TARO 2020 Report

Greetings, TARO colleagues!

This year has been a momentous one, especially due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and all the ways we have had to adapt to public health safety precautions while continuing the important work we do at our institutions to the greatest extent possible. Despite these trying circumstances, archives professionals have risen to the challenge and optimized productivity through new ways of working remotely and forging online connections that are anything but “virtual,” with fellow staff, volunteers, and our audiences. TARO is no different—our Steering Committee and subcommittees have moved to holding Zoom meetings this year rather than conference phone calls, and we believe these face-to-face interactions (even though through a screen) are building stronger collegial relationships that benefit TARO as well as reinforcing the many connections among our member repositories.

2021 Steering Committee members
TARO held its annual Steering Committee open-office election in November, filling the calendar year 2021 vacancies for the offices of vice chair/chair-elect and secretary. Officers who completed their terms this year are Secretary Irene Lule (2019-2020) and Immediate Past Chair Carla Alvarez (having also served as vice-chair and chair, 2018-2020, and previously as an at-large member, 2017). Their dedication to their duties and excellent work are much appreciated. Officers for next year are:

Chair: Robert Weaver, Texas Tech University, robert.g.weaver@ttu.edu

Vice-Chair: Samantha Dodd, Southern Methodist University, smdodd@smu.edu

Secretary: Alexandria Suarez, Texas Digital Library, asuarez@austin.utexas.edu

At-Large Member (2020-2022, 3-year term): Penny Castillo, Fort Worth Public Library, drpencil9@gmail.com

At-Large Member (2020-2021, 2-year term): Ada Negraru, Southern Methodist University, anegraru@mail.smu.edu

At-Large Member (2020-2021, 2-year term): Rachael Zipperer, University of North Texas, Rachael.Zipperer@unt.edu

UT Libraries Representative: Aaron Choate, UT Libraries, achoate@austin.utexas.edu

Programmers: J.J. Bennett and Joanna Jackson, UT Libraries, lib-taro@austin.utexas.edu

Immediate Past Chair: Rebecca Romanchuk, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, rromnchk@tsl.texas.gov

News and Major Accomplishments

NEH Implementation Grant
All-Hands Meetings
TARO Steering Committee members and subcommittee chairs met several times this year to discuss the processes and decision points for our implementation grant work. Our initial meeting (and our last chance to meet in person this year) was in February, with three further online meetings in October. We discussed website functional requirements and the minimum viable product requirements as outlined in our NEH implementation grant application; these factors form the basis for our web application development. We also discussed how the data TARO uses (member repositories’ finding aids) will need to meet a minimum level of encoding completeness and correctness to ensure the new website functions for search/facet/browse and data export/reuse  return expected results. Coordination to assist members in understanding and applying this minimum level of required encoding is being led by an ad hoc data remediation subcommittee.

TARO Web Application Development
Our grant-funded web applications developer, Minnie Rangel, as part of the Valkyrie Squad led by UT Libraries Lead Agile Scrum Master Jade Diaz, has been developing high-quality and efficient front- and back-end web applications for the new TARO2 site with accompanying validation, testing, and documentation. Appointed by TARO Program Manager Aaron Choate as TARO Product Owner in this Agile process, UT Libraries Benson Latin American Collection Latino/a Archivist Carla Alvarez has been meeting regularly with the Valkyrie Squad and gathering stakeholder feedback from the Steering Committee and subcommittee chairs, who receive regular updates on this development via sprint demo presentation slides shared with us on a biweekly basis and regular email communications.

TARO Metadata Analyst
Our grant project hired Devon Murphy, a metadata and digital collections professional, to work with us from September 2020 through August 2021 to analyze the controlled access vocabulary in TARO in order to validate existing metadata terms against authority files, create approved lists of controlled access vocabulary, and write training documentation for TARO members to use to edit their own subject headings.

TARO Logo Design Development
Beginning in September 2020 and continuing through January 2021, Steering Committee members and subcommittee chairs are meeting on a biweekly basis with our grant-funded web graphic designer, Neil Barrett, as he guides us in the process to design a new TARO logo to replace our original logo (a taro plant leaf, if you hadn’t identified it as that) and choose a new color palette, all to debut on the new TARO2 website later next year.

