilitate the smooth functioning of the operations entrusted to them.

The archivists' tasks are extremely varied, as are the activities that they carry out in the performance of their specific duties. They also vary according to the type of centre concerned; in the case of record offices attached to the agencies which produce the documents, the archivist will provide a service directly geared to those agencies, whereas in the case of historical archives the archivist's work will focus more on research. Broadly speaking, however, they will all have to consider certain common factors, namely, funds and personnel, buildings, facilities and services, holdings, and scientific services and activities, which must be included in the reports. Requirements must be set forth by way of an assessment of the actual situation, which is very often inadequate, and work plans must be made to ensure continuity with the following financial period. These, in broad outline, are the points usually included in the reports, but the order in which they are presented and the chapter headings under which they fall are at the discretion of the report-writer. The result is that, with over a hundred reports to consult, processing can be slow, for not all the items are to be found in the same place and some are combined under a single heading. Moreover, when a report of this kind is drafted, there must be a logical thematic sequence for purposes of coherence and practicality. These considerations have prompted the following comments

1. Funds

Any record office is an administrative unit which incurs expenditure, receives funds and is required to manage its resources in order to operate. The unit occupies premises which have to be properly maintained, repaired, cleaned and fitted out. Communication must be maintained with the department to which it is attached and with the outside world; equipment, documentation and bibliographic information are also needed. When the records are kept as part of the producing unit, funding and the allocation and distribution of funds for these purposes may be the responsibility of the unit itself, but it is important to know the amounts involved, because the volume of business of a record office, as an active, operational unit, may increase or decrease, or remain stable; hence a yearly assessment of its financial resources is advisable. The obvious, acknowledged fact that the output of documentary information has grown in all sectors of the government, the establishment of new units and the diversification of those which already exist have meant that record offices have seen a massive influx of acquisitions which will call for a steady increase in funds in order to collect and process them and provide the necessary services. If there is no paper planning then, collection, storage and services will suffer from a lack of continuity and this in turn will result in a falling short in the information and services which the country's official records should supply to the government, to researchers and to users in general.

2. Personnel

Document handling at the various stages referred to in the above paragraph, namely collecting information, keeping records and providing user services, is a task which goes well beyond the administrative function of receiving documents and storing them in an orderly manner, since it means making them available for use and accounting for them. There must therefore be various categories of personnel working together who run the office, file and describe the information so that it can be made accessible, and actually deliver the information to the user. The government employs the specialized personnel qualified to perform these duties and will recruit the temporary staff required for special duties as and when necessary.

At the top of the staff pyramid are the professional archivists, helped by assistant archivists and librarians, both categories being specially trained in handling documentary information.] The administrative business of the record offices is carried out by civil servants of various categories, including subaltern officials. In cases where the record offices have special restoration, bookbinding and reprography services, persons specially qualified in these fields will be recruited. Finally, supervisory and maintenance duties must not be overlooked, since archives are part of the country's documentary heritage which must be safeguarded.

The pyramidal staffing structure must be well balanced, since it is largely upon this that efficiency will depend; a non-existent or inadequate base and consequent concentration of duties at one level of authority would not only impose an excessive work-load on the staff but would be an inefficient way of utilizing them, since some categories would be required to perform duties for which they were not qualified.

3. Buildings, facilities and services

It can be seen from the foregoing that archival work comprises two distinct areas of concern: the archives themselves and the work of the archives staff. Both must be attended to on their own terms so as to ensure both that no harm comes to the documents and that the personnel are not treated as a mere commodity. Furthermore, because of the records' value, the utmost care must be taken in choosing the premises, including their size and equipment, so as to avoid anything that might prejudice their maintenance and effective utilization. In addition, as the archives, which are cultural property, are continually expanding, it is also extremely important to ensure that there is enough space. It is therefore useful for these questions to be covered in a report describing in detail the circumstances in which each centre operates.

The main object with which we are concerned is in fact the archival materials, which may be acquired by transfer, purchase, donation or deposit; any documents transferred elsewhere, disposed of or destroyed fall outside the scope of this study.

In order to have an idea of the full range of documentary information in the possession of an individual, an institution, a department or a nation, or, indeed in that of all the countries of the world, it is necessary to know the quantity of documents, their category, type, state of conservation and processing requirements. Security copies will have to be made of particularly important, fragile or valuable documents, which must be annotated and published.

4. User service

Ever since ancient times when documents were first drafted, records have been of vital interest, and their primary function is therefore to provide user service. This calls for administrative management to make them accessible to users, who, whether they be the producing entity, researchers or private individuals, will require loans, consultation, information, certifications, copies and reproductions. At this stage the productivity of the record office comes into play measured in terms of the society in which it operates. For its own work and for the purposes of the users, the record office will have a specialized library to facilitate user service.

