Session 4.5 - Transitioning archive users from paper to digital (and back to paper)


Linlin Du, Brenda Gunn, Kate Follington - Owen ONeill - Julie McCormack

Date Added:

23 October 2019

Chair: Diana Hodge, Lecturer, Library and Information Management, School of Information Technology & Mathematical Sciences, University of South Australia




a. Collaborative Design of the Electronic Records Management System under Big Data Circumstances, by Linlin Du

From 2015 onwards, China has unveiled such national information-based development strategies as “Promoting Big Data-Based Development” and “Internet + Government Services”, etc. Many regions have started the construction of online integrated government service platforms, with government examinations and approvals all being handled on the said platforms. Synchronically, some archives have started the collaborative construction of the electronic records management system and the national government service platforms. Not only is the collaborative design of the electronic records management system and the national government service platforms aimed at the synergy of the system, but is all the more oriented towards the synchrony of policies, business and data, which calls for design all at the same time.

This paper will take one of China’s provinces as an example to deal with the trains of thought and practice applied by Chinese archives departments in the collaborative design of the electronic records management system and national government service platforms under the national policy framework. Details include:
1.Policy background for information-based development strategies in china, and work done by various provinces in relation to these strategies.
2.Basic work conducted by Chinese archives departments in responding to “Internet + Government Services” and becoming geared to the national government service platforms, which mainly includes(1) Unveiling related policy documents jointly with government departments;(2) Actively communing with government departments to straighten up government service procedures to define the scope for the filing of government service items;(3) Correctly handling the linkage with the standards, procedures and operation for the filing, transfer and receipt of electronic records, etc.
3.Introduction to the collaborative construction of the electronic records management system and the national government service platforms, mainly including (1) Technical line and function requirements for the construction of the electronic records management platforms;(2) How to realize the unified arrangement on provincial, municipal and county levels;(3) How to break down geographic restrictions and build a unified, one-stop archives information resources sharing and service platform for the users, etc.
4.Introduction to the methods and scenes for the application of some key technologies in the collaborative construction of the electronic records management system and the national government service platforms. Introduction about how to use these technologies to improve the reliability and efficiency of electronic records management, to ensure that the electronic records are original, evidential, effective and lawful.


Linlin Du graduated from Tianjin University, where her major was Information Management and Information Systems. In the year of graduation (2004) she was assigned to the Institute of Scientific & Technical Research on Archives of the State Archives Administration and has worked there until now. She is now mainly involved in the research into information technology applications in archiving work.


b. Using Contemplative Methods to Facilitate Deeper Thinking Modes in Archival Research and Instruction, by Brenda Gunn

What are the differences between “screen brain” and “paper brain” and what are the implications for archivists? These reading platforms (digital/screen, print/paper) present divergent learning outcomes according to multiple studies across several disciplines including cognitive science, reading and literacy, and game and media studies. Ongoing research in these areas show reading on paper is better for deep and abstract thinking, while reading on a screen yields better recall for concrete details.

This paper will explore how information processing differs between reading on screens and reading on paper, and how an understanding of these differences can be used in archival instruction and in reading rooms. Research has shown that our brains have adapted to reading from screens in a non-linear way, characterized by scanning, skimming, browsing, and keyword searching. With paper, however, our brains have evolved to read text in a linear fashion. Studies suggest that it may be challenging to transition from screen brain mode to paper brain mode. Though archives provide access to a myriad of digital resources, paper remains the primary platform in the special collections reading room, whether it is with archival documents or rare books. How, then, can archivists help researchers transition from screen brain to paper brain and into a deeper thinking mode? At the same time, how can we work to better understand the ways in which screen reading can yield comprehension results in the same way that reading on paper does?

The paper will propose designs for reading room and instruction practices that would employ contemplative and mindfulness practices in order to facilitate a transition for researchers as they move from screen to paper. It will report on “priming activities” for screen reading that might boost cognitive processes into the abstract realm. Moreover, the paper will suggest ways that archivists can address handwritten documents and visual materials, since research to date has looked at print only. (What might be the cognitive load for a manuscript document compared to a typed or printed one? How does viewing a photographic image on a screen versus the actual print affect the study and understanding of that image?)  The outcomes of these studies and explorations can yield valuable information for archivists as they design ways to deliver instructional sessions and enhanced reading room experiences. The more we understand the effects of different reading modes, the better we are able to design these important components of our archival operations.


Brenda Gunn is an Associate Professor and the Associate University Librarian for Special Collections and Preservation at the University of Virginia Library. She is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and a Distinguished Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, for which she currently serves on Council.


c. POST (modern) design: an integrated web platform for our records and researchers, by Kate Follington - Owen ONeill - Julie McCormack

Public Record Office Victoria's Operational Systems Transformation (POST) program is completely replacing our archival control model, collection management, digital preservation and public-facing web systems with a modular architecture that provides integrated access to the digital and physical records we hold, and to the years of work our volunteers have put into digitisation and transcription for public access. 
We have been progressively releasing components of the system since early 2017 and are in the final stages of integration.  Alongside the deployment of new technologies we have worked behind the scenes to revise the way we model and describe recordkeeping systems, as well as updating the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy to reflect the considerable changes to the IT environment that have occurred over the last decade.
In this paper we will walk through our choices of systems and architecture, and look at how open-source software and the widespread adoption of web-based systems have helped us do more than we could have dreamed of even five years ago. We will explore the changes we have made to our archival control model to better match the needs of digital recordkeeping.  Our new model aims at the flexibility needed to work creatively with Victorian Government agencies to build our recordkeeping requirements into system design, to tackle the challenges of widening our electronic records transfer pipeline and keeping it flowing. We will look at the ways we present our collection to our public audience and how we have rethought how we assist researchers to find the information they need in the face of unfamiliar systems and ambiguous data.  Our 'user journey' tries to introduce tools to help researchers ask the right questions, particularly in areas that our hard-working volunteers have not listed and described yet. This has been a huge project for us, and our goal throughout has been to design all the components in a way that means we will not need to start again from the ground up in another ten years.  Our new systems are configurable and linked together in flexible ways, that mean we can design a roadmap for progressive updates and changes.  We are working hard to learn the skills to manage these systems so that they support our work, rather than us supporting them.  With this framework in place we look forward to being better able to work with and serve the Victorian Government and wider community.


Kate Follington is the manager of Communications and Online Engagement, and a digital project manager at the state archives of Victoria. In this capacity she is focused on improving the user experience for researchers and government recordkeepers and finding technical solutions to known barriers. She was previously the Director of Business Development and Marketing at the Museum of Vancouver prior to working at Public Record Office Victoria.

Owen O'Neill is an experienced Program/Project Manager with expertise in data management and digital preservation. He has worked at a number of Higher Education and Cultural organisations and is currently managing the Digital Archive Program at the Public Record Office Victoria.

Julie McCormack has worked at PROV since 1998 and is currently Acting Senior Manager, Government Recordkeeping with responsibility for the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS), records’ appraisal and transfer programs (hardcopy and digital records). Her team is also responsible for the production of the archival documentation and digital tools to support transfer and preservation.