Standards for Archival Description: A Handbook
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CHAPTER 10: LABELING AND FILING


Often the very first descriptive act an archivist performs when encountering a new collection for the first time is to label the folders and boxes within which it is to be stored. During processing, the archivist may have to reconstruct an original filing scheme or create a new one. The labels formulated for the folders and boxes must accurately reflect this filing scheme and facilitate subsequent retrieval and refiling.

The Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA) has devoted considerable effort to formalizing sets of rules for filing, including the construction of labels and the arrangement of individual record units alphabetically, numerically, or by subject. Archives operating in organizations with competent records management programs may well benefit from the promulgation of ARMA standards when they receive materials in well-ordered filing schemes. All too often, however, repositories receive collections in relative disarray and must reconstruct or establish for the first time an appropriate filing structure. The ARMA standards should provide useful guidance in these circumstances to archival personnel directly.

Filing arrangements are also an important consideration in creating and maintaining descriptive files that are used to provide staff and users with information about the repository's holdings. The most visible of these will probably be the cataloging system that allows access to finding aids or the records themselves through indexes to such key elements as names, subjects, dates, and geographic areas. Archivists also create a number of other files to administer their holdings and institutions, including accession files, preservation dossiers, researcher registrations, and loan agreements, all of which contain descriptive information about records and all of which have their own requirements for filing and retrieval.

Librarians established filing rules for their bibliographic records long ago. Hagler notes that current library practice is still influenced by the alphabetical filing rules contained in Cutter's Rules for a Dictionary Catalog.1 When files of catalog cards were maintained in manual form these rules were probably generally appreciated but loosely observed. The strongest incentive lay in maintaining internal consistency within the single file. But automation, especially the ability to establish communication between two online catalogs and exchange records, drove the library community to stress the importance of uniformity across files maintained at many different sites.

Complete agreement has not yet been reached. The two pillars of the library community, the Library of Congress and the American Library Association, each issued revised filing rules in 1980 but they contain significant differences in approach. "The 1980 rules of the American Library Association depart most significantly from the Cutter tradition in that they largely ignore distinctions among different punctuation marks and therefore among types of access point. In contrast, the rules published by the Library of Congress . . . retain the traditional grouping of access points by type (surnames, jurisdictions with subdivisions, etc.)." In practice, the filing rules operating within local automated systems are embedded in the software driving the system. Most variations occur in the treatment of punctuation and nonalphabetic symbols and the merging and display of search results from more than one index.2


ALA Filing Rules

1980.
Paper (ix + 50 p.).
ISBN 0-8389-3255-X. LC 80-22186.
Available from ALA. $10.00.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed by the American Library Association, Resources and Technical Services Division, Filing Committee; maintained by RTSD's successor, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services.

Scope and structure:

These rules apply "to the arrangement of bibliographic records of library materials whether displayed in card, book, or online format." They contain general rules for order of characters and access points plus special rules for abbreviations, initial articles, initialisms, nonroman alphabets, numerals, and terms of honor and address. In a significant departure from the tradition established by Cutter, punctuation is not considered for filing purposes. Appendixes provide guidance on dealing with modified letters and special characters (e.g., æ, ø) and articles in nominative cases of various foreign languages. Application instructions are included with the rules.

Related standards:

The 1980 Filing Rules are the successor to the ALA Rules for Filing Catalog Cards (2nd ed., 1968; 1st ed., 1942). "Since the present rules are based to a much greater extent than their predecessors on the 'file-as-is' principle, and since the new rules are applicable to bibliographic displays in other than card formats, the work should be considered as new, and not as another edition." The introduction to the rules state that their chief point of departure was Filing Arrangement in the Library of Congress Catalogs compiled by John C. Rather in March 1971.

Archival applications:

It seems that most automated catalog systems have implemented the ALA rules rather than those developed by LC in that they tend to overlook punctuation in sorting.

References:

Hagler, Ronald. The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology, 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1991, 274-275.


Library of Congress Filing Rules

1980.
Paper.
Available from LC CDS.
$5.00.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the Library of Congress.

Scope and structure:

In contrast to the ALA Filing Rules, the Library of Congress Filing Rules follow the Cutter tradition of using punctuation to distinguish groups of access points for filing purposes. Hagler cites as an example that LC rules would file Canada. Census Division. before Canada Bank Note Co.; the ALA rules, ignoring punctuation, would reverse their order. The LC method has the advantage of keeping corporate subdivisions together.

