Meta-morphosis: wrestling with Eprints and Calm

Our customisation of Eprints is now tentatively underway. I expected this to be difficult, but didn’t think it would be as hard as it is proving. I was warned that Eprints is notoriously badly documented. There is a Wiki, but it isn’t really written for the relatively uninitiated (in fact, the more initiated also feel it is lacking). So we might not end up with quite what we wanted in the first place, but we will ultimately have a repository for born-digital records, with a usable, if not particularly friendly user interface.

However, the interface is not the only problem. It has been incredibly hard to anticipate what descriptive metadata will be sufficient, effectively as a substitute to traditional archival description. As we are dealing with thousands of records we do not have time to include a “Scope and Content”/description. Though Eprints allows free text searching of documents, what use is that if the title of the document gives no clue as to what it might be? I fully believe that Eprints has the capability to work as respository for born digital archives, but fear that we need to examine closely the descriptive metadata we provide. It reinforces feelings I’ve had for a good while that we, the archival profession need to look critically at our accepted traditional rules for cataloguing and arrangement, as in my opinion, they cannot be applied to born-digital records. I could go on, but I fear this issue really requires a dedicated post…

Despite all the doom and gloom, a couple of weeks ago our Technical Services Librarian, and I (emphasis on the “TS Librarian”, more than the “I”!), managed to link up our two systems, Eprints and Calm, (in a fashion), so that we can update certain fields in one with information from the other – more to come on that later…

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