Cultural Education Committee


Carole Huxley


Access and Collection Management: Electronic Technologies – Status and Plans


January 25, 2006


Goals 4 and 5






Issue for Discussion


Are the Library, Archives and Museum applying new technologies effectively and moving in the right direction, as described in the Cultural Education technology plan?


Reason(s) for Consideration: Review of Policy


          The institutions for which the Regents act as trustees – the State Archives, State Library and State Museum – have as their mission collecting, managing, interpreting and providing broad public access to information, as well as supporting and creating new knowledge. Electronic technology has made it essential to incorporate new ways of carrying out that mission.


The State Research Library serves as the major research library for all of New York’s residents. It provides on-site and remote access to 20 million items, including 2.6 million volumes, as well as to thousands of electronic proprietary journals and other materials through NOVEL (the New York Online Electronic Library) and other sources.


The State Archives holds the documentation of New York government since the Dutch colonial times.  These massive collections are important to State government, lawyers, historians, genealogists, researchers of all kinds, and to teachers and students.  In addition to imaging selected materials, the Archives increasingly accessions “born digital” records that cannot be effectively used in paper format.





The State Museum’s holdings include specimens and artifacts, from 400 million-year old fossils to the largest collection of items from the World Trade Center disaster. As a research institution, it shares its natural history collections with scientists around the world and loans its history collection to other museums.  It is now feasible for visitors to the Museum and for an online “remote” visitor to access many more specimens and artifacts online than could be displayed at any one time and to use interactive technology to guide deeper exploration of the objects’ meaning and interpretation in understanding our world and our past.


Working together, the three institutions are moving forward as capacity permits, but when one compares our efforts with some of our peers – as can be seen on the compact disc enclosed with this item – we are challenged in keeping abreast of the current potential to expand access to the educational and research resources under our care. A major advantage we have is the ability to work across institutions.  


Proposed Handling


The Committee will review the use of electronic technology by the Archives, Library and Museum, look at a few examples, and consider the Cultural Education technology plan and progress made on the plan. The Committee will then determine what more information they need, what additional questions should be posed regarding the plan and whether they are supportive of the priorities of the Office of Cultural Education in the deployment of technology.


There are three attachments to this Regents item:


1)    A copy of the Information and Technology Plan for the Office of Cultural Education;

2)    A detailed progress report on each of the objectives from the Technology Plan; and

3)    A Compact Disc (CD) demonstrating the status of our efforts.


Procedural History


This is the first meeting of the Regents Cultural Education Committee in their role as trustees.




Recommended that the Committee support the attached plan and review progress on an annual basis. 


Timetable for Implementation







2005 – 2008


Progress Report (January 2006)


The OCE Information and Technology Plan provides a three year blueprint for the major technology initiatives that OCE must undertake in order to ensure its place as an education, cultural and information leader in New York State and the nation.  Listed below is a progress report on each major technology initiative, as well as a description of upcoming issues.




A.    Improve the core technology systems that provide information access to OCE customers.


Need for new OCE Electronic Catalog:  Excelsior, the current electronic catalog for the State Library and State Archives is over 10 years old, and no longer meets current customer standards. It also does not provide access to Museum holdings.  In order to provide the highest quality of information access to our users, OCE needs a new system that is user-friendly, and can provide access to all three institutions.


Progress to Date: 



Major Issues:


·       The purchase of a new information access and management system will be a major OCE budget request in SFY 2007-08.


·       Such information access systems are undergoing revolutionary changes.  We must select with care a system with a relatively long life span (e.g. at least 10 years of usability). It is unlikely that one system will meet the needs of all three institutions.  We are likely to need at least two systems with components able to operate with each other.


B.   Expand and improve information access through the Internet.


  1. New York On Line Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL):  NOVEL has proven to be a remarkably cost-effective way to provide broad information access to the people of New York State. 


Progress to Date: 


·       Currently, there are thousands of proprietary journals, reference works, and other material in 11 databases overseen by the State Library. They can be accessed by anyone in New York, either through more than 5,200 participating libraries or at home or business.

·       More than 26 million searches were conducted between June 2004 and June 2005.


Major Issues:


·       Federal funding, through the Library Services and Technology Act [LSTA], has supported NOVEL for 6 years.  Sustainability of this service requires transfer of funding to New York State.


  1. “One-click” Searching of OCE Databases:  At the present time, an Internet user is unable to search across the numerous collections of materials available through the Library, Archives and the Museum.   These databases provide access to thousands of full-text journal and newspaper articles, as well as reference resources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories and indexes. After successful completion of a pilot program that allows “one-click” access to the Library’s online resources, databases from the Archives and from curator-specified fields and records in the Museum will be added to this search system.