Related standards:

The British Library published its own rules in 1980 that Hagler notes are "very similar to those of the Library of Congress."

Archival applications:

It seems that most automated catalog systems have implemented the ALA rules in that they tend to overlook punctuation in sorting.

References:

Hagler, Ronald. The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology. 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1991, 274-275.


ARMA Filing Procedures Guideline

1989.
Paper (26 p.). ISBN 0-933887-33-7.
Available from ARMA.
$20.00 members; $28.00 nonmembers.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the Association for Records Managers and Administrators, Inc. (ARMA International), Standards Advisory and Development Committee, Filing Systems Subcommittee.

Scope and structure:

This guideline establishes manual filing procedures for active paper records, magnetic media (floppy disks, hard disks, and tapes), and microimage media. Because it focuses on active records, it may not be directly applicable to archival storage systems.

Related standards:

ARMA has also produced alphabetic, numeric and subject filing guidelines.


ANSI/ARMA International 1-1990
ARMA Alphabetic Filing Rules

1990.
Paper (40 p.). ISBN 0-933887-00-0.
Available from ARMA.
$15.00 members; $20.00 nonmembers.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the Association for Records Managers and Administrators, Inc. (ARMA International), Standards Committee, Filing Systems Subcommittee. Approved as an ARMA standard in July 1986; approved by ANSI in 1990.

Scope and structure:

The expressed purpose of the rules is to ensure consistency in filing. They stress the importance of documenting filing decisions and offer guidance on conversion to automated filing and retrieval systems. Among the seven "simplified filing rules" is the recommendation that arrangement should be in unit-by-unit order and letter-by-letter within each unit. Punctuation is ignored and hyphenated words are considered one unit. These brief rules are followed by an extensive set of examples for applying them to personal and business names, titles, and government subdivisions. A second section describes procedures for establishing filing guidelines in specific circumstances (e.g., linking names of spouses, handling a single business operating at several locations). The guidelines conclude with a bibliography.

Related standards:

ARMA has also produced numeric and subject filing guidelines. Overall filing procedures are set out in ARMA's Filing Procedures manual.


ARMA Numeric Filing Guideline

1989.
Paper (14 p.). ISBN 0-933887-32-9.
Available from ARMA.
$18.00 members; $28.00 nonmembers.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the Association for Records Managers and Administrators, Inc. (ARMA International), Standards Advisory and Development Committee, Filing Systems Subcommittee.

Scope and structure:

This document provides guidance on selecting and designing numeric filing systems. It discusses the advantages and disadvantages of consecutive, middle-digit, terminal-digit, chronologic, decimal, duplex-numeric, and block-numeric filing systems and provides examples of each. The importance of indexes is stressed and various indexing options outlined. The guidelines conclude with a bibliography and a short set of definitions.

Related standards:

ARMA has also produced numeric and subject filing guidelines. Overall filing procedures are set out in ARMA's Filing Procedures manual.


ARMA Subject Filing Guideline

1988.
Paper (47 p.). ISBN 0-933887-29-9.
Available from ARMA.
$25.00 members; $35.00 nonmembers.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the Association for Records Managers and Administrators, Inc. (ARMA International), Standards Advisory and Development Committee, Filing Systems Subcommittee.

Scope and structure:

The guidelines suggest how to select a subject filing system, discuss the use of controlled vocabularies and coding systems, and describe the function and content of an accompanying index to the files. Actual filing procedures are provided in both narrative and flowchart formats. Appendixes include numerous examples and copies of sample forms. The guidelines conclude with a bibliography and brief set of definitions.

This "is a guide to the selection and design of a subject filing system." The basic premise is that the purpose of filing is easy retrieval of information; therefore, a standardized, well-documented system is necessary. Included are sections on dictionary and encyclopedic filing system arrangements, and coding systems (alphabetic, decimal-numeric, duplex-numeric, and block-numeric).

Related standards:

ARMA has also produced numeric and subject filing guidelines. Overall filing procedures are set out in ARMA's Filing Procedures manual.

Library guidelines of this kind are described in Chapter 6, Authority Control.


ANSI Z39.32-1981
Information on Microfiche Headings

1981.
Paper (12 p.). ISBN 0-88738-971-6.
Out of print.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed and maintained by the National Information Standards Organization (Z39). Having exceeded its 10-year review limit without revision or reaffirmation, the standard has been administratively withdrawn by ANSI and is no longer in print. NISO intends to revise this standard following completion of its work on ANSI/NISO Z39.62-199x, Eye-Legible Information on Microfilm Leaders and Trailers and on Containers of Processed Microfilm on Open Reels.

