I walked into the quiet, near-empty Reading Room at the Queensland State Archives (QSA) recently. Approaching the staff I stated it was a quiet morning. Chuckling they said, “no, busy as normal, as so much of the research and ordering can now be done on-line through the new upgraded system, so many people are using our service from home or the office and therefore not needing to spend hours here at the reading room anymore”.
QSA in collaboration with the Digital Archives Project team launched the new Archives integrated system to the agencies and public in June last year. Gaia Resources’ collaboration and specialised team oversaw the Archives biggest change in 20 years.
The new system features 3 specific systems, Archives Space, for the archivists; Archives Gateway for the Agencies and Archives Search for the customers, agencies and public.
Archives Search is now an easy to use, dynamic system that displays and searches records that are managed via Archives Space system.
Reaching out to a few of the many users of the new system, they were happy to share their enthusiasm:
- Multiple researchers have indicated that they love that they can create and manage their own account
- They can order records from home ahead of a planned visit to the Reading Room
- Favourite searches can be saved and all their request history displays in one easy to access place
- Researchers like that they can download an image or request a quote for a digital copy of an image directly from the catalogue and can do this from home
- The catalogue is user-friendly and a lot of things are easier to use now
- Researchers don’t need to use the QSA search terminals. They can now bring their own laptop in and order directly from there – this makes it easier for new records requests during a visit and is more efficient, particularly if the research terminals are all in use and the researcher would otherwise be waiting for someone to finish before they can order more records
- There is excitement about the ability to tag records and that research communities can now do this and have the benefit of another way to search
- Improved search functionality, such as being able to ‘limit to’ when searching really helps filter their searches. In the case of one very experienced researcher, he has now found records he has never found previously due to being able to manipulate searches using the filters and facets
- Being able to have agency delegates see their agency records is a great feature
- Very pleased to see the Australian Series System underpinning the new Archival Management System (AMS)
- Happy to see that function and mandate metadata is now available/available again
- The improved storage capacity in the new AMS also means it can now accommodate more documents or larger documents, including significant records such as the Colonial Secretary correspondence which were previously only available digitally on the computers in the Reading Room.
While there has been a period of adjustment for researchers who were used to the old AMS, most have adjusted quickly to the changes, while others are still discovering new features of the system and becoming familiar with the best way to engage with the catalogue.