Progress to Date:


·       Visitors to the Library’s home page can now simultaneously search all of the Library’s  licensed databases, the Library’s web site, Excelsior (the online catalog of the Library and the Archives) and the catalog of the digital collections maintained by the Library and the Archives.


Major Issues:


·       Federal funding the Library Services and Technology Act [LSTA] was used to initiate this project.  Transfer of funding support to New York State is essential for permanent sustainability.

·       Because different vendors have different user formats, protocols and use restrictions, we remain unable to provide full access to all subscription databases via the “one-click” search.


  1. Archives Virtual Research Collection:  Develop and populate a virtual research collection on the Archives web site.  This will be a web-accessible database that is used to collect, manage and deliver archival collection data. The initial focus will be to provide access to key records relating to the Adirondacks and Catskills. 


Progress to Date: 


·       The data entry application for the Virtual Research Collection is complete.  Staff can create and export Extensible Markup Language(xml)-based finding aids as well as import finding aids from partner institutions.  

·       The publicly accessible web-based application should be available by early March, depending on the approval of the selected vendor. 

·       There are thirty finding aids available on the Archives site, representing each of the partner institutions.  The finding aids were generated from xml.


Major Issue:


·       The Archives selected a vendor with the unusual ability to understand our requirements.  The vendor is competitively priced, very flexible and accessible.  Nevertheless, it is difficult to retain the vendor of choice through each stage of this and related projects.  The ideal solution is to establish a long-term agreement with the vendor of choice.


  1. Digital Image Collection:  OCE institutions have enormous collections of images (e.g. photographs, slides, posters, primary documents).  These images, largely related to New York’s history and diverse peoples, along with the pertinent information about them, provide a remarkable resource for students, teachers and researchers. The challenge is to provide images, along with information about them, that is easily accessible to all users.


Progress to Date: 


·       A collaborative initiative among the three institutions has resulted in a Digital Collections web site. 

·       The database currently contains approximately 20,000 images from our collections in the areas of:

·       Native American culture, digital images, maps, documents, and works of art related to the environmental history of New York;

·       Glass plate negatives and photographic prints from the Factory Investigating Commission of factory and housing conditions;

·       Muster roll records from the World War I New York National Guard units known as the "Harlem Hellfighters”;

·       Pre-1911 lantern slides for school environments from the New York State Department of Visual Instruction; and

·       The New York Chamber of Commerce Portraits(late 18th century to 20th century).


Major Issue: 


·       This is an “SED of the Future” issue. Staff capacity dictates our ability to move forward with this completely new function for all three institutions. We have requested 10 new positions dedicated to this new function, and are awaiting Division of Budget’s approval for this request.  

·       We have no depth in expertise. We need to “grow our own” with new staff and with ongoing, cutting-edge staff development opportunities.


  1. Web Access and Public Outreach:  An environmental scan of web sites from other cultural institutions clearly shows that OCE web sites still need a great deal of work in terms of graphic design, ease of use, and the timeliness of information provided.


Progress to Date: 


·       The Archives developed a new design and navigation scheme expected to debut in March.

·       Posting of large numbers of back issues in the Museum’s Bulletin series on the Library’s government documents web site provides universal access to out-of-print bulletins containing significant scientific and historical information on New York State.

·       A Web usability study conducted in the fall of 2004 engendered positive changes.

·       The Library Home page was redesigned to accommodate the pilot “one-click” search.


Major Issues:


·       Capacity issues and need for nimble response to changing technologies mean that, in certain instances, we may be required to seek outside consulting assistance to improve these web sites.


·       Digital standards keep changing. Institutions must attempt to strike a balance between the latest innovations in making information available and the users’ inexperience and reluctance to install the latest web browser.


  1. Development of sophisticated web-based access tools:  Web resources provided by OCE programs are often content-rich, and support research use by a variety of constituents.  More sophisticated tools and approaches, as are used in other cultural institutions, need to be expanded to assist users in obtaining “deep web” information.


Progress to Date:


·       The State Archives is developing pathfinders and related approaches to guide researchers in identifying relevant resources in its holdings, as well as linking to other historical records institutions around the State. 

·       The State Archives and Library are investigating the use of xml to streamline content production and distribution. 