Scope and structure:

"The standard provides a set of minimal specifications of eye-legible information to be included in the headings of microfiche." It covers the location and order of elements of information, their type size, and the contrast between the type and the background.

Related standards:

This standard only applies to "microfiche that conform to the dimensional requirements of ANSI/NMA MS5-1975," which has been superseded by ANSI/AIIM MS5-1985.

Archival applications:

While the standard states that it only applies to "monographic and serial materials . . . intended for library use," archivists may find its guidance on type size and legibility useful. Of course, they should also be especially careful to adhere to the standard if they produce fiche publications that they expect to be purchased in quantities by libraries.

References:

Crawford, Walt. Technical Standards: An Introduction for Librarians. 2nd ed. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991, 240.


ANSI/AIIM MS19-1987
Recommended Practice for Identification of Microforms

1987.
Paper (24 p.). ISBN 0-89258-051-8.
Available from AIIM.
$25.00 members; $30.00 nonmembers.


Development, approval, and maintenance:

Developed by the Association for Information and Image Management, Committee on Public Record Microforms, C18; revision of ANSI/NMA MS19-1978. Approved by ANSI on 25 September 1987. Maintained by AIIM.

Scope and structure:

"The purpose of this standard is to present in a coherent format the various ways to identify microforms of private and public records." One specific need it addresses is to identify and authenticate microform copies as satisfactory substitutes for original records as required in the Uniform Copies of Business and Public Records as Evidence Act "which has been adopted in some form by most states in this country."

"All evidence submitted into courts must be identified. By following this standard on the identification of microforms you will (1) establish the time records were microfilmed which can support the contention that the microfilming was accomplished during the regular course of business, (2) identify the individual who performed the microfilming in case testimony from the microfilm operator is necessary, and (3) easily index from properly identified microforms."

The specifications explain how to apply the identification procedures and then provide full-size examples of bibliographic, legal, and technical targets, including camera test charts and camera operator declaration forms.

Archival applications:

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has prepared guidelines for microfilming projects supported by NHPRC grants that refer to targets and blank forms contained in this standard.


ALSO OF INTEREST

ANSI/NISO Z39.62-199x. Eye-Legible Information on Microfilm Leaders and Trailers and on Containers of Process Microfilm on Open Reels. NISO. Paper. Draft available from NISO. $10.00.

ISO 5123:1984. Documentation--Headers for microfiche of monographs and serials. ISO Technical Committee 46. Paper (6 p.). Available from ANSI. $25.00. Also published in ISO Standards Handbook 1: Documentation and Information, 3rd ed. (Geneva, Switzerland: ISO, 1988), 941-946.

ISO 7154:1983. Documentation--Bibliographic filing principles. ISO Technical Committee 46. Paper (8 p.). Available from ANSI. $28.00. Also published in ISO Standards Handbook 1: Documentation and Information, 3rd ed. (Geneva, Switzerland: ISO, 1988), 689-696.

ISO/TR 8393:1985 Documentation--ISO bibliographic filing rules (International Standard Bibliographic Filing Rules)--Exemplification of bibliographic filing principles in a model set of rules. ISO Technical Committee 46. Paper (26 p.). Available from ANSI. $51.00. Also published in ISO Standards Handbook 1: Documentation and Information, 3rd ed. (Geneva, Switzerland: ISO, 1988), 699-724.

Guidelines for Conservators and Curators: Collations and Marking in Special Collections. 1988. American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Ad Hoc Conservators' Collations Committee. Paper (2 p.). Published in College and Research Libraries News (May 1988): 294-295.

These brief guidelines recommend that curators should "collate books, or make copies from departmental records of previously done collations, before sending them away for [conservation] treatment."


Footnotes

1 Charles A. Cutter, Rules for a Dictionary Catalog, 4th ed., rewritten, U.S. Bureau of Education, Special Report on Public Libraries, Part II (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904), 6. Hagler devotes an entire chapter to "Alphanumeric Arrangement (Filing)"; see Ronald Hagler, The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology, 2nd ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1991), 263-279.

2 Hagler, The Bibliographic Record and Information Technology, 274-275.



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Standards for Archival Description: A Handbook
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