The service provided will vary according to whether the record offices in question are those directly attached to the parent organs or those containing archival materials of the non-current type - i.e. those known as historical archives. In the former the emphasis will be on loans and certifications, and in the latter on consultation and reprography. Every year hundreds of papers will be transferred from one category of archives to the other - on reaching 'retirement age', so to speak, forgoing their active status to be filed away in archives from which they will be retrieved for research purposes. Figures relating to services, users and the categories into which they fall will highlight the crucial evidential value of official documents as well as fashions in research and the value of historical records in the everyday lives of individuals.

5. Scientific activities of the record office

For these services to operate smoothly, the archivists and those who work with them must previously have completed a series of operations which will enable them at any time to perform the simple act of finding the right document at the right time. First, acquisitions have to be collected and registered, put in order, described and filed. This entails collating the documents without losing any papers in the process, recording acquisitions in accordance with a formalized system, incorporating accessions into the archives' existing holdings and giving each unit a specific reference system to set it apart from the other; this is done by means of lists, registers, inventories, indexes and catalogues, and requires special training. The archivist is the person best acquainted with the archival materials in his or her care and is therefore in a position to provide guidance and assistance in selecting what is needed. The archivist's role is therefore essential when it comes to deciding whether or not a document is useful and whether it should be discarded.

A substantial part of archivists' work will therefore be to develop the information aids which they will use to ensure the safe and speedy handling of the hundreds of files, plans, legal documents, reports, etc. which go to make up the documentary resources of a record centre. There will also be the subsidiary task of informing the government, researchers and the public at large about these aids, through publications.

Part of the archives cultural activities - for they are dealing with cultural property - will be to publicize their work through exhibitions, visits, lectures and meetings. The archivists themselves, as specialists in their field, may teach courses or seminars, and take part in congresses or meetings to which they can contribute their expertise. Their training and their work place them mid-way between management and research and, with their experience, they can make an effective contribution to both.

6. Requirements

By taking stock of the work accomplished in the course of a year, the report shows in what ways this has fallen short of its goals. Shortcomings may be revealed in the first three areas outlined in the plan, namely, funds, staff and buildings, facilities and services. It should state the areas where improvement, expansion or updating is required so that the authorities, taking into account both the present situation and possibilities for the future, can raise the necessary funds to meet those requirements.

7. Work plans

An important aspect of archives work is the time factor involved in any human undertaking, for if the work is interrupted the momentum will be lost. If the flow of documentation is checked, the papers will pile up, with disastrous consequences. Nothing could be more remote from the archivist's work than the common misconception of the archivist as a scholar buried in his own papers, oblivious to what is going on around him. The archivist is dealing with a store of information that grows by the day, as fast and as steadily as the human race itself, since it is people who generate documents. Every live birth signifies an entry in some register, a statistical entity and a quantity to be reckoned with in a budget, all of which are reflected in documents.

All these incoming and outgoing documents must be passed on from offices to their own records, from there to the central files and, via the intermediate record centres, on to the final repositories. This means that every year plans must be made for collecting and receiving acquisitions which, in accordance with the process described in Section 6, must be ordered, described and culled. As a result, every year archivists must draw up a plan of these various stages in their work, so that the records can be properly channelled. The situation of the archives' holdings will determine the services offered and the scientific activities that can be carried out. As requirements are met, the plans will gradually become more comprehensive and the archivist's work more gratifying and administratively more productive.

The work plans may set the tone for the vitality of the centres, providing a broad outline of how they should function ideally, in the light of the criteria set out above.

The reports of the country's record offices, taken together, give an overview of the many different aspects of the prevailing situation and reflect a conscious effort and renewed enthusiasm for collecting, safeguarding and handling the documentary records of the nation over a given period. This information gives an idea of the magnitude of the task to be accomplished with the resources available as a basis for future plans.

