Giving Thanks: Shout out to my archives volunteers!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 11:15am

I haven’t reported out on how much awesome work my two archives volunteers have been doing. Sean and Sylvia, two Emporia University MLIS candidates, have been dedicating their time to the KBOO archives, between their school and work. They’ve been doing a lot!

KBOO’s metadata/inventory spreadsheet is not very clean or complete, but it has been improved from its original state when I first started working with it in August, with help from Sean and Sylvia. Slowly but surely we are creating metadata that is consistent, readable, and searchable.


  • Some items on the spreadsheet had no title, date, or description! How could this be? I can only assume that while trying to prioritize and manage time in keeping information for 7,000 items in the past, not all useful information about an item was entered into the datasheet. Sean and Sylvia--with cotton gloves and open reel handling training--started to add details about these items while working in the archives room. We take photos so that there is consensus in translating handwriting on the audio cases. Sometimes, there is no additional information on the audio case. Sometimes the information on the case doesn’t match the label on the reel. We determine what we can and ask for guidance for other items. See some images of audio items here!
An example of audio case information not matching the label on the reel: Manning Marable or New World Order? Information on case does not match label on reel.
  • Condition is also important! Retrieving information is not the only important part of the careful hands-on work. At the same time, Sean and Sylvia have been documenting brief notes on the condition of the physical format, and relabeling when necessary (our labels are falling off). We can only see visible dust, fungus, or mold. For polyester-base tapes, the substrate hydrolyzes, causing it to become sticky and not playable on players. Playing and winding “sticky shed” tapes creates unnecessary wearing of the archival audio and may damage the tape irreversably. This is when we send items to vendors for baking. The baking makes the tape stable enough for digitization, but after baking, tapes tend to break down even more quickly. We have a small number of acetate-based tapes, and these have a different breakdown process. Noting condition allows KBOO to prioritize items for digitization. 
An example of one of our acetate-base tapes
  • Dates! Edited to an ISO format (YYYY-MM-DD) and we keep the data field a text field to prevent spreadsheet software from autoformatting it… which actually changes the data value in the date field. We don’t want that.
  • Consolidating duplicate subject data. It sounds boring and tedious but actually requires human intellect, and cross-referencing to the existing KBOO Topic Term list that is used to categorize public affairs audio episodes on KBOO’s Drupal website.
  • Separating the subject of an episode from the contributor names. Being more specific about metadata allows greater understanding of the items being described. Previously there was one field for all names such as Martin King and Kathleen Stephenson. For KBOO’s audio archive, it was decided that knowing the volunteer names who hosted or produced a show was important and different from the person that show was about. So, adding contributor roles is important. Kathleen Stephenson was the producer and Martin Luther King, Jr. was the topic of the episode. (To learn more about metadata read this blog post:
  • Knowing what station produced the content. Monica mentioned that she’d like to know all the items in the archive that were KBOO-produced. I’d like to know that too. The only way to do that is to go into the archives and manually document it. Again, thank you Sean and Sylvia! We’re not done but we’re continuing the work. We have items in our archives from Pacifica Radio, Alternative Radio, WYSO, KRAB, Free Speech Radio News, TUC Radio, Democracy Now!, KPFA, KPSU, WBUR Boston, Vancouver Co-Op Radio, Radio Nation, People’s Radio, American Freedom Radio, American Audio Prose Library, and other NFCB stations.
  • Digital file audio quality control. In-house audio digitization work from digital audio tape (DAT) and minidisc was reviewed. Even though the procedures state to capture at a certain bit depth and sample rate, discrepancies were found. The quality of many DAT tapes was poor, and some digital files were discarded, because they were not the best quality. Through this process it was determined that the procedure for in-house digitization of DAT needs to be revised, with a required stage of quality control by a supervisor, and perhaps additional training for the volunteer including what bad quality sounds like, and what to do, including halting the digital transfer.

Want more sneak peeks of audio items? Check out If you can add any missing information, add it to the comments on each item page.

There’s still a lot of work to do to get the information about items ready for public use--reviewing existing information and correcting it. So, if you are interested in joining our archives team, please let me, Erin, or Ani know!