Student Eira Tansey Presents Paper at Regional Archival Conference

Tansey’s paper, titled “When All the Finding Aids Exist Only in Binders: Implementing Archon the Quick and Dirty Way,” was featured in a conference session on working with technology and digital collections. The conference, sponsored by four regional archives associations, was held in Birmingham, Alabama, in September 2010.

Tansey is a Library Associate with Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) in New Orleans, where she is responsible for archival processing and digitization projects. She spearheaded their efforts to implement Archon software in 2009. At that time, “the vast majority of our finding aids existed only in binders in our reading room,” Tansey said.

Aware that transferring the finding aids to an online format would increase accessibility and public use, she investigated conversion methods used by other archives. “A lot of the inspiration for our Archon model came from the College of William and Mary,” said Tansey. “They had a very similar situation to us, in terms of the scope and challenges associated with undertaking a finding aid conversion project.”

Tansey coordinated with several student workers and the head of the Louisiana Research Collection to begin transferring finding aids to Archon in the fall of 2009. About 15-20% of these guides have been converted to a web accessible format, and Tansey estimates the project will take a few more years to complete.

At the beginning of the project, “my student workers and I would do what I call a ‘quick and dirty’ Archon record, where we would create an online collection record with basic descriptive information, but instead of retyping the whole box inventory we would attach the box and folder list,” said Tansey. “As we’ve received increased support and the project scope has widened, we have been able to enter the data more fully.”

Tansey outlined her approach in a proposal when the Southern Archivists Conference put out a call for papers in early 2010, and she was invited to present. “This was my first time presenting, and I think it was the best place to present as a student,” she said. “The smaller regional conferences are not only more affordable, but they’re also really supportive spaces for new professionals.”

Tansey discovered a passion for library work while an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio). After taking an honors seminar with the university archivist on the history of the book as an artifact, she secured a student position at the university’s Archives and Rare Books Library.

Her work experience helped her choose archives as a career path. “By the end of college I decided I wanted to work in the archives field,” said Tansey. “I had also written my senior undergraduate thesis using archival records, on the Carnegie libraries in Cincinnati, so I knew libraries and archives were something I was really interested in.”

Tansey enrolled in San Jose State University’s MLIS program in Fall 2009 and anticipates graduating in 2012. Tansey is also the chair of the School’s student chapter of the Society of American Archivists.