Next steps in the development of the Archifau Cymru Archives Wales reader's ticket: linking our data

Summary of the project

A partnership project, including Carmarthenshire Archive Service; Pembrokeshire Record Office; Powys County Archives Office; Richard Burton Archives; Swansea University; West Glamorgan Archive Service, to improve the security of a shared reader's ticket already operating across the services by linking the live reader registration data using specially-developed CALM software.

In January 2010, the five project partners introduced the Archifau Cymru Archives Wales reader's ticket across the services. This ticket improved on existing practices, and on the CARN ticket scheme, because:

  • It operates using a specially-designed CALM module with links to the document ordering module
  • All personal data is stored on the module, not on the card, including provision for taking a photograph of the ticket-holder. The card is validated on entry to the archive by swiping the ticket, which has a barcode
  • Systems for registration and verifying ID follow good UK practice, specifically that of LMA
  • It adds value to the marketing of the services under the Archives Wales brand
  • It allows the services to benchmark and also provide anonymised statistics to CyMAL about the reader base
  • It paves the way for a single, fully bilingual, archive reader's ticket scheme for archive repositories in Wales
  • It provides a possible way forward for the development of the CARN ticket, both by its technical innovations and by suggesting that each home country could operate a national scheme

This project involved development work by Axiell (CALM software parent company) and Swansea University Library (SUL) IT specialists to implement a feature that has recently been enabled on CALM which allows a CALM database for a networked solution to be opened on a separate server.

A test CALM system was set up for SUL, as a working model, to allow it to load all its own databases except for the reader registration database, which opened on a second system - a shared server. At the time of writing this report the system was still being trialled on CALM Version 9.1. If this trial is successful, it is planned to then roll it out across the other participating archive offices giving them access to the main reader registration database held at SUL and creating a networked database of archive users.

How were people encouraged to use the archive service and have access to new ways of engaging with archives?

The overall ambition for this project is to create a common archive reader's ticket for Wales which is straightforward to obtain, simple to use and helps break down perceived barriers to non-users of archives. It builds on the 'Archifau Cymru: Archives Wales' brand and is designed to encourage informal learning across Wales, encouraging service users to explore further than their local office. It will also help breakdown perceived barriers to access particularly for university repositories which the public often assume are only open to students.

Standards introduced by the reader's ticket, as part of this initiative, have also allowed the services to plan for consistent levels of service within Wales, which benefits all customers as they have a clear idea of how to use archive services and access archives. This has been reinforced by an explanatory leaflet about the ticket.

What impact did the project have on the people it was aimed at?

It is too early to assess the impact on the public, because it has not been fully rolled out yet. However, it is anticipated that a fully-functioning system will simplify the process of registration and accessing the service. Such qualitative benefits might for example reveal themselves through the next PSQG customer survey; they may also be indicated through the diversity monitoring forms provided to all applicants for a reader's ticket (the baseline report for 2010-11 is available).

What impact did the project have on the records and collections that it aimed to improve?

The central purpose of this project is to improve the security of the archive collections of the participating offices. By linking the data it would be possible in one search to track a suspected thief's visits to different record offices and identify what documents they had been issued with.

How did the project demonstrate good practice in relation to project planning, management and evaluation?

The project was clearly laid out in a series of practical steps, and overseen by a board which consisted of the heads of repository of each participating archive office in the reader's ticket scheme.

Such were the strengths of the project: the weaknesses have been relating to the timescale, which has been stretched significantly as Axiell and Swansea University Library have interacted more slowly than planned.

How did the project help staff and any volunteers improve their skills and knowledge?

The project has helped the participants in their understanding of CALM and the registration module.

How is expertise and learning gained in the project being shared within the service?

The idea of linking our data was put forward by Kim Collis, County Archivist, West Glamorgan, at a meeting of the PSQG Security and Access Group as a solution to the problems currently faced by the CARN ticket: the scenario envisaged was that each home country would maintain its own linked data, but tickets could be mutually recognised. This was accepted as a feasible way forward, although the linked data would have to be available to offices which used AdLib and other applications.

What did West Glamorgan learn from working with its project partners?

Keeping momentum going with the project proved a significant challenge during key moments in the development of the trial product. However, the project remains on track.