Case Study - Accessioning as Processing (UCI)

Charles Lave papers

I. Overview

Collection type:

Faculty papers from a UCI economics professor

Extent and scope:

16 linear feet with three series: Professional papers, Subject files, and UCI files. Materials document his research on mass transit, fuel economy and other areas. Materials include speeches, reprints, correspondence, notes, articles, reports, clippings, teaching files, photographs, and subject files.


 When Professor Lave died, the department asked us clean out his office quickly so it could be reassigned to another faculty member.

II. Approach


The office contained approximately 50 stacks of paper and files on shelves.  Most of the stacks contained loose paper.  Some of the stacks contained pendaflex folders (3 inches thick with metal tabs) or manila folders.   Approximately 50% of the collection was labeled; however, the topics of the stacks were discernible with quick examination.


  1. An archivist surveyed the materials.
    • She looked for student records. These were flagged and left behind in the office.
    • The archivist determined three series: Professional papers, Subject files, and UCI files. 
  2. Proceeding in roughly the order found on the shelves, an archivist and library assistant used acid-free folders to folder or refolder materials. Folders were placed in acid-free record cartons.
    • They labeled folders with existing headings, e.g., “Speed limits” 
    • They supplied simple headings, e.g. “Writings and reprints” or “Metrolink (Southern California commuter train)”
    • When manila folders were encountered, they kept these in place of supplying acid-free folders. 
    • When they encountered newspaper clippings, they left them alone and packed them with the rest of the materials.   
    • Occasionally, they noticed that some material was related, but separated in different locations on the shelves.  When discovered, they brought material together physically. 
    • Folders were not numbered.  Folders were not labeled with information about the entire collection. Folders are only labeled with the folder title. These titles were written in pencil as the collection was packed in the professor's office.
  3. Appraisal was performed at the macro-level only. The archivist and the library assistant performed little appraisal within the stacks of records. There was no item-level weeding.  If a complete journal issue was in a stack, they just packed it along with the rest of the loose papers.
  4. The archivist and library assistant drafted an inventory in the professor’s office as the collection was packed. 
  5. The library assistant labeled boxes in the professor’s office and had them shipped directly to storage.
  6. After returning to the library, the library assistant created an accession record for UCI's internal records and an EAD finding aid for the OAC.  


 The EAD finding aid:

  1. The library assistant used the professor’s obituary and vita to create a decent biographical note and chronology.  The archivist thought this contextual information would be a good substitute for a detailed content analysis, since the container list was so general. 
  2. Because many of the folders had the same title, they only represented unique descriptive information (i.e., the topical keywords) within a box. E.g.:
Box 10 Methanol 1986-1989, undated
Box 10 High speed rail 1995
Box 10 BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) 1974-1977, undated

3. When similar material was segregated (and they didn’t catch it during packing), they used the finding aid to bring the material together intellectually.  They did not rearrange the material after it was packed in the professor's office. 

Box 13, 16  Teaching files 1972-1999, undated

 4.  For the Subject Series list, they emphasized topical words that a user might retrieve in a Google search.  Because the same types of material were in each stack, they did not analyze the various material types within each subject, but rather provided a general series level note: “This series contains correspondence, notes, articles, reports, and clippings related to Lave's research interests.”


·         No one has requested the collection yet, so its usability is unknown.  

III. Processing rate:

·         Approximately 1 hour per linear foot for accessioning and processing

·         Professional archivist: approximately 8 hours total

·         Library assistant: approximately 8 hours total

IV.  Pros and Cons


  • They saved a significant amount of time by minimally processing the collection as they accessioned it.
  • They applied all of the knowledge gained about the collection during accessioning to creating a decent finding aid.
  • If the collection generated significant user interest, the collection could be identified for further processing.  However, there hasn't been any demand for the materials yet, so the minimal approach was justified.


  • Because they didn’t do a detailed content listing, it may be difficult to guess how relevant the folders are to users’ topics.  It is unclear if this contributes to the collection's low use.  The finding aid does have many unique keywords relevant to the topic, so it should be coming up in users’ Google searches.
  • Because the folders are not numbered, users will have to use placecards to put material back properly.  There is a chance that the folders could get out of order.  This is an acceptable, because the collection is low-use and the materials are only loosely organized.

Document owner: Polina Ilieva. Version 3.0. Last reviewed: August 20, 2012

Last updated: April 10, 2013