The gift of citations

We used to get a lot of requests from users who had seen a photo in a book and wanted to reuse it for another purpose and the citation said UAA, so of course they contacted us here at UAA (University of Alaska Anchorage).  But A&SC didn’t exist as an archives prior to 1979 and the UAA reference was actually to the University of Alaska Archives, an old name for our colleagues up at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska and Polar Regions collections, from when they were the only archives in the statewide university system.  So people would contact us and then we’d have to tell them to contact APR.  Big deal?  No, a little additional time for the researcher’s hunt, a little time taken up from our day, assuming we’d figured out that it was one of those UAA citations right away. An occasional sigh from your reference archivist wishing that the writer had chosen completeness over space limitations, but since we give in to acronyms (A&SC) to save space, we probably shouldn’t be too critical of others doing it.

Well anyway, since the advent of the Alaska’s Digital Archives, more and more researchers are using it instead of reprinting the images they find in other print secondary sources over and over again.  Good research choice that, as the Digital Archives has a very broad selection of materials from a very broad group of Alaskan repositories.  At any rate, we’ve noticed that those “UAA requests” have dropped to a mere trickle.  Maybe one or two a year, since the Digital Archives came online.

But the question now is, how do we easily and simply explain to Digital Archives users that they also need to cite materials they find there when using them in other contexts? Or that they may even have to ask first, because a few of our collections have some pretty stringent use/citation restrictions?  We have a link with each record called “Ordering and Use” but it’s pretty far down the item description list and so a lot of people never notice it.  There’s something in the FAQs page about citation and use, but who goes looking there for an answer if they’re not even asking the question?  We are also starting to put preferred citations in each finding aid, and those are linked on each item through the “related materials” field right next to the “ordering and use” field but again, that’s pretty far down the description list.   So we’re doing little bits, but obviously not enough.

So if you are a user of an online collection, archival or otherwise, what would be a good memory jog for you?  Is it a link on the home page?  Does that help you if your search engine takes you directly to individual pages within?  Do we need to actually spell out the individual citation standards in the “ordering and use” field? Do we need to bump the “ordering & use” link a little higher up the descriptive ladder? Does each page need a button at the top that says “to use this item?”

So here’s hoping we hear from you with some great suggestions.

And to give you some visuals, here’s two of our most frequently requested images that A&SC has posted on the Digital Archives.  You might have seen the Allen expedition one in some documentaries of late, and the boys with fish one is up in large scale on a few public walls down in Seward.

Boys of the Seward Salmon Derby, circa 1960s.

Boys of the Seward Salmon Derby, circa 1960s.

Allen expedition members, 1885.

Allen expedition members, 1885.

By the way, if you happen to know who any of the boys in that salmon derby photo are, will you let us know?

Oh, and to help provide context (and citations!), each of these photos acts as a link to the finding aid for the collection from which it came.  So if you’re curious about what the Allen expedition was all about or why Christine McClain took that great photo of those boys but didn’t get their names, maybe you can research the subject further.

About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

3 Comments

  1. Just briefly exploring some of the digital archives images, it seems that you could put the “Order and Use” link next to the “More Info” link on the upper left of the image. That way no scrolling down to the bottom of the page would be necessary. Of course, that might be easier said than done…

    Also, kudos for posting very interesting content every day. I’m your biggest fan!

  2. Or maybe, “More about this item,” can be bigger and centered so that the user knows that there is more info? And I concur, citations are a gift! Citations are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

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