Plan for an annual report

1. General expenses

1.1 Preservation and repair
1.2 Cleaning, lighting and heating
1.3 Communications (correspondence, telephone, etc.)

2. Staff

2.1 Professional
2.2 A and B auxiliary
2.3 Administrative
2.4 Subaltern
2.5 Temporary

3. Buildings, facilities and services

3.1 Premises, condition and capacity
3.2 Facilities, condition and capacity
3.3 Archives services

4. Holdings

4.1 Acquisitions received by transfer, purchase, gift or deposit
4.2 Records disposed of by transfer, weeding or destruction
4.3 Present state of holdings: quantity, state of preservation and restoration
4.4 Security copies

5. Services

5.1 Administrative management
5.2 Loans
5.3 Consultation

5.3.1 Written and oral information. Searches
5.3.2 Consultation at the record centre. List of researchers

5.4 Certification
5.5 Direct copying
5.6 Reproduction
5.7 Auxiliary library: holdings, acquisitions and services
5.8 Total services and users

6. Scientific activities of the record office

6.1 Collection and reception
6.2 Ordering
6.3 Description: listing, inventorying, indexing, cataloguing
6.4 Weeding
6.5 Publications
6.6 Exhibitions
6.7 Congresses, meetings
6.8 Courses, seminars, lectures
6.9 Visits

7. Requirements

7.1 Funds
7.2 Staff
7.3 Buildings, facilities, services

8. Work plans

8.1 Collection and reception
8.2 Ordering
8.3 Description
8.4 Transfer, weeding
8.5 Services
8.6 Publications
8.7 Cultural activities: exhibitions, competitions, meetings, courses, seminars, lectures, visits.

 

4.2 Specialization in information work

Subject departments in public libraries
Subject departments: summary of a debate

Subject departments in public libraries

An international survey by Gábor MÁNDY

The amount of literature on subject departments in public libraries is rather small. American public libraries raised and solved the key questions of subject departmentalization in the years from the turn of the century up to the 1940s, on the basis of the American conditions of that time. /Current publications mostly refer to the articles of that period./ Their holdings were grouped by subjects, and all books and periodicals dealing with the same subjects were put in the same place. Specialists with a thorough knowledge of the subjects were employed for developing the holdings and informing the readers. The growth of central city libraries during the '60s and '70s began to surpass the dimensions which earlier seemed to be controllable by subject departments; even giving up open access and retrieving the holdings of many million items through a computerized system seems like becoming the question of the day soon. /Theoritically, this trend does not work against subject departmental organization, since there will always remain a "core" of the holdings on a given subject, which is worth keeping at hand for students and other groups of users. The role of the subject specialist will not decrease, either./ The current literature barely deals with subject departments and subject-oriented services of large central libraries with millions of books. As for smaller libraries, the problem seems to be considered solved.

Subject departmentalization spread to Western Europe slowly, with great delay. Although European adaptations produced a second wave of publications /mainly in international periodicals/, this soon calmed down, perhaps because there was nothing to say in the theory. This was even the case when subject reading rooms /for reference-only materials/ were given preference in some eastern European countries over complex departmentalization; that is when the policy of development diverging from the western pattern should have been reasoned. /It must be mentioned here that our survey covers both kinds of subject-oriented services./

Library literature, both in America and Europe, devotes very little space to the practical and technical details in connection with the development and maintenance of subject departments, in spite of the fact that most problems arise in this very field. Experiences here would be of the greatest value. Missing are the case studies on the subject departmentalization of individual libraries, on organizational work, and on ways of overcoming departmental difficulties. Similarly, methodological studies analysing individual questions are rather rare.

So far the history of subject departmentalization in Hungary does not provide a satisfactory basis for contributing to international experience. The first libraries which combined the systematic development of stock-groups with the arrangement of materials on a given subject in the same place, with subject reference /in Szombathely and Tatabánya/, were reluctant to call themselves subject departmentalized libraries, realizing that they could not completely meet the requirements of the name. The large county libraries of the late sixties /in Miskolc and Nyiregyháza/ were already built in the spirit of subject departmentalization. However, the systematization and "self-respect" of this type of service, as well as the prospect of a systematic improvement of the quality of holdings seem to be missing from them so far. The latest attempts /in Kaposvár and in "external" departments of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library in Budapest/ have not resulted in a real breakthrough.

We found it necessary to turn directly to the subject departmentalized libraries to ask the information needed.

When preparing the survey, we had the following problems in view.

• What are the perspectives of subject departmentalization in the large public libraries in the eighties? Is this out look still up-to-date? What are the advantages or drawbacks presented by "subject departmentalization" or "modernization within a traditional structure" for those who have already faced these alternatives?

• How much does subject departmentalization depend on the size of the building? Do different sizes correspond to different subject departmental structures? Can the "limit", under which subject departments should not be established, be determined in some way /from the point of view of space or budget/?

• What are the stages and ways of developing the new structure?
Did the subject departmentalized libraries switch over to this arrangement in one step, linking it to the introduction of a vertical scheme of works, or did this take place gradually, step-by-step, depending on the readers' demand and the library staff?

