Category Archives: archival discovery

RLG at Mountain View

After finishing up with UCSD, I flew to San Francisco. I am staying at the Hotel des Artes, recommended by my friend and colleague Somaya Langley, and undoubtedly the funkiest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I was pleased to be there – travelling with a cold etc. is less fun than it should be – and absolutely astonished and delighted to find that a basket of beautiful flowers had been delivered for me.

Flowers

The list of possible suspects was fairly short – Russell wins the gold star for husbands award again!

The walls of the hotel are covered – literally – with pop art in many different styles. All pulse with verve, energy and humour, and walking down the corridors is fun every time.

Bedroom wall at Hotel des Arts, San Francisco                         Art at Hotel des Arts, San Francisco

On Friday morning I walked, caught the T train from Montgomery to the station at 4th and King Streets, where I caught the Cal Train to Mountain View. The trip gave me ample opportunity to look around at the city, and then to see the seemingly never-ending dormitory communities to the south of the city. Those closest to the city were fairly drab and bare, but as we approached ‘Silicon Valley’, the houses grew larger, the yards more spacious, and I saw verdant public parks and walkways everywhere. The RLG headquarters is right in the middle of this big Tech park – very close to the Googleplex, and my eyes goggled a bit at all the new shiny buildings with famous brand names adorning them.

I spent several hours of the afternoon with Merilee Proffitt and others associated with the development of ArchiveGrid, a subscription based discovery service for archives held by many repositories around the US. If ever there was an example of the value of spending lots of money to fly across the world to discuss an issue with colleagues – rather than rely on emails – this was it. I’ve written up a separate report on these discussions, but it was a pleasure to be so ‘in sync’ with colleagues from another country about the thorny issues of trying to help researchers gets to archival resources they want – and even to get to those they don’t yet know they want. The questions I had posed the group by email were exactly matched with their thoughts and queries, and I think that on both sides we came away feeling we were on the right track with proposals for future developments for archival finding services. Some of RLG’s findings on archival users were as I expected – and others were not, and will certainly form food for thought as the National Library moves forward with a new way of helping people to find archives in collecting institutions.

At the end of our discussions, Merilee kindly drove me back to the station, where I shared the Cal-Train with a large bunch of excited teenagers who had just finished school for the year. Despite their exuberance, I managed to write up my notes on the way back – while they were fresh – before feeling free to look around me again.

Sight of the day? Undoubtedly the fellow on a very striking Harley Davidson, adorned with yellow and red flames. The bike was great. The rider wore shirt and shorts, with sandals and long socks. Very Mr Bean. If only I had had the camera out and ready at that moment. I certainly wondered what the Library’s Heidi Pritchard – a tough motorcyclist – would have made of him!

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