ABSTRACT

Traditionally, archival description remained distinct from bibliographic description due to differences in material format, usage, and professional traditions. However, archival descriptive standards and practice have undergone numerous changes in recent years. This evolution is in part due to the advent of MARC and its adoption by the academic archives community. How much influence has the use of MARC and overall bibliographic description had on academic archival description as well as on the collaboration between traditional catalogers and archivists? To address this question, this article presents the findings of a landscape survey of the Association of Research Libraries members' descriptive practices surrounding MARC records, linked and embedded metadata, and authority records. Survey responses indicate that archival descriptive work remains concentrated in the archival domain, with archivists creating description as one component of job responsibilities at most institutions. Descriptive work—including MARC record creation—has not been passed off to cataloging colleagues despite their longer professional experience with the standard even though the OPAC is the most commonly cited archival information system available to respondents. Decisions about appropriate levels of description, standards to be employed, workflows, and other factors related to archival description do not appear to rely on external buy-in or approval in most repositories, and descriptive practices employ a mix of standards from both the archival and bibliographic traditions. These and other findings provide a baseline understanding of current archival descriptive practices and workflows, enhancing our ability to improve archival description and therefore findability and access to archival materials.

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