• How did the subject departmental structure change in these libraries following its introduction? What departments were merged and which ones divided? How did the profile of the departments change? What factors account for the changes?

• How many staff work in one subject department? What are their qualifications? Is subject reference work carried out by generalists or specialists? Is the library well arranged for colleagues arriving from other service points or for specialists without library qualifications /teachers, scientists etc./? How long does it take for a subject specialist of this kind to become familiar with the arrangement?

• What kinds of task do the staff of subject departments have to fulfil? What further division of labour develops in the subject departments? What relationship do the subject departments have with the departments organized on a technical basis /processing department, circulation centre, reading room etc./?

• What is the position of the subject specialists within the library? Do they receive more money for their expertise? Are there wage gaps between specialists and generalists?

• Are the subject specialists easily available to the users? Are they in the reader's' area or in separate rooms? What part do they play in answering telephone reference enquiries? Do they keep a list of enquiries answered previously? Do they return to specialists /outside the library/ for information?

• How do the retrieval possibilities on hand in the subject departments fit into the retrieval system /catalogues, indexes, bibliographies etc./ of the library as a whole? Does the library have a central catalogue after subject departmentalization, and if so, does it continue to undertake the task of subject information, or are the subject cataloques decentralized by departments? What catalogues and other records are kept by the libraries involved? Do the subject departments give information only about their own holdings, or do they also keep records of multi-subject works, concerning the given subject but placed in other departments? To what extent can the library provide information on literature not purchased by the library? /In other words, what bibliographical reference can it provide?/ How does the direct arrangement offered by the open shelves complement the catalogue system? To what degree and in which fields have the possibilities of printed catalogues and microform catalogues been utilized?

• To what extent do the libraries involved meet the requirement of placing all the material on a given subject in one place? What materials other than books are housed in the subject departments? If audio-visual materials are also housed there, how are they stored? What cooperation or division of labour exists in connection with these types of materials between the departments organized by subject and those organized on a technical basis?

• To what degree are the opinions and wishes of the users taken into consideration when making decisions concerning the library's structure? What assistance is provided to the readers for improving their orientation? Is there general department /popular library/ within the library and, if so, with what tasks?

• Are the holdings further articulated within the subject departments? What practice has been developed concerning the arrangement and division of multi-subject works /e.g. inter-disciplinary literature, collections of mixed contents, genera; handbooks etc./? Is duplication allowed, and if so, to what extent? What organizational solutions exist for reducing it?

• What are the special management and directional problems generated by the maintenance of subject departments? What kinds of functional conflicts arise from the duality of operating subject/vertical and formal/horizontal departments?

We also had the intention of examining these problems from the point of view of population, the size and the financial means of the central libraries of the communities. Therefore we also asked the libraries a number of general questions. many libraries. We would have liked also to have learnt the library directors' personal views of some strategic problems of subject departmentalization. Unfortunately, only a few of then answered.

The size of responding libraries was defined by 3 factors: city population, the basic area of the library as well as the size of the holdings. The metropolitan central libraries which answered our questionnaire are more strongly represented than in our sample, and we have found that establishing full subject departments in the libraries of smaller cities is relatively rare. /In Slovak and Bulgarian libraries, the maintenance of subject reading rooms was indicated as generally being typical./

The survey also confirmed our expectation that moving into a new, more suitable building, or expanding the basic area has an encouraging effect on establishing subject departments. As regards the application of a subject departmental structure in connection with the basic area available, we can set the lower limit, according to our data, at about 3,000 square metres. /Under this size we generally found one or two departments or reading rooms./

We could not make a comparison between the financial conditions of libraries, nor could we study alternative ways of subject departmentalisation according to budget. However, it became apparent from several replies that the librarians themselves look upon subject departmentalization primarily as a financial question. /Extra costs come from duplication, a larger and more qualified staff, as well as larger buildings and their maintenance./

Judging by the opinion of librarians, we cannot consider establishing subject departments to be an outdated organizational system in the eighties. The main advantages are: a higher level of services, better competence, a more skilled staff and a more rational use of space. On the other hand, the drawbacks are: higher costs, over-specialization /for example, one subject specialist would have difficulty in standing in for a specialist in another subject/, an uneconomical use of staff in connection with this, as well as a too sophisticated structure which results in the readers not easily finding their way around.

In our sample the number of libraries which established their subject departments in one step was small: a gradual, step-by-step development /often over decades/ of the new structure has been indicated as being more typical. Similarly, instead of a reduction in the number of subject departments we have found a tendency towards cautious expansion /also in the case of reading rooms in Bulgaria and Slovakia/.

