New Member Initiative Year 3 Report

We completed the third full year of our New Member Initiative project, funded by the Summerlee Foundation. You can review the Year 3 report on the TARO wiki.

The 2021 project year resulted in 185 EAD/XML finding aids being added to the TARO website for the following repositories:

  • Catholic Archives of Texas (14 finding aids)
  • Dallas Public Library (15 finding aids)
  • Fort Worth Jewish Archives (4 finding aids)
  • Harlingen Public Library (1 finding aid)
  • Harris County Archives (49 finding aids)
  • Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (55 finding aids)
  • University of Houston-Clear Lake (14 finding aids)
  • C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department, University of Texas at El Paso (33 finding aids)

Many thanks to the skilled and dedicated archivists who volunteer their time to review finding aids for the Quality Assurance (QA) Subcommittee! This project could not succeed without them! Subcommittee members in 2021 were: Ada Negraru, Amy Bowman, Carla Alvarez, Emily Scott, Evelina Stulgaityte, Halley Grogan, Kristin Loyd, Molly Hults, Katie Rojas, Sandra Yates, and Zach Hernandez.

Rebecca Romanchuk
2021 QA Subcommittee Chair

TARO 2021 Report

Greetings, TARO colleagues!

What an amazing year 2021 was for TARO. Never before have so many of our repositories, volunteers, and others from around the state come together to do so much for this consortium. From the massive data remediation efforts early in the year, to the diligent testing of the constantly evolving (or “TARO 2.0”) website, we somehow accomplished everything we had hoped. And we did it all despite continuing to negotiate COVID, winter storms, and other challenges. We on the TARO Steering Committee cannot thank every single one of you enough for all your hard work.

2021 Steering Committee members

TARO held its annual Steering Committee open-office election in November, filling the calendar year 2022 vacancies for the offices of Vice Chair/Chair-Elect and two At-Large members. Officers who completed their terms this year are Immediate Past Chair Rebecca Romanchuk (2019-2021) and At-Large members Ada Negraru (2020-2021) and Rachael Zipperer (2020-2021). Their dedication to their duties and excellent work are much appreciated. Officers for next year are:

News and Major Accomplishments

NEH Implementation Grant

TARO Web Application Development

TARO kicked off development of the new “TARO 2.0” website in March via a TARO-wide virtual meeting. Development, testing, and continual enhancements continued throughout the year. In December 2021 the site debuted after tireless work by our grant-funded web applications developer, Minnie Rangel, as part of the Valkyrie Squad at UT Libraries. This work included a comprehensive functional and aesthetic redesign of the TARO website that will assist patrons, archivists, and others with finding our repositories’ valuable research materials. Enhancements include an improved search interface, the ability to browse the site using common subject headings, and improved finding aid management tools for TARO repositories. Carla Alvarez (UT Libraries Benson Latin American Collection Latino/a Archivist) served as the Product Owner for the project, spending countless hours meeting with the Valkyrie Squad, gathering website testing feedback from TARO members, and coordinating communication between developers and TARO repositories.

Metadata Remediation Project

In order for existing finding aids to integrate with the TARO 2.0 website, repositories had to ensure that their files were formatted correctly. This entailed updating thousands upon thousands of data points across almost 16,000 finding aids – a Herculean task that brought together volunteers from across TARO to assist repositories with the work. These included Penny Castillo, Samantha Dodd, Kelly Hanus, Molly Hults, Ada Negraru, Robert Weaver, and Rachael Zipperer, all of whom remained on permanent standby for our fellow archivists. James Williamson, the Chair of TARO’s Outreach and Education subcommittee, put together a training on data remediation to assist repositories as well. Finally, grant funds via the Texas State Library and Archives Commission were also allocated to contract a “Remediator” to hand-correct finding aids, a task taken on by archivist Sarah Stephenson. Through her efforts, and the hard work of every single TARO repository, TARO now boasts 15,618 finding aids online, with more appearing every day. The lessons learned from this project were too valuable not to share with other archivists and consortia facing similar challenges, so they were shared in a presentation by Samantha Dodd (then Vice Chair) at the Texas Conference on Digital Libraries.

TARO Metadata Analyst

In late 2020 our grant project hired Devon Murphy, a metadata and digital collections professional, to work with us to analyze the controlled access vocabulary in TARO in order to validate existing subject headings against established authority files. Devon’s goals included creating approved lists of controlled access vocabulary and writing training documentation for TARO members to use to edit their own subject headings. That hard work produced a Browse Terms list and an Advanced Terms list to help repositories make their finding aids more discoverable on the new website.

 TARO Virtual Brown Bag

This year our TARO Brown Bag was held virtually at the Society of Southwest Archivists (SSA) Annual Meeting, and was attended by dozens of TARO member repository staff and other interested archivists. Our Steering Committee officers and subcommittee chairs talked about the scope of their work and presented on their current activities. TARO will hold a Brown Bag at the 2022 SSA Annual Meeting in Houston to share our recent and upcoming activities and update attendees about TARO’s plans now that the new website has launched.

New Member Repositories

Due to the realities of creating, testing, and debuting a new website, TARO only welcomed one new member repository this year:

Our Lady of the Lake University (San Antonio, TX)

But TARO is always seeking new members! And repositories don’t have to do all the work themselves, because TARO has a “New Member Initiative,” with funding for vendor encoding of finding aids generously provided by the Summerlee Foundation. For more details about New Member Initiative activities this year, keep an eye out for the upcoming Year 4 report here on TARO Today, written by 2021 QA Subcommittee Chair Rebecca Romanchuk.

National Archival Finding Aid Network (NAFAN) 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. After receiving a $982,175 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2020, the network has made notable progress toward its goals. They have begun a two-year research and demonstration project that will last until August 2022, which has already gathered demographic data and information about why and how researchers use finding aid aggregations. This was collected in part via surveys like the one featured on TARO’s old website earlier this year. OCLC researchers also mined EAD element and attribute usage data across the participating finding aid aggregators. TARO also continues to provide feedback based on our recent experiences as NAFAN explores what their final product might feature and how it might function.

 Looking Ahead

  • The coming year will see the Steering Committee develop TARO’s first 3-Year Strategic Plan in nearly a decade. It will explore not only the sustainability and continued development of the website, but also how to empower repositories to better use the site and, as importantly, recruit new repositories to the consortium.
  • TARO will be hosting several in-person trainings in 2022, beginning with a workshop at Texas State University on April 1st. Two other workshops will be held in the spring: one at Southern Methodist University (date to be determined), and another at the SSA Annual Meeting in Houston on May 18th. Fall 2022/spring 2023 trainings will also be held in West Texas, the Texas Panhandle, and the Rio Grande Valley.
  • We are currently seeking new members to join our Summerlee New Member Initiative! If your repository wants to join TARO, or you know of another repository who is interested, but needs a little help to do so, please contact TARO’s new chair, Samantha Dodd.

Stay in Touch
TARO Today
TARO wiki
TARO Best Practice Guidelines

On behalf of the TARO Steering Committee, please accept our boundless gratitude for all the repositories that have made TARO into the unique treasure that it is. I want to personally thank our many volunteers, from subcommittee chairs who worked long hours during the TARO 2.0 project, to remediation team members, and the many, many other experts who contributed tirelessly to our success. I also ask you all to join me in extending heartfelt thanks to my fellow Steering Committee officers, whose patience, perseverance, and leadership have led TARO into this new, exciting period in its history.

Robert Weaver

2021 TARO Steering Committee Chair