TARO Virtual Brown Bag
This year our TARO Brown Bag, usually held at the Society of Southwest Archivists annual meeting, was conducted as a webinar with over a hundred TARO member repository staff and others attending. Our Steering Committee officers and subcommittee chairs talked about the scope of their work and presented on their current activities, and those attending were engaged with poll questions, a Q&A, and a post-webinar survey to elicit their helpful feedback. We plan to continue to hold an annual webinar or online meeting to share our recent and upcoming activities and take advantage of this method of allowing anyone to attend who has an hour to spend with us.

New Member Repositories
TARO welcomed four new member repositories this year, all of whom produce their own EAD finding aids without vendor encoding support:

Anomaly Archives of the Scientific Anomaly Institute
Fort Worth Public Library
Galveston and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library
Special Collections and Archives, Southwestern University

In addition, four new participating repositories have joined our New Member Initiative, with funding for vendor encoding provided by the Summerlee Foundation:

African American Museum
C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, University of Texas at El Paso
Moore Memorial Public Library
St. Mary’s University

For more details about New Member Initiative activities this year, see the Year 2 report by 2020 QA Subcommittee Chair Carla Alvarez.

National Archival Finding Aid Network Participation
TARO is one of twelve finding aid aggregator partners in the “Building a National Finding Aid Network” collaborative research and planning initiative led by the California Digital Library, which received a $982,175 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services this year. The funding will support a two-year research and demonstration project, to run September 2020 to August 2022 and intended to build the foundation for a national archival finding aid network (NAFAN). TARO has pledged to participate in several aspects of the grant activities. Currently, TARO is working with NAFAN grant project staff to provide a link to a survey on the TARO website, designed to gather demographic data and information about why and how researchers use finding aid aggregations. TARO Today will announce when that survey link becomes available so that our member repositories can encourage their researchers to participate in the survey.

Looking Ahead

  • The coming year will see our new TARO2 website launch in fall 2021, whose development will have taken advantage of usability testing led by our Website and Technology subcommittee.
  • Assistance to our member repositories will be provided in the form of approved lists of controlled access vocabulary, training documentation for editing subject headings, and minimum required encoding instruction and support. Our Standards subcommittee will adjust our Best Practice Guidelines documentation as needed to reflect TARO2 processes and requirements.
  • An online EAD training is being coordinated by our Funding and Sustainability subcommittee in tandem with our Outreach and Education subcommittee, to be available in early 2021. Once pandemic restrictions on travel and meeting in groups are lifted, in-person trainings held at host member repositories will resume, possibly in late 2021.
  • New TARO membership period deadlines will occur on May 30, 2021 (for membership to begin in July 2021), and on November 30, 2021 (for membership to begin in January 2022). If your repository wants to join TARO, or you know of another repository who is interested, please get in touch using the contact link on our How to Join page.

Stay in Touch
TARO Today
TARO wiki
TARO Best Practice Guidelines

On behalf of the TARO Steering Committee, I extend my sincere thanks to all TARO member repositories for their continued participation in our indispensable, statewide EAD consortium, and to all subcommittee chairs and members for their expert contributions and tireless commitment and service. I also offer my personal thanks to my fellow Steering Committee officers, whose leadership and teamwork have made a challenging and eventful year a successful one for TARO.

Rebecca Romanchuk
2020 TARO Steering Committee Chair

New Member Initiative Year 2 Report

We completed the second full year of our New Member Initiative project, funded by the Summerlee Foundation. You can review the Year 2 report on the TARO wiki.

Also, earlier this month we added 60 XML files from 7 repositories to TARO for the following repositories.

  • Catholic Archives: 12 finding aids
  • Dallas Historical Society: 9 finding aids
  • Fort Worth Jewish Archives (FWJA):7 finding aids
  • Lamar University: 2 finding aids
  • Menil Collection: 4 finding aids
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH): 6 finding aids
  • Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum Research Center (PPHMRC): 20  finding aids

Thank you to all members of the Quality Assurance (QA) Subcommittee for their work!!!

Members include: Ada Negraru, Emily Scott, Evelina Stulgaityte, Halley Grogan, Katie Rojas, Kristin Loyd, Molly Hults, and Sandra Yates.

– Carla Alvarez
2020 QA Subcommittee Chair