Major Issues:


·       The Archives has identified a number of technical solutions to the challenges we face, such as implementing affordable advanced search tools and providing repositories throughout the state the ability to update their own finding aids through our site. 

·       However, our limited ability to retain vendors of choice restricts progress.







A.    Use electronic technology to provide the highest quality of educational services possible to students, teachers, parents and the public at large.


  1. Informal and Distance Education:  The transformational power of technology as an educational tool can eliminate the barriers between formal and informal education.  It is our responsibility to be at the forefront of this revolution.  Over the coming three years we will explore strategies for using technology more effectively to provide informal education.


Progress to Date:


·       In partnership with the Schenectady school district, through Project View, the State Museum conducts  science and hhistory classes based on its collections in the institution.  

·       There are five juvenile facilities that also have already used Project View or that are scheduled for a class.



·       Museum - Accurate? Do you have a more descriptive sentence? During the year, Museum after-school program participants make use of the computer lab set up for their use on the first floor of the Museum to complete homework assignments, conduct research and enhance their writing skills.  During the summer, campers use the computers for a wide variety of educational projects, including the development of session end video productions.



Major Issues:





·       Major IssuesIn this area, our aspirations are far ahead of capacity. We need to build our  educational staff to develop programs and educational tools and in the bandwidth available to conduct a vigorous distance-learning program.


  1. Teacher Education: OCE will use the Internet and other technologies to provide teacher education.


Progress to Date:


·       Development of a document-based question (DBQ) website formatted to look like the DBQs used on State Regents exams. This site provides images from the Archives, with tips on pedagogy for teachers at each grade level.  


Major Issues: 


·       In addition to expertise in developing the educational material, we require staff to integrate the intellectual content with our many related but technically separate online resources. 


B. Improve the on-site experience of the visitors to the OCE institutions.


  1. Wireless Network:  Capacity to use wireless technology has become commonplace in many libraries, archives and museums throughout the State and nation.  It is the expectation of researchers to find this capacity in any major research institution. Not providing similar services in major research institutions such as ours will prevent us from providing good customer service. 


Progress to Date:


·       The Library recently installed a wireless network on the public floor of the Library, working with an outside provider. 


Major Issues:


·       While wireless networks are now common-place in most cultural institutions in the nation, the issues of security that are legitimate concerns in a governmental environment make information technology staff wary of providing that kind of environment for any part of the State Education Department.

·       Therefore, we have had difficulty adopting some of the new technological innovations already prevalent in college and public libraries.


  1. Museum Exhibit Galleries:  An integral part of the renewal of the Museum must include the use of state-of-the-art technologies.  This means that both the hardware (e.g. interactive computers, plasma screens, video equipment, wireless audio) and the content must be meaningful to the visitor at all times. 


Progress to Date: 


·       With the support of the Division of Budget, we have made a great deal of progress in acquiring and integrating new technologies in the Museum galleries, including:


·       Video projection systems and ___ interactive computers;



·       Museum – give examplesIn the near future, inclusion of relevant video clips, not only from the Museum, but also from the Archives, Library and Public Broadcasting; and 

·       Major video projection components in the New York Hall, Adirondack Wilderness galleries and special exhibitions.


Major Issues: 


·       In order to maintain the momentum, we are need expertise to build on the progress already made and coordinate with other technology initiatives (e.g. providing virtual Museum tours via the Internet.)







A.  Improve electronic collection management systems.


1.   Electronic Collections Management Systems:  Currently there are four different collection management systems in the three institutions.  In the coming three years, any new information access and management system (See I.A. above) must be able to incorporate the key collection management functions currently provided by these several systems. In addition, the Museum’s electronic catalog system has been recently upgraded.  Staff will continue to assess its effectiveness in meeting Museum collection management needs.


Progress to Date:  See I.A. on the first page, above.


Major Issues:


·       A collection management system is only as good as the content it tracks.  As we plan for the future, the Museum must increase collection management staff with technological expertise in order to inventory and input information on its massive and diverse collections from different disciplines and with different protocols for description, for example:


·       World Trade Center collection (1200 cu. ft.)

·       Film/Video/Audio (3000 tapes, 200 films, 960 cu. ft. flat materials [prints, negatives])

·       Decorative Arts (15 collections/5500 objects)

·       Social History (200 cu ft)

·       "Other" history (4800 objects)

·       Anthropology

·       South Street Seaport Museum collection (2 million objects/2000 cu ft)

·       Paleontology

·       Stratigraphy Collection (967,000 objects)

·       Geology

·       Mineralogy (3 collections/10,000 objects)

·       Biology

·       Bryophytes (29,000 specimens)

·       Mycology (88,000 specimens)

·       Vascular Plants (200,000 specimens)

·       Bird nests and eggs (4400 specimens)

·       Malacology (60,000 specimens)

·       Entomology (1,003,000 specimens)


·       The State Archives is currently using three different systems to track different information and tasks. All three systems are outdated and need upgrading as well as integration. As a future system is identified, components that are not included must be addressed by other systems and the systems must be able to interact. 