The demarcation of subject departments showed extreme differences according to libraries, None of them run more than 13 subject departments, although no fewer than 65 distinct subjects appear on the departmental labels. The most common types of subject departments are fine arts, music, the natural and social sciences, technical studies, language, literature, history and, not surprisingly, local studies/history. In certain cases /business, commerce, genealogy, religion, politics etc./, different social backgrounds and divergent practices in the classification and organization of sciences were significantly apparent. Almost inexhaustible combinations occured concerning the actual departmental labels among the above-mentioned 65 subjects. The most frequent combinations, however, are not surprisingly: literature + language, fine arts + music, social science + history, technology + science. In many cases in the respective arrangements, subjective or practical factors seem to dominate over theoretical considerations or characteristics of the users./

It was in relatively few libraries that we found the general library functioning as an independent unit. Where there is one, it undertakes, first of all, the circulation of fiction /often supplemented with some popular non-fiction/.

Housing subject periodicals within subject departments /mostly restricted to current files/ can be considered quite common. Besides, some larger libraries /San Diego, Seattle etc./ also maintain separate periodical rooms, mainly on the base of general, multi-subject periodicals or duplicates.

The arrangement of audio-visual materials in the subject departments presents a more mixed picture. The practice of placing them all in subject departments is fairly wide-spread /with A/V materials generally on separate shelves and stands/, but we can gather from many replies a consistent exclusion of audio-visual materials, with the creation of departments organized on a formal basis /film library, record library, microforms room, etc./. There also exist variations where audiovisual materials are all placed in subject departments, except for 16 mm. films, others likewise except for microforms, as well as those where the music department is turned into a general record library. A similar situation exists with regard to fine arts or picture collections.

A surprising result of the survey was that the libraries involved preferred to employ general librarians, even generalists without special qualifications, for specialized information work, as opposed to professionals with non-librarian qualifications /engineers, subject teachers, physicists etc./ Other libraries simply do not employ such staff. If such specialists do work in the library, they generally earn less than graduate general librarians. Thus the deeper knowledge of the subject specialists, which is usually referred to as an advantage by those answering the questionnaire' may be derived from subjective interest and the daily routine of many years, rather than from university or college qualifications.

The responsibility of subject specialists focuses on reference work, bibliography and indexing, as well as an intellectual contribution to the development of holdings /selection and proposals for acquisition/. " In-depth" information is typically supported by special catalogues and files, pamphlet collections and newspaper-clippings. The unified catalogue system of the library is rarely broken up by departments, even in the case of the classified catalogue. These collections of data are everywhere controlled by departmental staff, while also at many places make catalogues of certain materials /pictures, records and 16 mm films/. The catalogues of books are made by the processing departments, while the subject specialists at the most, only have to file the catalogue cards.

Subject specialists mostly work in the readers' area, and in many cases they also have rooms of their own to retire to when off-duty. A fairly large part of their duties lies in answering telephone reference enquiries.

We have discovered characteristic differences between North America and West Europe as well as between West and East Europe in user habits over telephone reference enquiries, as well as in the readiness of libraries to answer such enquiries. /In 1978, not fewer than 600,000 reference enquiries were asked by telephone in Dallas /central library/, while there were none in Haskovo, Bulgaria. Answering telephone enquiries is common in most North Americal libraries, while in Sofia, for instance, only technical information is given./

Subject departments are capable of providing higher-than-average information. If, in spite of this, the library receives a question which is beyond its knowledge or competence, it forwards the question, on the model of inter-library lending, to the appropriate information centre which possesses the necessary competence. /Availability of terminals linked to normal telephone networks in the West, especially in North America, also makes possible a direct, on-line use of the data base of the information centre./ In addition, many libraries have files of special institutions or even private "source persons. in the given town. /As expected, the reader, not the question, was also often sent on./

It is said that one basic drawback of subject departmentalization is an inevitable duplication of general reference books as well as of inter-disciplinary works. The libraries participating in our survey make efforts to reduce duplication to a minimum, but in various degree", depending on their various financial conditions, actually do tolerate it. The main ways of controlling duplication are: the distribution of books by their dominant Dewey number, using co-ordinators, and decision-making by an acquisition committee.

All in all, our survey can only be a preliminary approach: a consideration of the practical questions raised. We had limited possibilities for international comparison because of the low responding rate. We have acquired, however, a fair amount of factual data. A considerable part of this is being published here, in a descriptive way. Also, on the basis of the replies, exploring and understanding the libraries' characteristic situations and their various policies over their holdings, acquisitions, staffing and service, has become rather easier.

 


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