\"We can save it all,\" says John Skarstad, with a smile. \"And so we do.\" Skarstad, university archivist in the Department of Special Collections in Shields Library, talks a lot about appraisal, the system of evaluation that determines whether something, be it a manuscript, a photograph, or a hard drive full of e-mail, has value—intellectual value, evidential value, monetary value. That appraisal becomes more difficult, and more time-consuming, when what's being examined hasn't been distilled. He offers the example of someone in the paper universe—the analog world—who, when clearing out a file cabinet, would toss the copies of the 85 thank-you notes sent to everyone who attended a conference, saving only the master copy and perhaps the list of who came to the event (which, Skarstad says, \"turns out to be a little piece of paper\"), whereas getting those documents—and a whole lot of others—on a CD is akin to getting somebody's entire file cabinet. \"What you want is there,\" he says, \"and what you don't want is also there.\"
A big part of that middle phase is concerned with access. The paper universe had a thing called the card catalog, Skarstad says, and the 3x5 card contained all the information about the book; in the case of a manuscript collection, the card indicated that the collection existed in so many boxes, and sometimes, \"if we were lucky,\" Skarstad says, time and money would have been spent in creating a finding aid, a paper index, to that collection. \"So,\" he says, \"you could look at the paper index and, through it, get access to this box of stuff.\"
Some years ago, though, card catalogs began migrating to a new format, called MARC (for machine-readable cataloging). And though MARC was designed to carry data from the card to the electronic universe, it didn't allow all of the data on the cards to make the trip. Now there's another term for cataloging—metadata—(\"essentially cataloging,\" Skarstad says, \"but it's cataloging with a vengeance\") that has spawned large international projects attempting to figure out, given that we're all universally linked by the Internet, how to describe things in universally consistent ways so they are universally findable and accessible. 59ce067264