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Technical Subcommittee on Descriptive Standards Charge


I. Purpose

The Technical Subcommittee on Descriptive Standards (TSDS) is responsible for developing, maintaining, monitoring, and promulgating standards used by archivists to describe their holdings. This includes descriptive standards developed within the SAA as well as those developed outside the archival community.

II. Committee Selection, Size, and Length of Term

TSDS consists of six appointed members, who serve staggered three-year terms, one of whom shall be appointed annually to serve as chair, and six ex officio members. Ex officio members of TSDS are:

  • Chair of the SAA Description Section or designee
  • Chair of the SAA Reference, Access and Outreach Section or designee
  • SAA's representative to the American Library Association's Committee on Machine Readable Bibliographic Information (MARBI), responsible for maintenance of the MARC formats
    • [NOTE: SAA's MARBI liaison serves a 2-year term and is appointed by the incoming SAA President, with advice from the chair of the Appointments Committee and the chairs of the Standards Committee and TSDS.]
  • SAA's representative to the American Library Association's Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access (CC:DA), responsible for maintenance of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules
    • [NOTE: SAA's CC:DA liaison serves a 2-year term and is appointed by the incoming SAA President, with advice from the chair of the Appointments Committee and the chairs of the Standards Committee and TDSD.]
  • Representative from the Canadian Council of Archives' Canadian Committee on Archival Description
    • [NOTE: The chair of CCAD is responsible for either serving as liaison or appointing someone to serve in that capacity. The chair of CCAD serves for a 3-year term with possible renewal.]
  • Chair of the Encoded Archival Description Working Group (EADWG), responsible for the maintenance of EAD

The chair of the Standards Committee, in consultation with the current chair of the TSDS, makes the appointments. Because technical expertise is expected of TSDS members, re-appointments are permitted when necessary. The chair of the Subcommittee serves as a regular or ex officio member of the Standards Committee.

TSDS may be disbanded by the Standards Committee.  TSDS may form and disband Working Groups to focus on specific descriptive standards. Working Groups are ad hoc and their charges are renewed annually; certain working groups for on-going, complex standards might continue for many years. Individuals who are not members of SAA may serve as regular or ex officio members of Working Groups.

III. Reporting Procedures

The chair prepares and submits an annual report to the chair of the Standards Committee. Working Group chairs are responsible for preparing and submitting an annual report of the group's activities to the TSDS chair in time for distribution to TSDS members at the SAA annual meeting.

IV. Duties and Responsibilities

To fulfill its mission as described above, the Subcommittee is specifically charged with:

  • Evaluating proposals for formal SAA endorsement of archival descriptive standards as requested by the SAA Standards Committee.
  • Conducting maintenance reviews of SAA-endorsed internal and external descriptive standards in accordance with the established review cycle for each standard or as requested by the Standards Committee.
  • Providing expert analysis and opinion to external organizations, SAA Council, and other SAA groups on proposed changes to existing and emerging descriptive standards and archival descriptive practice in general.
  • Promoting and facilitating development of archival descriptive standards, recommending descriptive standards for SAA endorsement, and establishing cooperative projects for the reporting and collocation of descriptive information.
  • Monitoring changes to external standards, including but not limited to the MARC format, ISAD(G), and ISAAR(CPF), that affect descriptive practice.

V. Meetings and Communication

TSDS meets at least once a year, during the SAA annual meeting, but may also request support for a mid-year meeting should the business of the Subcommittee necessitate it. Such a request would be directed through the Standards Committee.

TSDS maintains a closed listserv to facilitate communication between Subcommittee members and other interested individuals, who may apply to TSDS for inclusion in that listserv. TSDS members may also conduct business through direct electronic mail and/or other Internet communication vehicles (e.g., World Wide Web sites). The Subcommittee may establish rules for electronic communication and decision-making each year at the discretion of the chair. Opinions expressed in any of these venues are only those of the individual sender, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entire Subcommittee nor of SAA.

Official statements from TSDS may only be made by the chair of the Subcommittee or the chair's designated spokesperson. TSDS cannot make official statements on behalf of the Society of American Archivists.

Last updated: September 1998