2.   Collection Inventory Locator System: Once funding for the new collection and research facility is approved, staff must plan the move of the vast collections currently housed in the CEC, the Records Center, and other storage facilities.


Progress to Date: 


·       The Executive Budget provides authority to move forward on a new facility.


Major Issues:


1.     The recent discovery of asbestos in the Records Center will require immediate attention to the State records stored there. Once test results are completed, next steps will be quickly taken to minimize service interruption. It is likely to require the moving of up to over 200,000 boxes. We should have a better sense of the magnitude of the move by the time of the Regents meeting and are hoping the figure will be far lower. 



B.  Address collection preservation needs using electronic technology.


1.    Collection Needs Assessment Systems:  The State Archives Electronic Needs Assessment System (which is a preservation, accessioning, access and collection management tool) will be upgraded.  In addition, the State Library will be conducting a preservation needs assessment study in the coming year.  It is likely that once the Library’s initial study is completed, it will be necessary to electronically track the specific areas in need of preservation work.


Progress to Date:


·       The State Archives Needs Assessment System (NAPS) allows the Archives to efficiently and effectively manage its collections. We can determine the amount of work that has been accomplished, the needs of the collection, and plan for improved preservation and access activities.


Major Issues:


·       The current Needs Assessment System needs to be updated to a more recent version of Access or to Oracle. We also need to better integrate it with our other management systems.

·       Upgrading or migrating the system will be challenging.


2.     Electronic Records Preservation: State government publications and other governmental records increasingly originate in electronic format.  This creates a major challenge in terms of both preserving these records and insuring that they will be in a format that will continue to make them accessible for future generations.  The State Library has been scanning paper documents and publications from State agencies since 1995. There are over 30,000 documents (1.5 million pages) preserved in electronic format and available through Excelsior.


Progress to Date:


·       The Library and the Archives are working on major digital scanning projects to both preserve fragile paper books and documents and provide improved access to the public.  These projects include development of the Digital Collection Database and scanning of images (See I.A.4)

·       Since 2003, the Library has extended its Document Depository Program to include "harvesting" born-digital documents from New York State agency Web sites and adding them to our collection of electronic documents, so that they will be preserved even if they are later removed from the originating agency's site.

·       The State Archives is developing procedures and constructing a hardware and software array that will enable it to take custody of and preserve archival electronic records in the file formats most commonly used by state agencies.

·       OCE is working with colleagues on a national digital preservation initiative sponsored by National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Project (NDIIP).  As this initiative progresses we expect there will be funding to address this important issue.


Major Issues:


·       The preservation of electronic records is of great national and international concern.  The ever-increasing reliance on electronic means for communication (e.g. e-mail, web sites) by governmental officials, researchers and others has major implications on how we preserve our history and other information for future generations.

·       The Archives Electronic Record program is only two years old. While we gained theoretical tools needed to address the preservation challenges posed by electronic records, we still lack the expertise and information technology infrastructure needed to put theory into practice.

·       In addition once we have the technical knowledge and infrastructure we will face the challenge of communicating the preservation requirements to the information technology professionals who will design it and set it up. They must then have the resources needed to construct and maintain the system and to guide its evolution or eventual replacement.

·       Meanwhile, we must realize that some state agencies are creating electronic document management systems and using electronic communication systems (e.g., e-mail) without making certain that information that warrants long-term or permanent preservation remains unaltered and accessible.  The loss of this information may, in the short term, cause legal problems for the creating entity and will, in the long term, leave significant gaps in the historical record.

·       The constant pace of technological change will continue to challenge us. Digital formats keep changing: unlike paper, where documents can be stored indefinitely, digital documents must be migrated to new formats as standards change.

·       The enormous volume of digital information overwhelms capacity. Although computers keep getting smaller and faster, the amount of digital information is growing even faster. How do we preserve, index and make available all of this information?

This Progress Report focuses wholly on the institutions in OCE.  Other important initiatives in OCE, especially in public broadcasting, are not included for purposes of this report to the CE Trusteeship Committee.