Archival Finding Aids Encoded Through XML

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An analysis of XML and the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) created for LIBR 509 with Dr. Julia Bullard in the MLIS core.

This analysis, written on Google Docs in about an hour to two hours, first introduces how to read XML documents before exploring the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) as a data format that uses XML at its base. The analysis is primarily written so that someone unfamiliar with either data format could have a basic understanding of how to use it by the end of the piece.

Explorations of how other websites such as W3C Schools explained XML began my research. As a widely used system, I wanted to narrow on a particular use case of XML, and so a part of my research involved looking into popular systems that used XML. As a student in the dual degree program, I wanted to complete an assignment on an archival knowledge organization system before the term ended, thus the decision to explore EAD.

Receiving Feedback

Based on the peer feedback I received, my goal of explaining XML to someone unfamiliar with the system was achieved. Peer Reviewer #2 commented that I "could expand on the criticisms of finding aids in general" to expand the analysis. This was a criticism I alluded to but did not elaborate in the analysis, and so I agree this would be a worthwhile addition in a revision.

Reviewer #3 also asked me to consider the functional practicalities of XML as a data format that "occupies little memory for storing and transmitting data" and to review the ways in which data formats need content standards to be reliable ("two cataloguers may make very different records without a specific guide. This kind of rule should be united in advance."). While I believe that the discussion of content standards and data formats co-existing was outside of the scope of this assignment and perhaps a better fit for the analysis and creation assignments for system integration, I agree that I could have written more about the benefits of XML or EAD as it relates to their use by information professionals.

Giving Feedback

For this round of peer reviews, I focused on discussion I would suggest adding in further revisions of the assignment, with a mind to their eportfolios:

  • "more could be said on the history/maintenance of these formats and who might use them" (to Review Recipient #1)
  • "[add] some section dedicated to the difficulty of editing multiple fields/columns [and in] a similar vein, a possible discussion on the ineffectiveness of CSV as a data input format" (to Review Recipient #2)
  • "you could have explored more of the importance of MARC being machine-readable" (to Review Recipient #3)

iSchool Graduate Competencies

Below is a self-identified list of competencies that this activity engages as it aligns with the iSchool MLIS Graduate Competencies:

5. Reflect in an informed and critical manner on information infrastructures and practices, acknowledging the role of power and privilege, the ongoing influence of colonization, and the value of diverse worldviews

7. Demonstrate effective collaboration, decision-making and leadership in team settings

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Learning Significance

  1. This was an assignment that asked me to be a little outside of my comfort zone. While I have some familiarity with HTML, I had no experience in XML. It reminded me of the ways in which being an information professional will mean more than theoretical understanding, including learning specific data formats and systems to use in my everyday work.