The Joint Processing Guidelines Working Group (JPGWG) was charged by the Special Collections and Archives Council (SPARC) with “developing a suite of best practices and guidelines for archival and manuscript collections that will serve as a Harvard-wide framework in which local practices can be embedded.”

Working in a spirit of collaboration and transparency, the JPGWG consulted with the special collections and archives community at Harvard so that the resulting guidelines acknowledge the broad spectrum of holdings and processing practices across the Harvard Library system. As a product of this effort, the group has created a package of Principles, Processing Guidelines, Requirements, and Toolkits, which will serve as the foundation for a consistent and efficient approach to processing across Harvard Library. 

This work is critical, as it is evident that differing approaches to processing over time and across the Harvard Library have: 

  • produced inconsistencies in descriptive practices that make systems migration and data harvesting challenging, as was illustrated by the data normalization work done in order to support the implementation of ArchivesSpace;
  • created inconsistencies in how users experience and utilize finding aids and other descriptive products; and
  • made it difficult to predict processing rates across Harvard repositories and consistently predict the cost of processing collections, such as for collaborative, grant funded initiatives.

To assist in addressing these issues, as well as to maximize the Harvard Library’s efforts to optimize access to and use of its collections through new or replacement systems, we are hopeful that the implementation of the processing guidelines across Harvard Library will:

  • improve the user experience through peer collaboration and shared practices;
  • expedite intellectual and physical control of collections;
  • create efficiencies in practice that produce flexible, appropriate-level processing methodologies;
  • support and encourage inter-repository projects and initiatives; and
  • improve how special collections and archives repositories communicate the accessibility and processing status of collections across the Library.